Even if you are not married, you might watch this show and run out and get married just so you can get divorced. They make "The Big D" look awesome and most troubling of all; this show makes it look easy! The lives of the women on GGD are like little Rubik's Cubes that just need a teensy weensy bit of tweaking, but always fit perfectly back together. I watch this show, while simultaneously asking myself, 'why am I watching this show'? Seriously. Why?
I am of the generation where Sex In The City came out and was revolutionary in its delusional, false, yet so unbelievably attractive portrayal of single-white-rich-women and their lifestyles. So while I wasn't rich, as a 20 year old watching SITC, I was a white female who could watch the show, and fantasize about becoming one of those women, living a glamorous life in NYC. Girlfriends Guide is Sex In The City for the Divorcé and just like SJP can make living in NYC on a writers salary look magnificent, so can the ladies of Girlfriend's Guide. So, as a married woman, I guess this shows lets me fantasize about what my life could look like if I wasn't married…? If I won the lottery? Kind of like how I used to watch SITC and fantasize about that lifestyle? But it's worse, in so many ways. For one thing, they are parents, not just divorced grown ups, but grown ups who are responsible for mini versions of themselves. Of course their children's ability to resiliently process the woes of their dramatic, yet financially cushioned divorces are equally unbelievable, as the kids are mostly unscathed, and somehow bathed, fed, and educated… magically…by invisible nannies.
Ok, so why else do I watch? I honestly feel gross about it, and embarrassed, but anything worth getting embarrassed over is worth writing about. So really I am on a journey to either justify my guilty pleasure, or find some type of psychological understanding for my propensity for ridiculous colorblind, class-less, TV. 80% of me thinks that it's just my own desire to feed myself crap. Like eating candy, I know it's bad but it tastes good going down. What about the other 20%? I'm scared to talk about that part. But I will.
20% of me is really curious about this lifestyle. Would having millions of dollars in the bank and a trust fund for my kids change my own marriage? How many of you have heard a friend say that they can't afford to get divorced? (I was raised watching my divorced parents balance their individual checkbooks, usually having $150 in the bank…total, so I always tell these women, trust me, you can afford it.) I sometimes think my partner and I try harder to make our relationship stronger, because we know if we really needed to, we could separate, we would find a way to make life after divorce work. Could having the option to divorce comfortably, from the beginning, urge people to invest more in their relationships? Maybe, maybe not. Many people divorce financially uncomfortably of course, including my own parents. But…that is not what happens on this show. It's actually quite terrifying how easy they make divorce look, and I would dare say that my dear friends who have gone through divorce would likely be disappointed at this show's depiction of it.
The gals on this show are not divorced the way real people are divorced. Divorce usually doesn't occur after a few months of fighting. This show omits the years of struggling many couples go through, years of weighing the emotional costs of separation, the financial repercussions that result in drastic lifestyle changes, and the many days of isolation many women feel, as they become suddenly social outcasts. Of course these women bounce back, and of course children survive (I did), but this show makes it look fun, exciting, and whimsical, instead of laborious, lonely, and exhausting. From my perspective, divorce can be brave, messy, scary, and confusing… not clear, classy, and fun-filled. I know there is an element of relief that ending a troubled marriage can bring, but there is a difference between re-establishing some psychological stability, and jumping onto a 24-hour party bus complete with evening wear.
So yes, I do watch this show, and allow myself to fantasize about being a character on it… and I play out that scene, I lose the love of my life, I try to find solace in a man 10 years younger, or older (never is it a similar age range that these women end up with), I picture myself with my girlfriends on vacation, in $600 bathing suits sipping $600 Champaign and then my fantasy gets fuzzy… will my new 25 year old beau try and put the moves on me with my nighttime mouth guard in? And where are my friends who wear exorbitant bathing suits or drink expensive Champaign? And where the heck are my kids! I miss my kids!
Don't get me wrong, I am all for progressive consensual relationships and family styles of any kind. But this show replaces love with lust, commitment with instant gratification, and self help with narcissism. It doesn't do marriage, single-parenthood, or divorce justice. I am one who loves to deconstruct the institution of marriage and the impossibly ridiculous standards and emphasis that our society places on it… but this show is not deconstructing an archaic system that was invented to pass down wealth. This show commodifies happiness in every sense of the way.
The women I know who have been through divorce are warriors who work, and cook, and clean, and provide, not vapid party girls with endless shopping budgets. But yes, I watch it, I wonder what it's like to have piles of dough to blow with zero consequences, but again, that's when my fantasy gets fuzzy. I don't know who in real life could join me on these cinematic benders and my own fantasy makes me lonely, makes me miss my broken front door, and the squeaky wheel on my old car. Most of all, it makes me miss my relationships that are based on connection and love, rather than materials and instant gratification.
By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, and works with all kinds of people to improve their ability to work with all kinds of people. She can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.
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