Despite the fact that I’m an African American college grad and professional lady approaching 40, I’m not a Gladiator. I do not watch “Scandal” and am not obsessed with Olivia Pope. This puts me on the outs with the cool black girls club that I have for most of my life been too awkward to get into.
It’s frustrating because watching regularly on Thursday nights at 10 pm would help, affording me a digital kinship with the sisterhood of Olivia Pope, posting spoiler alerts all night, and going through a collective withdrawal during the off season. Unfortunately, I put my toddler down around 10 pm (she sleeps till 9 am, y’all) and I’m just not motivated to do the marathon watching on Netflix.
What I did O.D. on recently was the entirety of the last season of “Girls” (I’m going to forgo inserting a hyperlink here) so that I could catch up before this third season started — we switched briefly from HBO to Showtime so I missed all of season two.
I first happened upon “Girls” a couple years ago, when I caught my husband watching back to back episodes one afternoon and he said, “She’s just like you.” Damn. And he didn’t even know me during my very messy post-college years when I shacked up with my girlfriends in various apartments around New York.
He would never say that about Olivia Pope — no matter how many power suits or strings of pearls I don to go to my gig down on Wall Street. While I am a wine devotee, with a myriad of indiscretions littering my romantic past, I am far from the buttoned-up superwoman Olivia masquerades as.
I’m more of what my husband would call a “Rasta but not a Rasta” –- because I think I’m special enough to make my own rules, navigate the world on my own terms and as my mama says, “live in my truth,” not to mention, write about it while negotiating advertorials in national publications at my day job. Yup. Me and Hannah, the now advertorial editor at Condé Nast = A-Alikes.
My father even got in on the fun and actually spit out his tea he laughed so hard (we happened upon “Girls” one Sunday evening I was over there for dinner) while watching an early episode of Hannah shaking her parents down for money and them politely refusing -– pretty funny, huh, Dad? Hannah and I also both have oddly beautiful partners that call us on our stuff but defend us to the death, an eclectic mix of girlfriends (I loved that show too) that held us down and lifted us up (mine were a bit more diverse), as well as a gay best-male-friend. Most of these tropes are not new, but refreshingly presented on my new favorite show.
I noticed the lack of color in the first two seasons of “Girls” and appreciated the overcompensation in this third season, but the freedom in the characters Lena Dunham has created resonates quite deeply within me. I cheer for them, I cheer for her (book deal), and I don’t miss an ep.
And then there’s Hannah’s nakedness –- in every sense of the word, and while jarring, it alerts me to my own, which can be hard for some to swallow. I am lucky for parents and lifelong friends that, even as they question some of my choices, nevertheless observe and cheer me on. But it is not easy. This “freedom” thing can be messy, but I proudly wear it on my sleeve (unlike Ms. Pope in her white coat) for the world to see.
‘Cuz postmodern black ladies need not always be this pulled together perfect representation of the race, wearing masks to cover up dysfunction in our lives, AND privileged white girls aren’t the only ones allowed to be messy, soul baring, narcissistic navel gazers tryna’ get at that truth. If I had watched more than three episodes of “Scandal,” I would venture that Olivia — and probably black women — suffer because of this.
Olivia’s performance, and the empathy engendered by the sistren that adore her, point to the schizophrenia that results from these masks. This may be the source of her popularity, but I ain’t gonna study war no more. I’m not down with a character still stuck in this subterfuge. I do have hope for the diversification of black female characters in primetime, with the emergence of the oddball character that is Issa Rae’s “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl,” and faith built on pioneering representations like Lisa Bonet on the Cosby Show –- before they reined her character in and married her off to a military man.
But what this navel gazer does know, is that I can’t do it (this thing called my life) any other way. So I make the effort to get those kids down before 10 on Sunday evenings and settle in with my glass of vino to lick my free-girl wounds while guffawing at Hannah’s hijinks and tribulations.