I keep seeing myself everywhere — on billboards, television shows, magazine covers, and websites. And I know I am not the only one. Every time I read an article or trend piece about what it means to be a 20-something female right now, I feel a little cynical. It’s probably nothing I’ve haven’t heard before, but its still kind of annoying. The general sentiment is that we can all be summed up by television shows with the word “girl” in their titles and/or female bloggers who encapsulate everything it means to be totally lost while simultaneously caring about nail art. “Girls! They have such strange priorities! They have no idea what they’re doing!” Seems to be the overarching theme.
I’m aware that I might be the epitome of a 20-something Brooklyn girl. I started my early 20s in Williamsburg as a dog walker; I made around $200 a week and spent it all on booze and clothes. 60% of the guys I’ve dated I met on OkCupid, and the rest at bars (Union Pool). After a year in Brooklyn, I moved to San Francisco and spent 24 consecutive months of summer laying in the grass in Dolores Park, growing my hair long, and trying (and failing) to ride a bike. I started blogging about all of this, and landed the job that sort of shaped my career. Two years of grad school (M.A. in Media Studies, New School) and a few agency and freelance jobs later, I am now living in Greenpoint with my boyfriend and our cat. I’m not a unique snowflake. I see girls like me on the Internet all the time, and I’m happy about it.
We’re foolish with money and spend hours planning our dream closets on Pinterest. We claim to love our bodies but still read about juice cleanses and celebrity weight gain. We cry at home to Downton Abbey. We fall in love and have meaningful relationships that culminate in marriage. We’re single and not unlike bachelors of yore, with nice apartments filled with things we bought ourselves, including condoms and vibrators. For some reason, people love analyzing and editorializing these dichotomies like they’re exotic, but the truth is that we’ve always been this dynamic, we’ve just never so loud about it. That’s the thing no one’s really talking about.
The thing so many of the accounts of “girls” are missing is the fact that there is no roadmap for us anymore. Life has become (to our benefit), supremely al la cart, and we can pick and choose from it as we please. The only real standard we have for ourselves comes from the mirrors we hold up to each other, which have never been stronger or more accurate. For example, the “It Happened To Me” section on XOJane exists not just so the bloggers can confess the things they’ve done, but so other women can say, “Oh thank god, I thought I was the only one.” The ability for young women to connect and feel included has never been greater.
When we see ourselves in Zooey Deschanel or Lena Dunham, it’s an affirmation that the world at large is picking up on the fact that girls like us exist at all — and that our existence is meaningful, even if it doesn’t always make sense or come with clear instructions. We want to know who we are now as much as we want to know who we have the potential to become in the future, and other women who fundamentally remind us of ourselves are powerful barometers of everything that is possible. Especially when they blog daily and create popular television shows.
Which is why if there was ever a time to start a blog or a YouTube channel about your clothes, your apartment, the things that piss you off, the career you are pursuing, or what acne treatment you are using and how you are 27 and love Justin Beiber, that time is now. So many of us consider ourselves writers (and/or bloggers) because we have a need to tell our stories that goes beyond what can easily be assumed of us. We may not be snowflakes, but we are all very different. The one thing we certainly have in common is how much we enjoy learning about each other. We’re teaching each other the truth about real women, and that education is helping to eliminate a lot of the crap we learned growing up. Regardless of what you might have heard, it’s actually a really great time to be a girl.
The 20-something urban-dwelling woman is not a new experiment, but it does look and feel different than it did ten or 20 years ago. Part of that has to do with the fact that we are now telling our own stories, and can take ownership over what is being said, written, and produced about us. As much as we might feel attacked for not being the ideal upwardly-mobile young person, or for not being what the majority of society considers physically or morally acceptable for our demographic, or for blogging about our personal lives to begin with, we must remember that with every confession and truth we share about what it is like to be us, we are doing something great for girls in general. And for that, we should all be very proud.
Just remember, it may not interest the mainstream forever, and trust me — people will always make fun of you for it. But really, who cares? They can write about us all they want, just as long as we write about ourselves more.