While many would agree that one’s teen years are for self-discovery, I would argue that this also happens in one’s twenties. It’s as if there’s a second wind after 21: your friendships have new elements to them, you become closer with your parents in a “friend” way rather than an “authority” way, and you truly start to value alone time rather than going out every weekend. This wasn’t an easy realization for me. I thought I was getting boring, but thanks to some of my favorite “weird” girls on TV, I began to accept who I was and to truly like my characteristics.
Jessica Day, New Girl
I was a first year teacher when I discovered this show. Like Jess in the pilot episode, my biggest relationship had ended abruptly. I didn’t move into a loft with three guys, but I did start to wonder what I was doing in my life. I had a job, I had an apartment, but was that it? Was I boring? My breakup left me with a lot of self-doubt and it had me questioning everything I did. I thought I was to blame for my ex ignoring me for a week before I finally cornered him into telling me he was no longer interested. But with time and some life lessons from Jess, I realized that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me.
Jess is often made fun of for her quirks, and throughout the series her roommates and friends try to subdue who she is. But thankfully, they never succeed. They get annoyed with her excessive knitting, and they can’t stand that she doesn’t like to say the word “penis.” They also get annoyed with her trying to include them on everything she does, from the hand-bell music class she teaches to troubled kids to getting Nick to use the feeling stick when she accidently laughs at the sight of him naked. But the unapologetic way she presents herself to others taught me that people are who they are. It helped me to understand that I was not the reason my ex dumped me in that booth at Chili’s—he was the reason. He couldn’t accept who I was or what I liked. Maybe I was too boring for him, or maybe he didn’t like that I invited him to meet my friends even though I knew he’d say no every time. Either way, I accepted that I was not the issue and forged ahead in life, just like when Jess lost her teaching job and shoved her way into a “shot girl” job while she tap danced on top of the bar.
Leslie Knope, Parks and Rec
In the first season, Leslie Knope kind of comes off as the class know-it-all who always raised her hand to remind the teacher that homework was due. She becomes a little less intense as the series progresses, but the best thing about her is that she doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t love her town of Pawnee or government service as much as she does. Everything she does is to help others, even later in the series when the town tries to sabotage her council position. She never stops working for them (spoiler alert!) even when they turn against her and campaign to have her removed from office.
Leslie loves what she loves, even if others think it’s weird. Her husband and best friend Ann Perkins even approach her in season five to stop celebrating so many holidays because they can’t keep up with things like “Breakfast Day” and “First Waffle Day.” (This occasion is commemorated by giving them gifts while they wonder how she knew they were going to do this.) She creates color-coded binders to help others get as excited for projects as she is. I fully appreciate her binder obsession; I am a PowerPoint person myself. I once created a 52-slide presentation for my friend convincing her to move to my town. I wish Leslie Knope were real, because she’s the best friend everyone needs and no one deserves. Her selflessness is present throughout the entire series, and it was hard to say goodbye after seven seasons.
Erin, The Office
I know the first girl people usually think of when it comes to The Office is Pam, but for me it was Erin who stole the show in the later seasons. She never has a principal story line, but she’s involved in a lot of Michael’s antics as the new office assistant and she gets involved with a couple of coworkers. She’s more bubbly than Pam, but also seemingly more ditzy. Her answers to questions are frustrating when they aren’t confusing, but I’ve never seen her as “the dumb one.” If anything, Erin is a refreshing reminder that being happy can really be a simple thing.
As dim as she can be (it takes Andy several episodes and multiple seasons to convince her of his feelings for her), she never finds it hard to smile. I realize that she’s not that smart in a lot of ways: sometimes she doesn’t understand Michael’s pop culture references, she takes multiple steps to get something simple done, and she didn’t even realize there were Shrek sequels when Andy brings her Shrek 2. But Erin serves as a refreshing reminder for me that sometimes, things really can be that simple. I have a lot of self-doubt when it comes to many tasks I have, and I also dwell on things that I shouldn’t even worry about. Sometimes I come home and put on something comforting like The Office and a scene as simple as Erin dancing along with Michael when he finds out Holly and AJ broke up makes me appreciate that being happy for others takes no effort. When you care about the people around you, being happy for them is as good a feeling as being the one celebrating.
“Weird” girls on shows have made watching TV so much more relatable. I continue to look for the quirky, weird girls who have habits and characteristics that people don’t really understand. They make me feel a little more “normal” when I create PowerPoints proving the cultural relevance of Harry Potter, or when I cry because I can’t physically contain my emotions over seeing a puppy small enough to fit in a coffee cup. Here’s to all the weird girls—may we always be awkward.