Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

For Each Age, Its Agonies

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

For Each Age, Its Agonies

Article excerpt

"This is 40" and "Girls" uphold the tradition of deeming your own juncture of life the most significant of all.

In the new movie "This is 40," the writer and director Judd Apatow casts the arrival of life's four-decade mark as a uniquely brutal crossroads, flagged by sputtering libido, suffocating commitments and curdled dreams.

Judd, buddy, add another eight years, then talk to me. Your body will be even wobblier, your obligations weightier, and time running out more ruthlessly on the gaudiest of your plans. This is 48: In the mail last week, I got a solicitation from AARP. It included a membership card, ready to be activated just as soon as I send in dues, which won't be anytime soon. And while that premature come-on reflects the group's relentlessness more than anything else, it's an accurate reminder that I'm closer to when I'll quit working than to when I started, my hopes and my hair so fluffy and intact.

That was in my 20s, a period with travails all its own, depicted in another project that Apatow is involved in, as an executive producer. I speak of "Girls," whose postcollege, premortgage heroines flail professionally, fumble romantically and make deeply puzzling wardrobe choices, their outfits emblems of their befuddlement.

The half-hour comedy-drama will begin its second season this coming weekend, and HBO made the first few episodes available to us media types, who have proved that we simply can't stop gnawing on it. "Girls" is to cultural arbiters what rawhides are to cocker spaniels.

The new episodes immediately reintroduce Lena Dunham's naked body, which was introduced aplenty in the old episodes. At this fleshy point I could draw it, I could paint it, I could probably reproduce it in clay. Dunham's character, Hannah, has a new roommate, gay, and a new playmate, Republican. There's considerable friction, out of bed as well as in.

And there's a portrait of the period between 20 and 30 as one of peerlessly keen neediness and doubt. You yearn to believe that you've figured out the dating game, not yet realizing that it's eternally unfathomable. You ache for an assurance that you're pointed in a purposeful direction, but suspect that you're going nowhere fast. Your desire to project confidence is inversely proportional to your store of it, and you have some really, really bad furniture. I recall, from my mid-20s, a lacquered black table with fake gold accents that cost me next to nothing except, for many years afterward, an undying, unspeakable shame.

We're a self-absorbed species, and one wrinkle of our self- absorption is our tendency, reflected in our art and entertainment, to believe that there's no passage of human existence as fraught with perils and as peculiarly significant as the one we just so happen to be going through. …

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