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“Resolving to take up less space”

Most young women, even if they’re assertive and determined, still find themselves, in those forlorn in-between years, apologizing for themselves, blurting some muddled, half-finished thought and, finally, resolving to take up less space.

I read this review of Girls on the New York Times because I’m curious – it’s a show about young women living in NYC. I don’t plan to watch the show any time soon because I don’t have a tv or access to HBO, nor do I have much time. But I was curious all the same, because on the surface it is a show which has a great deal in common with the current circumstances of my life.

So I read the article. TV criticism is interesting to the anthropologist in me but it’s not something that I care too heartily about … I’m busy with work, I’m reading some amazing books, and I’m catching up with so many good friends here in the city. And I read about the shows I couldn’t care less about – Girl Next Door, 2 Broke Girls, etc – shows that bear no relevance to my life except that they happen to feature white American women of roughly my age who may or may not have dark hair and bangs. But then as the author, Heather Havrilesky, transitions to describing HBO’s Girls, she poignantly articulates a feeling that is indeed quite relevant to my lived experience, and that of so many other young women I know: For reasons I don’t fully understand and haven’t yet fully articulated, I was somehow taught to hide, to shrink, to turn inward with my emotions and convictions. And my journey of the past decade or so has indeed been about consciously fighting the oppressive tidal wave of those feelings.

Sometime not as long ago as I would like – in the past 12 months? 18 months? two years? – I made a conscious decision to do the opposite. To listen to what I want and articulate it. To figure out what I believe so that I can speak confidently about it. And most of all, to take up space – a great deal of space – for the causes I believe in. And so the quote above resonates, but so does this one:

one day, we wake up ready … to present our true selves without apology.

Maybe I will watch Girls sooner rather than later. Maybe I won’t find it funny or relevant. But recognizing my own discomfort in the idea that stories of people who look more like me should feature on network TV tells me both that I am aware of my white privilege, but also that I am still on the journey from taking up less space to fully presenting myself without apology.

Note: The quotes above made me realize some ideas I hadn’t thought through yet. This post feels like a beginning of my inquiry into those ideas, not the final script.

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