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A tribute to Girls, the groundbreaking show that put all my early-twenties anxieties on display.

I remember how it felt to watch Hannah have rough sex on the couch with Adam that first time in Girls.

It felt jarring. And kind of exciting. It felt radical.

By season two, those sorts of sex scenes felt normal. And that was the magic of Girls.

For once, sex wasn’t something romanticised or hidden on mainstream television. It was messy and loaded and weird.

It was very, very familiar.

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Adam (played by Adam Driver) and Hannah (played by Lena Dunham). Image: HBO.

There he was on screen; the guy that didn't want anything serious.

There they were, my jiggly thighs.

When Girls season one first aired in 2012, I was 22, in my first full-time writing job at a women's magazine.

Hannah, played by series creator Lena Dunham, had embarked on her own entry-level position as an assistant at a book publisher. Her sense of entitlement over her career at such an early stage reflected my own: she was 24, desperately wanting to be seen as a writer, and doing everything possible to avoid writing.

She embodied the early-twenties struggle of trying to be taken seriously in your work, while having no clear idea of what work even is yet. Comparing yourself to the older, more experienced girls with management roles in their late twenties, so confident, while you fumbled around in the mailroom, not confident.

And then there was Jessa.

GOD I wanted to be Jessa, Jessa with the cool name who showed up late to her own homecoming party in that first episode and then proceeded to never apologise about anything ever.

GIRLS. Image: HBO.
Hannah (Lena Dunham), Shoshanna (played by Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (played by Jemima Kirke) in season 1 of GIRLS. Image: HBO.
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I've never been late in my life. I idolised Jessa and her carefree existence; her zero f*cks given. I wanted to give zero f*cks, but f*ck, I cared a lot.

In reality, I was more of a Shoshanna. Watching a young, awkward Jewish girl explore her sexuality and identity in a new city made me feel seen in a way nothing had before. I'd always wanted to move to New York - she was the cliché I thought I wasn't for having that dream so many other girls have.

Girls made you question your best friend who knows what's best for you. Your Marnie, with her serious boyfriend and her standards. The kind of best friend you start to realise isn't very good for you, who you eventually stop seeing, and both of you are quietly fine with it.

Marnie Girls
Marnie (played by Alison Williams) and her season one boyfriend Charlie (played by Christopher Abbott.) Image: HBO.
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Best of all, Girls celebrated the euphoria of when friendship was at its best, its absolute recklessness; the parties and late nights and the unbridled freedom of friends.

I started thinking about Girls again when a close friend of mine passed away this time last year. She was my ride-or-die through my early twenties; the only one that understood. She was a Jessa, and flew a little too close to the sun - she too was in and out of rehab like Jessa was in the later seasons of the show. I miss her and her energy dearly.

Her death last year coincided with the first month of my thirties - a time where self-acceptance really does come more easily; where relationships feel less volatile and work either picks up or takes a back seat for the next big phase.

I'd like to think that's where the women of Girls are now - stepping with more clarity into their lives and roles, still questioning everything. As we do.

In recent years, when shows like Fleabag and Outlander have put female sexuality front and centre so unashamedly, it's easy to forget how groundbreaking it was when a major network like HBO took a gamble on Girls going there.

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It's just as easy to look back at the show through the lens of now - when feminism and representation have caught up to the millennial generation - and poke holes in it.

It was too white; too privileged. Not diverse enough.

But it was also one of the shows that contributed to shifting the dial - and the dialogue - for women of this generation. That radical honesty and self-expression we come to expect of our women icons in 2020; of our Lizzos and Phoebe Waller Bridges', wasn't as readily available in 2012.

And it was clearly a moment in the cultural zeitgeist where we were ready for a more faceted portrayal of the female experience. That same year, Taylor Swift released her album RED, signalling a coming-of-age shift of her own, and the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy ignited the sexual appetites of women the world over.

Baby steps, I know.

But Lena Dunham's vision, along with that of series co-creator Judd Apatow, contributed to moving that dial. And every time she writes something today, I'm reminded again of her extraordinary voice and her candour.

So I thank her for Girls, for having the courage to go there and cop what flack was inevitably coming to her.

For being a Nasty Woman well before that term even existed.

Did you watch Girls? What are your favourite memories of the show? Let us know in the comments.

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