Besides, what’s one man’s pleasure is, another’s pain, or according to the Proverb, Meat, Poison, and so of the other Senses — And agen, Pleasure is certainly in some Cases, nothing but Privation of Pain
— Hector Urquhart (the origin of the idiom ‘one man’s trash’)
I have a love/hate relationship with “Girls.” One one hand, I despise the show; it’s white privilege incarnate. It is exclusionary, people of color are rarely seen; if you do see a brown guy or gal, they are not characters that exhibit any sort of personal development. It’s self-indulgent, spoiled, banal. Hannah, the protagonist, is so unlikable, you feel a visceral reaction when she complains about her life and problems. It is somewhat novel of Lena Dunham to create a character so unsympathetic that you almost want her to fail.
I also love the show because I can identify with every single one of those characters for different reasons. The show has some amazingly funny one-liners; the episode when Adam’s ex-girlfriend discovered that Adam was back with Hannah because she saw them together, her friend and her said to Hannah “Your tits are so small and gross, I bet you can’t even get breast milk from them.” It was such a hilarious episode because every woman at one point in her life has wanted to rip apart the new girl [or new-old girl in this case] and to see it happen on TV was cathartic.
The reason why I still feel a modicum of loyalty to the show is Season 2, Episode 5. “One Man’s Trash.”
Short synopsis of the episode: Hannah walks into the apartment of a handsome, 42-year-old doctor who is separated from his wife and they have a two day long sex fest. She initially came into to apologize for throwing away her job’s trash into his garbage bin; he complained that because she threw away her trash in his disposal unit, he wasn’t able to throw away his own waste. She explained she lost her key, she didn’t want to tell her boss that/own up to her mistakes, so she used his garbage unit. They kiss and have a spur of the moment tryst. Both are seeking comfort and escape from their empty lives despite their sexual intimacy.
Hannah faints in his bathroom, she wakes up to him comforting to her, and she gives a grossly uncomfortable, emotionally intimate, too forward, but beautifully candid speech about her demons, the way she lets people treat her, and how him being so kind to her makes her realize that she wants to be happy. She reconciles that she must be broken inside and must not really want to be happy, insists on “feeling it all” if she allows people to step on her the way they do, that she allows herself to be punished. He calmly freaks out and their two day relationship falls apart ever so softly and gracefully, with her ending the episode throwing away his trash into his garbage bin. The episode had a great motif on emotional baggage.
As an empath, an emotionally sensitive person, a complicated/complex woman, that episode stuck with me and will always be one of my favorite television moments. Everyone wants to be happy, but what choices do we make to let go of our own emotional trash or even avoid the emotional toxic waste of others?
I currently am on an emotional pilgrimage to find my happiness that is not contingent upon an outcome. With that being said, that doesn’t mean I lack a responsibility to be mindful of the choices I make in spite of the outcomes. Last year, I made a vow to be more mindful and live with intentions. The last 3 months of the year, I failed miserably. Watching that episode reminded me of the things I tell myself, that I need to “feel everything” so that makes it real. I’ve compiled months of emotional trash, not only from myself, but given to me by other people. Most people will not be as kind as Hannah to apologize for their emotional baggage and vow to improve the situation.
One man’s trash is not always another man’s treasure. I will not allow my garbage bin to become a landfill for people who have too much stuff. The search for intimacy does involve shared struggles but it does not need to involve being a receptacle for waste while your needs are grossly unmet. Intimacy can be awakening because it can illuminate where you have your baggage; but it also involves recognizing when someone’s issues are too much for you. Often when dealing with individuals with too much trash, who lack the accountability to find their “garbage key,” they can change you into someone who cannot deal with your own personal baggage. Those aforementioned individuals will disparage you for your own needs and deny their contribution to your junkyard when you ask them to help “clean up.”
Choose happiness. And remember what Mama Badu said – always “pack light.”