In the real world, I am an attractive woman. I'm tall, with large breasts, nice legs and a pretty face. I dress to flatter my assets. I carry myself confidently. Men notice me -- a few times a month, a man hands me his phone number on the subway train or in line at the deli. (Is that obnoxious to say? Sorry, I like myself.)
But the kind of attractive I am doesn't exist in the realm of media. If you were to put me on a television show -- well, no one would ever put me on a television show but if they did -- I would have to be a supporting character, the undesirable but sassy best friend in a romantic comedy, perhaps, at a safe remove from any of the actual romance.
The same goes for some corners of the Internet. Online, I am often called fat and ugly (in less kind terms) by those who view my articles and videos on YouTube, Reddit, Digg and various message boards. These men and women see me as inherently unfuckable -- when I have written on sexual topics, they have speculated that I cannot know what I'm talking about, since no one would ever want to have sex with me. When I did a humor video on "boners," for instance, more than one person wondered how I could ever have seen a hard penis, since my appearance would naturally shrivel any erections in the vicinity.
This is fundamentally at odds with my experience of being a woman in this body in the world.
Something happens, it seems, when my image travels from the real world (where I am approached often by men with sexual intentions) to the digital, where my sexual value is null and void. It's the same thing that seems to happen to Lena Dunham's image, when it gets bent and broken down and shot through space into your TV screen. An attractive woman, one who surely has no shortage of suitors in her real life, becomes sexually repulsive to a vast swath of the viewing public.
So Lena Dunham gets called a "blobby" with a "sloppy backside" and after Sunday's episode, in which she spends a couple of days banging a 42-year-old doctor played by superior-assed Patrick Wilson, she gets a bunch of shade thrown at her for not being hot enough to realistically score with the movie star.
Last night when Lena Dunham -– the writer, director, star, and all-around powerhouse behind HBO's buzzy show Girls –- leaned in and kissed the dreamy Patrick Wilson and he kissed her back, the snarkier parts of the audience (myself included) immediately thought, "Oh please, there is no way that he would get with her!" The rest of the episode, in which Dunham's Hannah spends two days in the loving arms of Wilson's Joshua, was a suspension of disbelief, as we're supposed to imagine that this romantic coupling is accepted by today's society. Their discrepancy was only made more apparent in a scene where Hannah and Joshua play half-naked ping pong and Wilson looks like a bronzed statue of Hercules and Dunham looks, well, not quite like an Aphrodite.
Jenni Konner has said that this season is about seeing what happens when Hannah starts “getting some of what she’s been pining for,” so I guess this was their attempt to wrestle with that theme. But presumably there are things that Hannah would not, in any world that resembled our own, get. Such as Patrick Wilson, for instance.
In sum, the episode felt like a finger poked in my guys-on-Girls eyeball, or a double-dog dare for me to ask, How can a girl like that get a guy like this? Am I small-minded if I’m stuck on how this fantasy is too much of a fantasy and remembering what Patrick Wilson’s real-life partner looks like?*
Remember the episode of The Cosby Show in which Cliff, Theo, Elvin, and Martin were all pregnant? Martin fathered a sailboat, Theo a sports car, Cliff a hoagie and soda, and Elvin, well, nobody ever cared that much about Elvin. He probably had another rattail. At the end, Cliff woke up from his dream. This week's Girls was a lot like that Cosby Show, except Hannah never woke up from the fantastical, implausible story she found herself in.
Reading that last quote, you'd think Dunham's character had won the lottery and transplanted the entire gang to Hawaii, not spent a couple of days banging a hot stranger. Let's just go over one more time what actually happened on this episode: A recently separated 42-year-old doctor called in sick to spend the day having hot sex with a 24-year-old barista from his neighborhood coffee shop. Yeah, I've never heard of anything like that before.
And if we're presuming that Patrick Wilson's character's estranged wife is also in her 40s, we can probably assume she doesn't have the face and body of a 19-year-old yoga instructor either, if she ever did. (And Patrick Wilson himself is married to actress Dagmara Domińczyk who is a size 10 with a self-proclaimed "muffin top.")
Aside from being sexist and sizeist and just plain fucking rude, this idea that you have to have a thin, perfect body and the face of a model in order to be sexually attractive is just patently untrue. Sexual attraction is oozing and amorphous and refuses to live in boxes. Regular women, women who look like Lena Dunham, or me, get laid easily and often. Some men who look like Patrick Wilson are attracted exclusively to women 3 times Dunham's size. Men who look like Patrick Wilson get rejected by women who look like Lena Dunham.
Couples are "mismatched" because these boundaries, these "leagues" are made up by society and easily crossed. Anybody can have sex with anybody else! And they do, all the time! Just not on TV.
So yes, I look a lot like Lena Dunham. And while they are not my preferred type, I have had sex with movie-star hot men with chiseled Adonis bodies. Some of those men were wealthy and successful. A lot of them thought I was beautiful and told me so. Usually, I got tired of them and moved on.
I didn't wake up to discover it was all a fantastical dream sequence. In fact, it seems to me that the people who find the whole scenario so hard to swallow are the ones in serious need of a wake-up call.
Because yes, the idea that you must be a size 0 to be sexually desirable to an attractive man is hurtful and damaging. But what bothers me more is that it's just dumb and untrue. It's not that Lena Dunham is living in a fantasy world. It's that her critics won't open their eyes to this one.
@msemilymccombs is being of average attractiveness on Twitter.