I was that Girl

Miranda and Charlotte when they first arrived in the city (and now their sneakers and socks are back in for SS15) . . . google image search
Miranda and Charlotte when they first arrived in the city (and now their sneakers and socks are back in for SS15) . . . google image search

In the Bushnell novels, her characters at times lament on the girls they used to be when they first arrived in the big city. The girl in the rain wearing heels at midnight, unable to hail a cab after yet another party, so she walks the blocks back home alone.

Although I haven’t made it or conquered Berlin by any means, I also, at times, look around me and see the girl I used to be.

The girl in the cafe with her German tandem partner mispronouncing every other German word, especially when the vowels change for plurals.

The girl walking into the Weinerei as if it is the coolest wine bar in Berlin. So much of my Berlin life happened there – milestones.

The girl carrying all those books, all the way to Dahlem-Dorf, as if that manual labor was going to take her somewhere.

In Bushnell’s novels, failing or losing your job in NYC means an immediate transplant back to the hinterlands (anywhere but NYC) no matter how old you are; it could be at 40 or 50. Whereas Berlin gives the failed and unemployed chance after chance, it’s special and kind in that way. As my anti-friend says, “If you can’t make it in Berlin, you can’t make it anywhere.”

How you see me

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Another writer depicted in a movie The Way We Were, the compromising kind. Pollack foreshadows how Katie (Streisand) and Hubbell (Redford) will (not) understand each other by the polarizing way in which they first see each other, i.e. the moment when they give each other the perennial love eyes, the sparkling kind. Dilated pupils = attraction. Sparkling eyes = love/ potential love. I am always amazed when actors are able to portray this, make their eyes sparkle.

She takes notice of him for his writing but mainly because she believes his writing is much better than hers. But she doesn’t even look at him when this occurs, she is too busy mulling in envy and ripping up the pages of her own disappointing story. He first notices her and the movie immediately depicts love eyes while he watches Katie deliver a passionate speech to rally her apathetic college peers to political action. He admires her conviction but also realizes how ineffective she is at the last moment due to her lack of social graces. She is too serious and ultimately fails to connect. This misconnection reduces her otherwise beautiful speech to loud words in the wind. Katie’s love eyes appear much later, as she sees him sleeping on a barstool in a nightclub, his eyes closed to her. Not only does this strange encounter depict Katie’s blindness to the real reason their relationship ends, it shows she values Hubbell’s damn good looks foremost.

For Hubbell, what draws him to Katie also causes the rift between them. From a distance, her conviction seemed admirable but in the domestic, it becomes uncomfortable, unmanageable and even brings violence into their lives. He doesn’t want her alienating tendencies, the anger, the seriousness that comes from strongly held beliefs; he is someone who makes compromises. Katie doesn’t know how to separate the two, the person and the politics, and is blind to the real reason he leaves her. She believes she wasn’t, never was, pretty enough.

I finally understood the “Katie” reference in Sex and the City (final episode Season 2) when Big marries a twenty-something after years of telling Carrie he can’t marry again. So you just didn’t want to marry ME, Carrie muses. Carrie asks the question all girls want to,” Why wasn’t it me, come on, be a friend.” The Sex and the City reference makes Katie the hero, the untamed, strong woman Hubbel/ Big can’t handle, so they revert to, marry beautiful, tamed girls. Of course, Big needs to be with Carrie; however, Hubbell does not belong with Katie. Hubbell knows who he really is (insight from Prof Ruth Chang’s TED talk on Hard Choices), and it never had anything to do with Katie being pretty or not, tamed or untamed.