Some of the funniest parts of “Girls” are scenes about deeply personal or embarrassing health issues like STDs, self-bludgeoned eardrums, and job-jeopardizingly crippling OCD. And these are serious and legitimate health issues that deserve attention (even the eardrum -- "nothing smaller than an elbow!"). But none of the major characters really have known non-psychological chronic health issues. I think that makes sense, because of its small sample size, and the fact that the four leading characters are really young. Outside of my CCFA support group, I hardly knew any people my age with major, non-OCD medical issues till I was in my 30s – or, probably more accurately, I didn’t know I knew any.
But in real life, “Girls” creator Lena Dunham has endometriosis and adenomyosis (as do I), but stated in her book, “Not That Kind of Girl,” that “early on, I made a promise to myself never to use menstruation as a comic crutch or a narrative device in my work. Never to commiserate in a group about which pills actually take care of cramps. Never to say anything but ‘I have a stomachache.’ And I do.”
But is this a comedic rule of illness in general, or just of “female” illness? I think it’s a rule of embarrassing illnesses in general. Lady-troubles humor and butt-chaos jokes have in common that some people think any mention of them is outrageously funny because it’s taboo or gross or naughty. While I happen to feel that these topics – most topics – can be funny, being icky or NSFW is not sufficient in and of itself for humor to take place. Diarrhea noises and exclamations of “it must’ve been the Mexican food!” aren’t funny, they're just lazy and well-worn and boring.
In my twenties, having Crohn’s meant pretending not to. The night before my first small-bowel follow-through (which starts with drinking a liter of strawberry-scented pulverized rock that seems just like radioactive chilled Elmer’s Glue, while your throat rightly tries to vurp up every gulp), my roommate somewhat inconveniently threw a rowdy rugby-team party at our apartment. And all I did to adapt for the test was make sure I finished my last tequila shot before midnight. If I was ever awake at 11 am in college, it was either to go back home to nap after an 8 am class, or to down a few beers before kickoff (go Dawgs). And the 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins was a near-daily appointment, unless I responsibly planned ahead and bought extra croissants and Munchkins for the next morning. Hence the college happiness.
So since I got a jump on this illness thing, I’ll be a voice of a generation of sick ladies, and start my own HBO show, called “Ladies,” or “Thirties,” or “More Like Hurties” or “Hurty Thirties.” Or “All the Sick-le Ladies” (that could actually work for a reality show on just women with sickle cell anemia -- called it, that’s mine; dibs on T-Boz, too).