We’re all just a bunch of fuck ups.
When those words stumbled out the mouth of the flawed and magnetic Shane in episode two of the second season of “The L Word: Generation Q,” I felt as if someone had opened up a window and released a beautiful breath of fresh air into a suffocatingly-stuffy room.
We’re all just a bunch of fuck ups.
I kept repeating this to myself like a mantra for the rest of the night. And with each repetition, the springy breeze began to work its way inside of me.
Why? I wondered.
Because it’s the truth.
And there’s nothing more refreshing than the truth. And the truth is we’re all a bunch of fuck ups. Not just the characters of ”The L Word,” but you, me, and everyone we know.
Yet, just like Bette’s fleeting moment of hypocritical judgment toward Sophie’s indiscretions, we tend to feel superior in the face of someone else’s fuck up. Let’s get real: how many times have you felt smug and “holier than thou” when hearing a tale of a stranger who cheated, lied, or gambled themselves into bankruptcy? I know I have.
And, thanks to the internet, the collective gloating has never been more intoxicating. It’s fun to stand on moral high ground with anonymous strangers. When we’re all up that high, we can’t see what’s happening down on the pavement of our own messy lives.
I find this obsession with harping on the fuck ups of others especially rampant in queer culture. (Who could forget when a *certain* highly-regarded lesbian’s marriage ended in 2020, and twitter went wild, deeming the breakup “damaging” to our community?)
Maybe it’s because we queers are so traumatized from being depicted as immoral heathens looking to destroy “family values” that we’ve turned into these aggressive publicists who will do whatever it takes to cultivate a flawless image to mainstream culture? And when one of our own doesn’t adhere to our strict PR standards, we drop them?
Maybe it’s because we’re suckers for trends like anyone else? And being flawed is not on-trend. Righteousness is all the rage.
Maybe it’s because we’ve been watching glittery highlight reels on the internet for so long we’ve forgotten that real life is full of dark shadows?
I don’t know the answer.
But oh, how I breathed a sigh of relief when Shane, the reigning Queen of messing up, bestowed the realest gospel upon us.
Let’s reflect on the slew of fuck ups, past and present, highlighted in episode two: Finley confessing her love to Sophie while Sophie and Dani are mid-vow. Sophie’s betrayal to Dani by choosing to have sex with Finley. Bette cheating on Tina. Gigi cheating on Nat. Nat hiding her polyamorous identity from Alice. Shane never being able to keep it in her pants.
All of it got me thinking…what does it mean to be a fuck up in the context of ”The L Word?” If we examine the fuck ups in episode two, there’s one glaring theme: Desire.
Why does Finley break up a pending marriage — in a hat nonetheless? Her desire for Sophie. Why did Sophie cheat on Dani in the first place? In that moment, she desired Finley’s body and affection. Why did Bette cheat on Tina? Like it or not, she ~desired~ that trouble-making carpenter. Nat desires polyamory. Gigi destroyed her relationship with Nat because she desired a new body. And Shane? Shane should just have DESIRE tattooed across her forehead.
We can pathologize the mistakes these women made till the cows come home, but the bottom line is this: no one put a gun to their heads and forced them to do what they did. They did it because they wanted to.
Desire is a complicated beast in which to wrestle. One on hand, the culture cheerleads for us to “listen to what we truly want!” Life coaches make a killing holding conventions schooling us to suspend our fears of what others think and “go after what makes us tick.” Social media teems with pretty pink quote cards telling us to “do more of what turns us on.” Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed” has been on the best-seller list for over 71 weeks.
The message is loud and clear: This is your one life. Do what makes you feel good. YOLO, bitch.
Yet, when we do actually “live as if there is no tomorrow” more often than not, we’re met with some pretty dire consequences. Consequences like being crucified by the same coven that encouraged us to do what we want in the first place. Consequences like Finley losing her dream job and finding herself in exorbitant LA with nothing. Consequences like Bette living crushed beneath the heavyweight of regret for almost two decades. Consequences like Shane finding herself in the throes of financial crisis, Sophie reeling from heartbreak, Nat compromising her relationship.
Desire is powerful. It’s so powerful it’s as if it hijacks our prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for making decisions).
But desire is also a sign that we’re very much alive. It’s what separates us from the dead — not just the six feet under dead — but from those who are dead inside.
Are there more graceful ways to deal with desire than cheating, lying, and blowing up our lives? Sure. But desire isn’t intellectual. It’s primal. This is why when we’re wracked with desire, we often act like animals.
And while I don’t condone hurting anyone out of desire, what I’ve observed is that there’s usually something big lingering behind a desire. Something so big and inconvenient, our brains protect us from realizing it’s even there. It gets stored away deep in the subconscious.
So we go about our safe, clean little lives completely unaware of this colossal thing that’s brewing deep inside of us.
Until Desire, looking sexy and dangerous in a short skirt, lit cigarette dangling out of pouty lips, radiating seduction, as she casually struts into our lives armed with a lit match and gasoline, ready to burn down everything we’ve worked so hard to build.
And at first, we’re pissed. Who does this bitch think she is? And then we’re devastated. How will we ever survive? And then, little by little, as we work through the rubble, we realize everything worked out exactly as it should.
Sophie thinks Dani is the great love of her life. Why wouldn’t she? Dani is a rare catch. She’s got everything: Beauty. Brains. A heart. Money. She’s the kind of woman that your mother would kill you for letting go.
But something was missing for Sophie. She craved a warm, Finley energy. An energy more in line with her warm family. But how could she ever even let her brain go there? Dani is everything she thought she wanted.
That’s when Desire, that clever little Tart, decided to swoop in and do the dirty work for her. Sophie wouldn’t have desired Finley if she was one hundred percent confident about Dani. Bette wouldn’t have been seduced by the carpenter if there wasn’t a tiny seed of doubt that maybe Tina wasn’t “the one” planted inside of her. Shane wouldn’t have left her hair fortune in Paris behind and opened up a lesbian bar unless in her core she knew that lifestyle wasn’t for her.
That being said, I don’t know what any of the character’s ultimate fate is. Maybe Bette and Tina will get back together after all these years, only now they’ll be actually happy because they needed time apart to grow on their own? Maybe Sophie and Dani will figure it out, too. I believe in second chances. But I also believe in burning it down and building it back up, in an entirely new way. Because regardless of what happens, once Desire has worked her way into the picture, things will never look the same again. And that’s almost always a good thing.
What this episode reminded me of is the beauty in fucking up. She’s an unconventional beauty for sure, but anything powerful will never be run-of-the-mill. Even if you are on the other side of the fuck up and you have been rendered broken in the aftermath of someone else’s fuck up, there’s beauty in that too. Now you know the truth. And even though the truth hurts, as I said earlier, it’s refreshing. It’s a gift. When it comes down to it, isn’t heartbreak a lesser evil than creating a life with someone who is secretly unsure about you?
I’d love to live in a world where the pull of desire was always handled gracefully. But sometimes it takes big, dramatic, events like being left at the altar to wake up. In life, we’re given so many little signs that we ignore with work, exercise, partying, social media and the millions of other numbing mechanisms.
That’s the power of desire. She makes us feel shit. She forces us to listen to the holiest thing of all: the truth. And you know what’s the antithesis of the truth? Perfection. And the higher up you place yourself on the pedestal of perfection, the harder you’re going to crash when desire knocks you the fuck down. So suspend the judgement. Like Shane says, We’re all just a bunch of fuck ups.