In the season two finale of HBO’s Girls, Marnie and Charlie reunite after a long separation and several failed attempts on Charlie’s part to reconcile. So why does Marnie want Charlie back now? While there’s been a lot of speculation on that question, I think the driving force behind Marnie’s rekindled love for Charlie has to do with his newfound sense of confidence.
Their breakup was fueled by Charlie’s insecurity. Charlie, for too long, was Marnie’s doormat, an excessively passive, eager to please lap dog seeking her approval. He couldn’t do anything without asking her permission—remember when Ray made “opium brew” and Charlie timidly asks Marnie if he can have some? At times, he acted terrified she would leave him or stop loving him. When they almost got back together after the initial breakup, Charlie began spouting his insecurities during sex: “Don’t abandon me. Don’t make me feel safe and then abandon me. . . . Stay, stay, stay, stay, I love you, I love you.” His desperation so repulses Marnie that she breaks up with him again, while they’re still having sex.
Most of us have probably dated or known a Charlie at some point. And many of us may have even been a Charlie, if only for a moment. You’re not comfortable with you are, so you need other people to affirm your worth for you. Maybe you went out of your way to be completely agreeable, allowing your opinions and beliefs—your identity—to be eclipsed by someone else’s. Maybe you groveled for affection, praising other people for their stylish dress or witticisms. Maybe you talked about yourself incessantly, hoping to inspire either sympathy or praise. Or maybe you even baked someone cookies or bought them a book to garner affection. And I’m sure in each scenario the outcome was less than favorable for whoever played Charlie, as they failed to get the approval they so desperately sought.
Someone who is excessively and overtly insecure often struggles to get this approval because their insecurity repels a lot of people. But why? Why, should a sweet, good-natured person like Charlie, for example, be repellent to anyone? Well, insecurity is rather arrogant. To be insecure is to assume everyone is judging or thinking about you all the time—that you are at the center of the universe. And in your desperate attempts for approval, you essentially demand that other people validate your existence. What could be more self-involved than that? What could be more exhausting, frustrating, and abhorrent?
Behavior fueled by insecurity is also often disingenuous. Paying someone a compliment or buying them a gift is fine, wonderful even, if you do it just because. And there’s nothing wrong with talking about something that’s bothering you if you simply need to get it off your chest. But when these actions have an ulterior motive—to gain approval—it renders them insincere. And no one wants insincerity. When we interact with people, we hope that they’ll be genuine with us.
Being a little insecure now and again is inevitable; becoming a puppet for your insecurities is what’s unattractive. By the season 2 finale of Girls, Charlie has finally shed his groveling behavior. He has shown that whether he loves Marnie or not, he doesn’t need her; he can survive and in fact thrive without her, as evidenced by his successful app. He’s no longer desperately seeking acceptance from Marnie or anyone else, because he realizes he doesn’t need it. A more confident individual, he actually garners the approval he struggled to obtain before from his peers and from Marnie. That’s the interesting thing: when we shed our insecurities, or at least, manage to subdue them, we’re more likely to get the approval we no longer need.