‘Emily In Paris’ Is Proof That Your 20s Are Supposed To Be Messy

This article contains spoilers for Netflix’s Emily In Paris

No one can argue that Emily Cooper, the titular character from Emily In Paris, isn’t messy as hell. In the first season alone, she kissed her neighbor, befriended said neighbor’s girlfriend, slept with said neighbor’s girlfriend’s underage brother, then slept with said neighbor—the circle of French life, apparently. Her biggest flaw, however, is the one she’s completely blind to: She actually believes that she’s more put together than the people around her while perhaps being the messiest one of all.

Emily has convinced herself that she’s always striving to do the right thing, though I would argue that really, she’s focused on doing the clean thing. Instead of owning up to her mistakes, she tries to bury them completely. Instead of accepting that a particular situation may be nuanced and complicated, she feigns ignorance and avoids dealing with it completely. She’d rather bend over backwards to try to fix something than even admit that she broke it in the first place—and, worse, claims it’s because it’s the selfless thing to do.

There’s a lot I could say about Emily’s mistakes (including but not limited to, “Wow, she really is an illiterate sociopath”), but instead of dwelling on everything she did wrong, I’d much rather focus on her boss Sylvie’s sage response when she hears about the drama: “Emily, you’ve got the rest of your life to be as dull as you wish, but while you’re here, fall in love, make mistakes, leave a disastrous trip in your wake.”

There’s something to be said about Sylvie’s acceptance of Emily’s shortcomings, especially when she tends to play the role of the critical and unimpressed boss. But it’s perhaps the best gift she could give Emily, because she understands something integral about life that Emily is still in the process of learning: your 20s are supposed to be messy, and the best thing you can do is simply embrace it.

Sylvie’s right, and not just about young women who are living in Paris for a year. Your twenties are for your worst decisions and your greatest memories. They’re for moving halfway across the world on a whim, even when you don’t understand the language or the culture. They’re for meeting new people who will change your life forever—for better or worse. They’re for getting a little too drunk or being a little too flirty or trying too hard to hold on to a friendship that may not be working anymore.

And that’s okay, because your 20s are supposed to be when you make mistakes. They’re for trying new things and failing—sometimes miserably. They’re for falling in love with the wrong people and getting your heart completely shattered; they’re for choosing to fall in love again anyway.

By constantly resisting the mess, Emily doesn’t actually save herself from going through the hurt or the heartbreak. If anything, she makes them worse by shaming herself for feeling the way she does, and in the end it all just leads her to complicate her life and others’.

The truth is, sometimes your 20s hurt like hell. They won’t always be light and breezy, and you won’t always land on your feet, and sometimes you’ll leave emotional casualties in your wake. Some days, you might not even like who you are. 

But there’s something so beautiful in all of that mess, whether you realize it now or not. Because your 20s are also for learning, for growing, for transforming. They’re for understanding the depths of your emotions and realizing what actually matters to you—and what really doesn’t. They’re for experiencing the world while you can, then letting it mold you into the person you’re meant to become.