I have been constantly thinking about Lena Dunham’s memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, since I started reading it last week. This is no easy feat considering I’ve started German lessons again–3 hours in the morning, every day–and have gone back and forth with my editor on two different articles. There’s a lot of other things to be thinking about, but I can’t stop mulling over this book.
I am at turns validated, hugely entertained, melancholic, confused, enlightened, agreeable, envious and almost always suffering from acute second-hand embarrassment. It’s a lot to process in a relatively short amount of pages, but Dunham is a wily and precocious writer that demands attention and engagement. One can’t read about a rape that may or may not be a rape without thinking about what rape means to oneself and how it is (often traumatically) defined by society.
A lot of people were/are hesitant to read the memoir for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to her age, gender, TV show, affluent and artistically-inclined upbringing and what is perceived as a general lack of experience. Interestingly, people show reluctance toward reading the book because they are too afraid she will be like Hannah, her emotionally frustrating character on the show Girls. She is not like Hannah, but you will find that a lot of things that happen to Hannah have happened to Dunham and she spared very few details in the retellings.
I was gung-ho from the beginning and will continue to champion this book well after I finish it, which should be in the next 15 minutes or so. She explores painful and cringe-worthy episodes of her past, yes, but I what stands out to me the most is how she is looking out for the reader. Many people have pointed out that the memoir reads like a collection of shocking horror stories from your older and wiser sister, but I think she is as much confiding in us as a trusted confidant as we are looking to her for solace and recognition. That is, it feels more like a mutual relationship than I was anticipating.
What the reading of this book amounts to, for me in particular, is not so much a shared recollection of Millennial mishaps, but a reinforcement of my friend Alexandra’a favorite maxim: You do you. You do you, whatever that needs to be at a particular moment, and own that choice/feeling/mentality. I’ve been trying to embrace that philosophy, especially when it comes to tough decisions or anxious feelings of comparison, and I’ve found a lot of mental clarity through. Despite what reads as near-crippling anxiety and compulsive behaviors in Dunham’s life, I get the sense that she is embracing the “you do you” way of life far more fully than any of us. I love that.
Any thoughts? Have you read it, or do you want to read it? I posed this questions earlier, but would be interested to hear if anyone’s opinions changed based on the numerous reviews and reactions out there (add this one to the count).
(image by Autumn De Wilde)