Thursday, November 6, 2014

Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham

I finished Not That Kind of Girl in less than one week's time. It was an impressive, quick read. Lena Dunham is no doubt very smart and insightful. One slight reservation I have, however, is that much of her book's stories are the same as those depicted on her hit HBO series Girls. So readers be warned: much of Dunham's material is recycled.
That being said, Dunham is certainly courageous. Her writing is vulnerable and funny, and she candidly discusses her extreme neuroses with a refreshing comedic spin. And if you ask me, bearing your soul in print is much braver than exposing your naked body on TV -- something Dunham is (in)famous for.

A few of Dunham's essays really resonated me with me:

Falling in Love
After walking us through her first three serious-ish and ultimately doomed relationships, Dunham touches on the history of her parents' courtship. She then bounces back to relationship #3 before cryptically introducing her current Prince Charming: "Then he appeared. Gap toothed, Sculptey faced, glasses like a cartoon, so earnest I was suspicious, and so witty I was scared." She goes on to say that he and she evolved from friends to more over the next few months. But surprisingly for this notorious over-sharer, she doesn't divulge details. Dunham tells the reader that yes, she has written those sentences, but that they are hers, and she's not sharing. This portion of "Falling in Love" feels a little stingy. Why even go there if you're not going to go there? Dunham then loops back to the old boyfriends. (Yes, this particular essay is a bit circuitous.) She never really loved those first boyfriends. But she can now appreciate and love her own younger self. She ends with a retrospective, this being the portion of "Falling in Love" that touched me:
Everything has changed in a way that sounds trite and borderline offensive when recounted over coffee. I can never be who I was. I can simply watch her with sympathy, understanding, and some measure of awe. There she goes, backpack on, headed for the subway or the airport. She did her best with her eyeliner. She learned a new word she wants to try out on you. She is ambling along. She is looking for it.
'Diet' is a Four-Letter Word
When talking about body image in "'Diet' is a Four-Letter Word" Dunham includes a sample of her 2010 food diary, prefacing it by saying that this documentation "has been the most humiliating document on [her] computer." It actually doesn't seem that embarrassing to me, although she does share some intimate medical info. Maybe I just have horrendous eating tendencies and embarrassing medical issues, too. Perhaps one day I'll share my own humiliating food diary with you. In the meantime, here's a taste of Dunham's:
Late night snack: 4am
3/4 container of Fage 2% Greek Yogurt (110 calories)
raspberries (20 calories)
Breakfast: 6:30am
          Gluten free honey oat toast (120 calories)
w/ almond butter (100 calories)
30 raspberries (35 calories?)
weird orange juice/tracking liquid for cat scan (100 calories?)
5 Raisinets (38 calories)
1/4 turkey on rye bread w/ lettuce and mustard (300 calories?) 
2 bottles Teas green tea 
1/4 small container saag paneer and white rice (380 calories?)
1/2 container chocolate soy delicious ice cream (230 calories)
green tea 
Total caloric intake: approx 1,433 
Notes: Spent day in ER. Diagnosed with acute colitis. (Not the chronic kind! Maybe from the laxative tea?) Lots to say about that and I'll type it when not on jury duty. By which I mean Percocet. I meant Percocet and typed "jury duty." I think I overestimate my calories sometimes.
A Guide to Running Away
In "A Guide to Running Away," Dunham's final and most moving essay, she advises readers on how to run away at ages nine and 27. Her advice for a 27 year old looking to escape? Take a long shower, ingest pills or say you're sick. Dunham explains that she personally no longer needs to escape herself and/or her circumstances regularly. She can be in her body, especially when she's a "tool", i.e., acting as a creative outlet. (I totally get that!) Dunham also feels supported by true unconditional love: "Even when [I] cry or misbehave or show him how terrible [I am] at planning festive group outings. He seems to be there without reservation." Dunham admits that sometimes that old feeling of "being outside your body" slips back in, but she has "learn[ed] a new rule and it's simple: don't put yourself in situations you'd like to run away from."

Amen sister.

Bottom image via Nasty Gal

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