It’s probably sad how attached I am to this book. I wanted to simultaneously fall down a rabbit hole and climb into a dark hole while reading it. Lena Dunham in Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells What She’s “Learned” is so spot on with her pseudo-memoir that I was practically highlighting the entire book. I thought that she found the voice between psycho-tire-stabber and romantically-involved-with-herself girlhood. I used to think Taylor Swift was my ultimate girl crush, but Lena Dunham has now taken the number one spot. If I could have a moment with Dunham like she had with Nellie sans-vomit, I would drink the red wine, and curl up on a vintage french rug and tell her all my secrets with our bodies, knees together, and spines curved, into a heart shape (totally platonic).
At some point during my reading, I started coloring all the tiny pictures. I think this was in an effort for the book not to end, but that makes me even more of a guppy so pretend I didn’t admit this. Like Dunham’s memoir, it’s clear that I can’t go linear through it. I will do my best though.
Dunham starts with relationships. I needed to read this so I could not choose the devil on my shoulder that said I could just artificially inseminate myself at 37 and choose the man on paper who would father that child. (It’s still a serious thought though. I talk about it over Mexican food to my best friends). I’ve never written “Amen” in the sidelines of a book, but in this relationships section, I did too many times. My personal favorite “Here’s who it’s not okay to share a bed with: Anyone who makes you feel like you’re invading their space. Anyone who tells you that they ‘just can’t be alone right now.’ Anyone who doesn’t make you feel like sharing a bed is the coziest and most sensual activity they could possibly be undertaking (unless of course, it is one of the aforementioned relatives; in that case, they should act lovingly but also reserved/slightly annoyed) Now, look over at the person beside you. Do they meet these criteria? If not, remove them or remove yourself. You’re better off alone.”
I think that quote highlights the very essence of this book. Everything she was saying I had either experienced, or knew was inherently bad/good for me, but sometimes, I need to be told literally in print to stop dating jerks because “When someone shows you how little you mean to them, and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself.”
This rang so true for my high school first boyfriend (who was a total douchebag who I thought was so hot because he would start fights with boys that just looked at me over their shoulder) and rang true for a few boyfriends after that who treated me like I was good enough as their back-up dancer. In this relationship section, I learned how okay I really am. I highlighted many parts on self-respect, and continuing on your personal journey regardless of the man who either thinks he is on rungs higher than you, or doesn’t appreciate your oddness.
The body section was a little weird, but still important to the general idea of being a woman and being told you’re not good enough in any shape unless you’re a Victoria Secret model (and even they’re told they’re too skinny). We apply creams, sprays, dyes, lenses, glosses, surgeries to ourselves to look like someone we don’t even know, or someone’s ideal that we haven’t even really thought out for its purpose (Hello, obese women were the most popular in England for hundred of years before any Barbie ever came out — not that I recommend obesity for it’s general health problems, but still, the point). This is the section people really have problems with on Goodreads. One girl actually counted the calories Dunham put for each item to find the errors. I wasn’t looking for problems with Dunham while I was reading, I was just enjoying the kindred spirit affect of this book.
Maybe this makes me narcissistic.
I am, probably. I enjoy a selfie-a-day. I pout my lips in the mirror after I pop my lips together just following glossing them. My Mom told me I was pretty (probably more than the average girl, but I wouldn’t know if this is true or not) and honestly, I believe it. And I think that’s important. I feel pretty and I feel happy and I wear purple lipstick when I want and I still think I’m chic. So, BAM.
This was the other negative about Dunham’s book. People thought like Joan Didion (pressing her riches into her memoir), Dunham is only famous due to her acclaimed parents and her “rich-girl” upbringing. I beg to differ. The girl who wrote this book is sensual, worldly, expecting, honest, experienced, and still learning. I don’t care what the “haters” say at this point, this is someone’s life and it’s a story that’s worth telling like every life story is worth telling. She even outlines her troubles in the industry and how she was treated not as a threat to her male counterparts, but as a sponge for ideas to steal. She went to college and earned a degree in creative writing (even if she was the girl that everyone hates in workshop who tears their pieces apart and then has no merit in their own writing). Girl got goods, she’s doing big things and I think at some point people need to learn to not be jealous of the way someone got to their light, but that they got there and they’re spreading it.
Let the girl shine.
Dunham even writes about this jealousy, “And I decided then that I will never be jealous. I will never be vengeful. I won’t be threatened by the old, or by the new. I’ll open wide like a daisy every morning. I will make my work.” If nothing else, this is advice to live by. If everyone just tried to “do them” and better themselves and encourage others to continue to raise the tide, we would all be creating waves together.
I think the biggest problem I have with people who hate this book is that they obviously were oblivious to the feelings of those around them in childhood and college. Dunham opens doors to our most secret selves that we hide behind masked personalities. She talks about her college sexual encounters and drug use (that ring true for so many college woman), and discusses her constant need for a therapist due to her anxiety about life’s bigger problems. So many of the truly wonderful women, one of my very best friends especially, have trouble with anxiety and paranoia. This is a true account of a society that either shuts its doors to people like this or just chooses not to recognize their struggle. Regardless of how much money your parents make, your inner self can still struggle with so many things that are beyond financial.
Overall, this book gave me so many feelings. I dried out a pen underlining and I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to keep knowing Dunham. She had something to teach me even when she sounded just like me, because sometimes you need to hold up a mirror to yourself in order to understand. Don’t believe the haters. I know the girl can’t pick a Globes dress … ever, but she can write a damn memoir, and every girl should read it.
*I’ve never watched Girls so this review is totally based on Dunham’s memoir and short interviews at award’s shows (and the fact she’s best friends with Taylor Swift).