I am about to disclose a piece of information about myself that demonstrates a deathly cocktail of my irritating irrationality spiced with outright efforts to revolt against a gender predisposition so idiosyncratic to my generation. I used to vengefully despise Lena Dunham and her incredibly successful TV show Girls. In hindsight, my disdain did not actually originate with Dunham but more so the onslaught of social media coverage from every Tina, Deirdre and Harriet with their “In the bath watching Girls drinking slimming tea #bestnightever #imcoolyournot” Instagram posts that captured an image of a MacBook exhibiting the opening title for the show. Of course I watched the first two seasons of Girls out of curiosity; scrutinizing every term of phrase, scenario and pop-culture reference made to strengthen the plea of the Brooklyn hipster. I would wholeheartedly (and unjustly) criticise each episode to anyone that would listen. I realize that I expended a lot of energy in this process, but to me it was worthwhile at the time.
When I saw that Lena Dunham had written a book, Not That Kind of Girl to be released for the end of September my eyes rolled spitefully and a few expletives may have been expressed. But, once again I was curious. I felt an irrefutable and overwhelming compulsion, an alarming sense of urgency possessed me to read Dunham’s book. I was desperate to read what pearls of wisdom she felt compelled to impart to a girl like me. I mistook this generosity for arrogance, I was humbled when Dunham earnestly acknowledges “I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you.” I admired her admission, and continued reading. Suffice to say I was sceptical before I even opened the book, despite the fact that I loved the cover design. I guess you can judge a book by its cover. As I read the introduction my cheeks reddened. Not because she made an in-depth sexual reference and I felt bashful, hoping the woman sitting beside wouldn’t think I was reading a smutty novel. It also wasn’t because I was enraged by the content, quite the contrary. I was shamefully blushing because a few sentences into Dunham’s book I had to accept that I had been wrong about her. I had previously refused to accept that Dunham was an incredibly intelligent and articulate writer. I was captivated by her writing, how she effortlessly expressed her experiences and thoughts. She is still so young, yet has a mature and transcendental perspective of the world around her, an ability she has nurtured from the age of three!
Along with my newfound appreciation for her talent – or, as Lena would classify it; girl crush-something truly unnerving happened to me, I found myself relating to Dunham in an unsettling way. I guess this is why girls (and guys) have gravitated towards Dunham and to Girls, her vernacular is accessible. She knows her audience, she inadvertently is her audience. I giggle as I recognise the unashamed excitement of instant messaging in the pre-Facebook age and how you tend to relinquish all online etiquette when you see that boy is “available to chat.” We’ve all been there, questioning our premature “hey… (*smiley faced emoticon*)” wondering if we scared him away?
Why hasn’t he replied? We just aren’t so willing to admit it to others, least of all to ourselves. As I read Lena’s experiences in love, (boy’s demanding “I WANNA KNOW WHERE DA GOLD AT”) body image, (“Diagnosed with acute colitis. Not the chronic kind! Maybe from the laxative tea”) sprinkled with insights into work and friendship. The essays throughout are of course extremely entertaining, but they are also remarkably informative. Ok, so learning that your vagina is the “organ that looks into the future” is not going to make your general I.Q. skyrocket, but seeing how Lena deals with certain situations be it in matters of the heart, friendships or family we can all learn from her mistakes and her persistence when trying to figure out what is right for her and no one else. Without sounding like a trite cliché, I genuinely believe that reading Not That Kind of Girl has made me a lot more confident in my own writing, affording me to become more open and steadfast in my approach to writing. I would have never felt comfortable having the word ‘vagina’ in one of my articles beforehand, now it has consciously found its way into this review twice and I am not ashamed or embarrassed by its presence. Why are we so afraid to be human and totally open with our work? What’s the worst that can happen? Some idiot rolls their eyes spitefully at your work?
Perhaps I’m the wrong person to ask, or should I say, was. As a young writer and a girl in her early twenties finding my place in a world that is rapidly progressing, reading Not That Kind of Girl has been an invaluable exercise. It is also compelling if you are not a writer, or a young girl and are just looking for a book to entertain you and make you laugh aloud whether you are reading it in the privacy of your home or on your daily commute to and/or from work.
I have said before that I used to dislike Lena Dunham. Now I revoke that sentiment with the same urgency I had to read her book. How could I dismiss her without understanding her? I have learnt so much more from her in 262 wildly entertaining and insightful pages than the 10 years I mindlessly sat, enduring countless episodes of Oprah who occasionally enabled short celebrities to moronically jump on her couch. I have learnt to acknowledge jealousy, confront situations that may impede my pursuits to further my career and to most importantly to always love and laugh. Lena recounts a time when she was discussing the purpose of her work, addressing the reason why she writes; “…In [her] work, [she] creates a better or clearer universe…Or at least one that makes more sense.” After reading Not That Kind of Girl I feel that Dunham has selflessly contributed a piece of work that makes the universe a better place. I certainly feel enlightened, I am sure you will too. In my ignorance, I would have considered Dunham’s book aptly titled; instead I have come to the conclusion that Lena Dunham is just my kind of girl.
Words Zara Hedderman