I placed a hold for the e-book from the Chicago Public Library in early January, and patiently awaited the email telling me it was available to download. I heard negative things about Lena Dunham’s memoir. I saw some women reading it on the train on the way to work. I’ve never seen “Girls” and I don’t plan on it.
My biggest qualm with the memoir was the title: “Not That Kind of Girl.” It made me uneasy. In the past couple of years, I realized how much I hate that term. It creates this sense of competition and division. Yes, I did use to say, “I’m not that kind of girl” — I think most girls have — and I do my utmost not use it now.
But “Not That Kind of Girl” was on many of the book lists I came across on Pinterest. So I thought, why the heck not. I didn’t hate Dunham, but I didn’t like her either. As my roommate likes to say about situations like this, I “nothing” Lena Dunham. So my reading her memoir had a different drive than when I read “Bossypants,” “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” and “Yes Please.”
Despite the first section of the book — Love and Sex — I really enjoyed reading Dunham’s book. Her writing voice is so much different than the other memoirs I’ve read. I kept trying to figure out why as I read paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter.
Then it hit me — she’s my age.
OK, she’s five years older than me (28 to my 23). But five years isn’t that big of an age gap. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are both in their 40s; Mindy Kaling is 35. That’s a whole other age group that I can’t fully identify with.
Dunham is brutally honest, and relatable, in her writing. She writes about her therapy sessions and how she came to realize she had obsessive compulsive disorder — this made me think back over my own therapy sessions for anxiety. One of my favorite chapters is called “I Didn’t Fuck Them, but They Yelled at Me,” where she writes about all the men — Sunshine Stealers — who came out of the woodwork in her first whirlwind year saying, “I just want to protect you” and “You know, a lot of men can’t handle a powerful woman …” This was my favorite quote from that chapter:
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.
—p. 200, Kindle edition
I finished reading the memoir after work on Wednesday, and I thought back to my hesitations before reading the book. I’m glad I jumped in and read the book regardless of what I had heard. I came out of it having learned Dunham’s side of things and getting to know her writing style in the process. Will I go and watch “Girls” now? No, probably not. Will I recommend her memoir? Yes, whether you like her or not.
It’s interesting to read memoirs of people you don’t like and/or don’t know much about. Maybe you “nothing” them. So maybe I’ll read more memoirs of people like Dunham. I’ll take any and all suggestions to add to my ever-growing reading list.