Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind of Girl”: Everything you need to know.

dunham kind of girl

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I’m a fan of Lena Dunham’s “Girls” (Link), so I bought her 2014 memoir “Not That Kind of Girl” to review it for ZEIT Online. While reading the ebook, I marked some passages and live-tweeted them here (Link).

I didn’t enjoy the book, overall, because a lot of the essays seemed listless or haphazard. “Girls” has a lot of energy. Lena herself seems passionate and smart… but “Not That Kind of Girl” felt like a school assignment, a piece of homework. Not enough urgency. Not enough drive.

There are LOTS of tweet-sized gems in these 300 pages, though, and I want to collage them: Please go read 20 or 30 of these quotes. They encapsulate what’s great about Lena (witty! acerbic!). But they also show the bumpiness, flunkiness, hit-and-miss meandering of this book project:

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“Not That Kind of Girl”… told in 115 quotes:

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“I’ve been obsessed with death since I was born.”

“Until I was about twelve my grandmother was my best friend. […] I called her every day at 4:00 P.M.”

“I shared a bed with my sister, Grace, until I was seventeen years old.”

“my dad painted huge pictures of penises for a job”

“I was born here, and New York is so alien: she is in my gut like an old sickness”

“both my parents have therapists”

“none of the pants ever fit me, unless I head into the maternity section”

“My nickname in high school was Blow-Job Lena, but because I gave NO blow jobs!”

“I wanted memories so powerful they made you cry.”

“my Brazilian babysitter Flavia”

“my mother, who looks like her normal self when she dresses as a witch for Halloween.”

“we didn’t have to worry about much except what gallery to go to on Sunday…”

“The best news I ever could have received would have been that my parents had decided to homeschool me”

“I was a quitter: of play dates, of dance class, of Hebrew school.”

“I demanded a series of tuck-in rituals so elaborate that I’m shocked my parents never hit me (hard).”

“I was sure I had already broken my hymen in high school in pursuit of a cat that didn’t want to be rescued.”

“my parents discovered I had been stuffing all my unfinished homework under my bed for half the school year.”

“a successful seventh-grade year in which I had […] gotten my hair highlighted by a licensed beautician named Beata.”

“Everything I saw as a child, from 90210 to The Bridges of Madison Country, had led me to believe that sex was a cingey, warmly lit event”

“Angela Chase seemed pretty messed up by her experience at that flophouse where high school kids went to copulare.”

“I haven’t been to London since age 14, when I was angry my mother forced me to ride a Ferris wheel and even angrier because I liked it.”

“being in possession of a gay sister, I find the term ‘girl crush’ slightly homophobic.”

“I haven’t had a crush on a woman since, unless you count my confusing relationship with Shane from The L Word”

“I had no issue with gay people. I just didn’t want to be one. I was fourteen. I didn’t want to be anything yet.”

“I had been telling my parents, sister, grandma – anyone who would listen, really – about my desires from an early age.”

“I gained weight like it was a viable profession.”

“I don’t think I met a Republican until I was nineteen.”

“I went to my first Women’s Action Coalition meeting at age three.”

“Barbie’s disfigured. It’s fine to play with her just as long as you keep that in mind.”

“His arms were as muscly as a Ken doll’s but also as small.”

“I pull down my tights to pee, and he jams a few of his fingers inside me, like he’s trying to plug me up.”

“I was, once again, just a B- or even C-level member of the classroom ecology.”

“I wasn’t obese, but a senior did tell me I looked ‘like a bowling ball with a hat on.'”

“I’ll never be this young again. Or this lonely. Or this hairy.”

“While my veganism began as a deeply felt moral position, it soon morphed into a not-very-effective eating disorder.”

“we were finding our own New York, which looked a lot like the New York of our parents”

“at my new school, I was cool. […] I had a denim jacket and a novelty pin that said who lit the fuse on your tampon?”

“I wrote poems, sprawling epics with curse words and casual mentions of suicide that didn’t get me sent to the school psychologist.”

“my mother’s psychic Dmitri, who smelled of essential oils and walked around our house investigating ‘energies'”

“Waiting for my parents to get home because I’d lost my keys and pissing in someone’s potted plant.”

“This is what camp is all about! I thought. Meeting other, slightly different kinds of white girls!”

“I told him I went to school in Brooklyn and he said he didn’t know where that was because he wasn’t ‘so good at geometry'”

“even three mornings a week [at a child psychiatrist] isn’t enough to stop the terrible thoughts.”

“When I gave you a blow job (MY FIRST) on the day my cat died, you should have called.”

“Throughout the day I often ask myself, Could I fall asleep right now? and the answer is always a resounding yes.”

“Drunk emotions aren’t real emotions.”

“Later in the summer your grandfather dies, and you’re secretely glad. You have a place to put all your sorrow now”

“that syrupy terror that characterized summer nights as a nine-year-old sometimes lasts for days now”

“Every sexual encounter has felt like a first visit with a new general practioner. Awkward, burdensome, a little chilly.”

“the first person you give a blow job to. You won’t finish, just administer one horrified lick, and he won’t talk to you again”

“Only when I got to college did it dawn on me that maybe my upbringing hadn’t been very ‘real’.”

“Oberlin being a liberal haven where opposition was king, the coolest clique was a group of rugby-playing, neon-wearing lesbians.”

“I’m 20. […] I choose to wear a banana-printed belly shirt and pink leggings to the Vatican and religious tourists gawk and turn away.”

“The conversation at college is making me insane: politically correct posturing by people without real politics.”

“I am determined not to tell anyone I vomited. But sharing is my first instinct.”

“And there I am, drunk on a spring night, yanking my tampon out and hurling it into a bush outside the church.”

“I became the most combative girl in every writer’s workshop”

“I had been ambitious once. In college, all I seemed to do was found literary magazines with inexplicable names.”

“I wrote porn reviews (‘Anal Annie and the Willing Husbands’ is weird because the lead has a lisp).”

“I’ve never talked to anyone my own age abou anything beyond ambition. Technique, passion, philosophy, we don’t touch any of that.”

“he saw me for who I felt I was: achingly brilliant, misunderstood, full of novellas and poems and well-timed jokes.”

“We went to his neighbor’s funeral and sat on the back row and got the giggles, sprinted out.”

“I’m the kind of person who should probably date older guys, but I can’t deal with their balls.”

“I had ill-advised intercourse with a petite poet-mathematician who, afterward, removed the condom, placed it under his pillow, and wiped his penis clean on his own curtains.”

“He kissed me like it was a boring job given to him by his parole officer.”

“he looked at me a long moment, like he was preparing to eat something he wasn’t sure he would like.”

“Over time, my belief in many things has wavered: marriage, the afterlife, Woody Allen. But never motherhood.”

“college was a wonderful gig, thousands of hours to tend to yourself like a garden”

“Soon, my life as a student will be as far behind me as summer camp.”

“we fucked in the blue light of a documentary about police brutality. we didn’t speak for a year.”

“You used to own the night and put it to good use”

“Upon graduation I had felt a heavy sense of doom, a sense that nothing would ever be simple again.”

“I can’t find a goddamn fucking job and I’m too fat to be a stripper.”

“The story of children of the art world trying (and failing) to match their parents’ successes, unsure of their own passions, but sure they wanted glory”

“a haze of warm beer, Xanax bits, and poorly administered cocaine”

“He takes me on a day trip up the coast that should be romantic but feels like a hostage situation.”

“I boarded a Greyhound to Ithaca to see a college friend, the kind of purposeless trip you will never take again after age 25.”

“the 350 milligrams of medication I take every night”

“so much of what I love – gossip and furniture and food and the Internet”

“calling a cab in a haze of pills and getting home at 6 am only to realize you’ve left all your valuables at the home of a guy who doesn’t wake up until 2”

“my first postcollege job in a downtown restaurant…”

“What followed was two years of on-and-off ambigous sex hangouts […] often involving prescrition drugs from […] my parents’ oral surgeries.”

“If I was writing this then, I would have glamorized the whole story for you”

“I thought of myself as some kind of spy, undercover as a girl with low self-esteem, bringing back detailled intelligence reports…”

“I was dressed like a hooker dressed like an insurance broker.”

“I walked out into the street the next day bare legged and reeling, not sure whether I’d been ruined or awoken.”

“my e-mails were long and overwrought, trying to show him how dark my sense of humor was (I can make an incest joke!)”

“I still make joke after joke, but my tears are betraying me.”

“I broke up with him for a Puerto Rican named Joe with a tattoo that said mom in Comic Sans.”

“I bought my wallet while high off my ass on legal prescription drugs in the Hamburg airport.”

“Advil, Lexapro, Mucinex, Klonopin, and Tamiflu, for emotional security. If you have any spare pills, I will take those, too.”

“I worked at the baby store for nine months. Just recently graduated, I had stormed out of my restaurant job on a whim.”

“Once my boss yelled at me for giving Gwyneth Paltrow the wrong size in baby legging”

“going to Physique 57 class even though the women there are all engaged to be married and mean.”

“The time we took ecstasy and, right before it hit, he asked me what my thoughts on open relationships were.”

“If someone doesn’t answer your email within six hours, it means they hate you.”

“We went to a bar afterwards, and a DJ gave me his business card in a way that could have been sexual.”

“I Googled him and ‘rape’ autofills after his name.”

“I’ve always believed that it turns people on to get made fun of, and the art world was no exception”

“We took the videos we had made together off the Internet, embarrassed by the things we had once thought so profound.”

“And yes, it was broad, amateurish, a little vulgar.”

“My body was simply a tool to tell the story.”

“By the time I emerged from his home on Friday morning, we had essentially performed the first year of a relationship in 5 days.”

“And so I stayed, for five months, calling it growth.”

“Back in the city, I kissed him goodbye, then texted him a few minutes later ‘don’t come over later, or ever.’ We do what we can.”

“the time I sat with a director in his hotel suite while he told me girls love it when you ‘direct’ their blow jobs.”

“Women in Hollywood were treated like the paper thingies that protect glasses in hotel bathrooms – necessary but infinitely disposable.”

“I wasn’t going to be anyone’s protégée, pet, private fan club, or eager plus-one.”

“I loved that he’d never have to see a more successful person than himself at a party.”

“Later, we will find out that he was simultaneously courting an actress from The West Wing and that he bought her a cactus.”

“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.”

“You don’t need to be flamboyant in your life to be flamboyant in your work.”

“I hadn’t showered in four days and I still have a boyfriend last I checked.”

“The next morning he rolled toward me and not away. […] It was like a miracle.”

“You’ve learned a new rule and it’s simple: don’t put yourself in situations you’d like to run away from.”

“you ask your friend Jeminma one day as she’s painting you nude on her couch”

“I can’t wait to be eighty. So I can have an ‘oeuvre’ – or at least a ‘filmography’.”

“I’ll be eighty and, quite possibly, the owner of seventeen swans.”

“How could someone whose biggest health scare was a coffee-induced colon infection know what the end of life looks like?”

“Last summer my vagina started to sting.”

“My OCD isn’t completely gone, but maybe it never will be.”

“You’ll think, Stuff like this only happens to characters played by Jennifer Garner, right?”

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