Book Review: Not That Kind of Girl

Lena Dunham and I are kindred spirits. Our kindred nature is not obvious perhaps. I mean, I don’t wear crop tops, get naked on screen, or write and star in a ridiculously successful, hilarious HBO series. But, I feel like she gets me. She gets women in general and she gets me, specifically. As I was reading Not That Kind of Girl, I not only laughed so hard I cried, I also shouted, “Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!” in ecstatic bliss that someone could articulate so hilariously and rightly my neuroses, my experiences being a female, and what it’s like to grow up. This book is a must-read. Even if you are not a Lena Dunham fan, you can surely appreciate her insight, her acute observations of the world, and her peerless humor. And her writing rocks. It’s specific,  closely-observed, and poignant and hilarious at once. Her comedic timing is impeccable. Read this NOW! Novel type: memoir My rating: 9/10 Read if you like: Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please!, to experience joy, or to vicariously relive your Gen-Y child and early adulthood – you may grimace in pain, but that pain will transform to the ecstasy of being understood 10 Reasons why Lena Dunham is Hilarious and Brilliant, or, Lena Dunham….

  1. On the early twenty-something period of self-loathing that many of us endure: “I am twenty years old and I hate myself. My hair, my face, the curve of my stomach. The way my voice comes out wavering and my poems come out maudlin. The way my parents talk to me in a slightly higher register than they talk to my sister, as if I’m a government worker that’s snapped, and, if pushed hard enough, might blow up the hostages I’ve got tied up in my basement” (xi).
  2. On bumbling her way through pick-up lines like the rest of us, mentioning bodily functions, parents, and other unsexy things: “I only get BO in one arm pit. Swear. Same with my mother” (21).
  3. On the nebulous world of Instant Messenger flirtation: “For the next three months Igor and I instant message for hours every night. I get home around three thirty and he comes home at four, so I make myself a snack and wait for his name to appear. I want to let him say ‘hey’ first, but usually I can’t wait that long. We talk about animals. About school. About the injustices of the world, most of them directed at innocent animals who can’t defend themselves against the evils of humanity. He’s a man of few words, but the words he uses are perfect” (28).
  4. On not settling: “When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back from more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself. You are not made up of compartments! You are one whole person! What gets said to you gets said to all of you, ditto what gets done. Being treated like sh-t is not an amusing game or a transgressive intellectual experience. It’s something you accept, condone, and learn to believe you deserve” (48).
  5. On unreliable narration: “I’m an unreliable narrator. Because I add invented detail to almost every story I tell about my mother. Because my sister claims every memory we ‘share’ has been fabricated by me to impress a crowd. Because I get ‘sick’ a lot. Because I use the low ‘duhhh’ voice for every guy I’ve ever known, except for the put-off adult voice I use to imitate my dad. But mostly because in another essay in this book I describe a sexual encounter with a mustachioed campus Republican as the unsettling but educational choice of a girl who was new to sex, when, in fact, it didn’t feel like a choice at all” (51).
  6. On stripping down regularly for her HBO show Girls: “Another frequently asked question is how I am ‘brave’ enough to reveal my body on-screen. The subtext there is definitely how brave I am enough to reveal my imperfect body, since I doubt Blake Lively would be subject to the same line of inquiry….My answer is: It’s not brave to do something that doesn’t scare you. I’d be brave to skydive. To visit a leper colony. To argue a case in the United States Supreme Court or to go to a Crossfit gym. Performing in sex scenes that I direct, exposing a flash of my weird puffy nipple, those things don’t fall into my zone of terror” (105).
  7. On motherhood: “For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a mother. In early childhood, it was so extreme that I could often be found breastfeeding stuffed animals” (121). **Incidentally, I forwent sleepovers in favor of practicing vaginal deliveries, and whilst wandering the mall with my mother, I insisted that she stop and sit with me by the fountain in the center of food court so that I could breastfeed one of my dolls.
  8. On girl crushes: “I’ve never wanted to be with women so much as I wanted to be them: there are women whose career arc excited me, who ease of expression is impressive, whose mastery of party banter has me simultaneously hostile and rapt. I’m not jealous in traditional ways – of boyfriends or babies or bank accounts – but I do covet other women’s styles of being” (129).
  9. On fear and paranoia: “An assistant teacher comes to school with bloodshot eyes, and I’m convinced he’s infected with Ebola. I wait for blood to trickle from his ear or for him to just fall down dead. I stop touching my shoelaces (too filthy) or hugging adults outside my family. In school, we are learning about Hiroshima, so I read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and I know instantly that I have leukemia. A symptom of leukemia is dizziness and I have that, when I sit up too fast or spin around in circles. So I quietly prepare to die in the next year or so, depending on how fast the disease progresses” (205-206).
  10. On adrenal fatigue: “I’m afraid of adrenal fatigue. This is related to chronic fatigue but not the same. Western doctors don’t believe in adrenal fatigue, but if you have a job and are human, then any holistic doctor will tell you that you have adrenal fatigue. It is essentially a dangerous exhaustion that comes from ambition and modern life. I have it so bad. Please read about it on the Internet – you do, too” (237).

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