Well, Who is ‘That Kind of Girl?’

lenadunhamauthorphoto

I dislike this title. (But I really like her author photo.) ‘That girl’ or ‘that kind of girl’ has always been a fiction, created by sitcoms and teen magazines and 1950s movies with women saying, ‘What kind of girl do you take me for!’ or ‘I’m not that kind of girl!’ usually in reference to sex, or going to second base too soon. But we all have our own versions of ‘that girl.’ For some, she’s the homecoming queen. For others she’s the Harvard graduate. Or the happily-married-with-a-baby-on-the-way-before-27 woman whose Facebook profile you regularly stalk (have you seen the size of her kitchen?!). Or maybe she’s the single, makin’-her-way-in-the-big-city, life-looks-perfect-on-instagram girl. What’s not a fiction is how we hate, how we are jealous of ‘that girl.’ What’s real is our struggle to be ‘that girl,’ or, more beneficially, our struggle to forget about ‘that girl’ and make ourselves our own version of ‘that girl.’

After finally finishing this book, I can’t seem to construct a coherent opinion about it. So in the vein of Dunham’s cut-and-paste, Buzzfeed-list style writing, I present the thoughts that passed through my head as I read and felt compelled to write down:

I don’t know if anything Dunham offers can be called ‘wisdom.’

The subtitle of this book should be: times I had sex, thought about sex, didn’t have sex, almost had sex, decided to not to have sex, and regretted the sex I did have.

Good for you that you were ‘so little’ as a child and grew up on organic hamburger patties and handfuls of goose liver pate. I grew up on pop tarts and bagel bites, to my mother’s dismay in hindsight. Mom, stop blaming my gluten intolerance on having let me eat white bread and hot pockets. It’s nobody’s fault.

10 pages of your ‘most secret and humiliating’ food journal? I’m not your therapist. I recognize that memoir and creative nonfiction are inherently self-involved and can be catharsis for the writer, but this type of writing shouldn’t be self-indulgent therapy. Save those bits for yourself. This is the perfect example of why so many writers believe memoir to be an old man’s genre.

This is a college creative writing portfolio: Describe what you see in the photoRecall an embarrassing encounter.

Why is this book sparsely illustrated? Why illustrate it at all? What is this book? And don’t give me that ‘don’t put a label on me’ crap. If you’re going to write a book of essays, write a book of essays. Yes, Allie Brosh and her creation (hyperbole and a half, for the six of you who don’t know) are awesome. And you are not her. It’s a reality we all have to live with. Except Allie Brosh. Because she is Allie Brosh.

‘Emails I would Send If I Were One Ounce Crazier/Angrier/Braver’ is super inappropriate and passive aggressive. What is the purpose of including these? Or the intent? Is she hoping ‘Blanky Blankham’ or ‘Dr. Blank’ will read her book and recognize themselves? That seems arrogant. An overestimation of herself and her reach. And, somewhat counter-intuitively, it seems cowardly to use your book as a public forum, rather than be an adult and send these emails or confront them, or don’t and chose a real way to write these alluded-to stories. This is gossipy and totally unnecessary.

I know I’m being harsh on Dunham. I know this. It’s partly because she has published a book of random experiences and reflections, and I have not.

I read skimmed a scathing Facebook post from a friend of a friend about this book. I think what it largely boils down to is that women of the 20-something persuasion find this book easy to hate because Dunham is too close to our age. We can’t admire her for being so successful at a young age, and we can’t look up to her as our Nora Ephron because she doesn’t have enough distance from us. If Dunham is the voice of our generation, she is a voice that our generation can’t appreciate because we’re still living like ‘Girls.’ Except, most of us didn’t grow up with feminist artist-parents with all kinds of wealthy and artistic connections in NYC, and we have a generally more difficult time trying to make it work and probably don’t have the luxury to make webseries with our friends. So we dislike her. But regardless of how I feel about Dunham and her writing, she’s started something.

I have no knowledge of ‘Girls’ aside from what I’ve overheard from others and read about in the book (very little). But it’s a thing people love, and they love it because it’s about real girls doing real things, trying to be real adults (or something like that). I may not like the way Dunham writes, but what Dunham’s writing is doing, is giving girls permission to be ok with, and better yet, comfortable with their weird flawed selves and their weird flawed experiences. Which I don’t know that girls get enough of. There are still so many expectations of female behavior and so much of our experiences aren’t spoken about because it’s somehow not proper. We glorify the man-child but can’t comprehend a woman who can’t get her shit together. Recently, however, I think this has been changing. Or maybe I’m only recently aware of the change. Either way, Dunham has certainly contributed to this change. She’s opened up a space for my roommate and I to blog about being not-quite-adults. And for me to write about being another 20-something statistic. And I’m content to ride the shockwave of the moment.

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