NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MICHIKO KAKUTANI, THE NEW YORK TIMES • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BUZZFEED, THE GLOBE AND MAIL, AND LIBRARY JOURNAL
For readers of Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris, this hilarious, wise, and fiercely candid collection of personal essays establishes Lena Dunham—the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO’s Girls—as one of the most original young talents writing today.
In Not That Kind of Girl, Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one’s way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.
“Take My Virginity (No Really, Take It)” is the account of Dunham’s first time, and how her expectations of sex didn’t quite live up to the actual event (“No floodgate had been opened, no vault of true womanhood unlocked”); “Girls & Jerks” explores her former attraction to less-than-nice guys—guys who had perfected the “dynamic of disrespect” she found so intriguing; “Is This Even Real?” is a meditation on her lifelong obsession with death and dying—what she calls her “genetically predestined morbidity.” And in “I Didn’t F*** Them, but They Yelled at Me,” she imagines the tell-all she will write when she is eighty and past caring, able to reflect honestly on the sexism and condescension she has encountered in Hollywood, where women are “treated like the paper thingies that protect glasses in hotel bathrooms—necessary but infinitely disposable.”
Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not That Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. “I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you,” Dunham writes. “But if I can take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile.”
Praise for Not That Kind of Girl
“The gifted Ms. Dunham not only writes with observant precision, but also brings a measure of perspective, nostalgia and an older person’s sort of wisdom to her portrait of her (not all that much) younger self and her world. . . . As acute and heartfelt as it is funny.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“It’s not Lena Dunham’s candor that makes me gasp. Rather, it’s her writing—which is full of surprises where you least expect them. A fine, subversive book.”—David Sedaris
“This book should be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand the experience of being a young woman in our culture. I thought I knew the author rather well, and I found many (not altogether welcome) surprises.”—Carroll Dunham
“Witty, illuminating, maddening, bracingly bleak . . . [Dunham] is a genuine artist, and a disturber of the order.”—The Atlantic
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.18(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Joana Avillez is an illustrator and the author of Life Dressing, a tale of two women who live to dress and dress to live. Her artwork has been featured in The New York Times, New York, and The Wall Street Journal.
Read an Excerpt
I worked at the baby store for nine months.
Just recently graduated, I had stormed out of my restaurant job on a whim, causing my father to yell, “You can’t just do that! What if you had children?”
“Well, thank God I don’t!” I yelled right back.
At this point, I was living in a glorified closet at the back of my parents’ loft, a room they had assigned me because they thought I would graduate and move out like a properly evolving person. The room had no windows, and so, in order to get a glimpse of daylight, I had to slide open the door to my sister’s bright, airy room. “Go away,” she would hiss.
I was unemployed. And while I had a roof over my head (my parents’) and food to eat (also technically theirs), my days were shapeless, and the disappointment of the people who loved me (my parents) was palpable. I slept until noon, became defensive when asked about my plans for the future, and gained weight like it was a viable profession. I was becoming the kind of adult parents worry about producing.
I had been ambitious once. In college, all I seemed to do was found literary magazines with inexplicable names and stage experimental black--box theater and join teams (rugby, if only for a day or so). I was eager and hungry: for new art, for new friendship, for sex. Despite my ambivalence about academia, college was a wonderful gig, thousands of hours to tend to yourself like a garden. But now I was back to zero. No grades. No semesters. No CliffsNotes in case of emergency. I was lost.
It’s not that I didn’t have plans. Oh, I had plans. Just none that these small minds could understand. My first idea was to be the assistant to a private eye. I was always being accused of extreme nosiness, so why not turn this character flaw into cold hard cash? After hunting around on Craigslist, however, it soon became clear that most private eyes worked alone—-or if they needed an assistant, they wanted someone with the kind of sensual looks to bait cheating husbands. The second idea was baker. After all, I love bread and all bread by--products. But no, that involved waking up at four every morning. And knowing how to bake. What about preschool art teacher? Turns out that involved more than just a passion for pasta necklaces. There would be no rom--com--ready job for me.
The only silver lining in my situation was that it allowed me to reconnect with my oldest friends, Isabel and Joana. We were all back in Tribeca, the same neighborhood where we had met in preschool. Isabel was finishing her sculpture degree, living with an aging pug named Hamlet who had once had his head run over by a truck and survived. Joana had just completed art school and was sporting the festive remains of a bleached mullet. I had broken up with the hippie boyfriend I considered my bridge to health and wholeness and was editing a “feature film” on my laptop. Isabel was living in her father’s old studio, which she had decorated with found objects, standing racks of children’s Halloween costumes, and a TV from 1997. When the three of us met there to catch up, Joana’s nails painted like weed leaves and Monets, I felt at peace.
Isabel was employed at Peach and the Babke, a high--end children’s clothing store in our neighborhood. Isabel is a true eccentric—-not the self--conscious kind who collects feathers and snow globes but the kind whose passions and predilections are so genuinely out of sync with the world at large that she herself becomes an object of fascination. One day Isabel had strolled into the store on a dare to inquire about employment, essentially because it was the funniest thing she could imagine doing for a living. Wearing kneesocks and a man’s shirt as a dress, she had been somewhat dismayed when she was offered a job on the spot. Joana joined her there a few weeks later, when the madness of the yearly sample sale required extra hands.
“It’s a ball,” said Isabel.
“I mean, it’s awfully easy,” said Joana.
Peach and the Babke sold baby clothes at such a high price point that customers would often laugh out loud upon glimpsing a tag. Cashmere cardigans, ratty tutus, and fine--wale cords, sized six months to eight years. This is where you came if you wanted your daughter to look like a Dorothea Lange photo or your son to resemble a jaunty old--time train conductor, all oversize overalls and perky wool caps. It will be a miracle if any of the boys who wore Peach and the Babke emerged from childhood able to maintain an erection.
We often spent Isabel’s lunch break in Pecan, a local coffee bar where we disturbed yuppies on laptops with our incessant—-and filthy—-chatter.
“I can’t find a goddamn fucking job and I’m too fat to be a stripper,” I said as I polished off a stale croissant.
Isabel paused as if contemplating an advanced theorem, then lit up. “We need another girl at Peach! We do, we do, we do!” It would be a gas, she told me. It’d be like our own secret clubhouse. “You can get tons of free ribbons!” It was such an easy job. All you had to do was fold, wrap, and minister to the rich and famous. “That’s all we did as kids, be nice to art collectors so our parents could pay our tuition,” Isabel said. “You’ll be amazing at it.”
The next day, I stopped by with a copy of my résumé and met Phoebe, the manager of the store, who looked like the saddest fourth--grader you ever met but was, in reality, thirty--two and none too pleased about it. She was beautiful like a Gibson girl, a pale round face, heavy lids, and rosy lips. She wiped her hands on her plaid pinafore.
“Why did you leave your last job?” she asked.
“I was hooking up with someone in the kitchen and the dessert chef was a bitch,” I explained.
“I can pay you one hundred dollars a day, cash,” she said.
“Sounds good.” I was secretly thrilled, both at the salary and the prospect of spending every day with my oldest and most amusing friends.
“We also buy you lunch every day,” Phoebe said.
“The lunch is awesome!” Isabel chimed in, spreading some pint--sized leather gloves that retailed for $155 out in the display case next to a broken vintage camera (price upon request).
“I’m in,” I said. For reasons I will never understand but did not question, Phoebe handed me twenty--five dollars for the interview itself.
And with that, Peach and the Babke became the most poorly staffed store in the history of the world.
The days at Peach and the Babke followed a certain rhythm. With only one window up front, it was hard to get a sense of time passing, and so life became a sedentary, if pleasant, mass of risotto and tiny overalls. But I will reconstruct it for you as best as I can:
10:10 Roll in the door with a coffee in your hand. If you’re feeling nice, you also bring one for Phoebe. “Sorry I’m late,” you say before flinging your coat on the floor.
10:40 Head into the back room to start casually folding some pima--cotton baby leggings ($55 to $65) and roll--neck fisherman sweaters ($175).
10:50 Get distracted telling Joana a story about a homeless guy you saw wearing a salad spinner as a hat.
11:10 First customer rings the bell. They are either freezing and looking to browse before their next appointment or obscenely rich and about to purchase five thousand dollars’ worth of gifts for their nieces. You and Joana try to do the best wrapping job you can and to calculate the tax properly, but there is a good chance you charged them an extra five hundred dollars.
11:15 Start talking about lunch. How badly you want or don’t want it. How good it will be when it finally hits your lips or, alternately, how little mind you even pay to food these days.
11:25 Call next door for the specials.
12:00 Isabel arrives. She is on a schedule called Princess Hours. When you ask if you can also work Princess Hours, Phoebe says, “No, they’re for princesses.”
12:30 Sit down for an elaborate three--course meal. Let Phoebe try your couscous, since it’s the least you can do. Split a baguette with Isabel if you can have half her butternut squash soup. Eat a pot of fresh ricotta to finish it off.
1:00 Joana leaves for therapy.
1:30 The UPS guy comes and unloads boxes of rag dolls made of vintage curtains ($320). You ask him how his son is doing. He says he’s in jail.
2:00 Isabel leaves for therapy.
2:30 Meg Ryan comes in wearing a large hat, buys nothing.
3:00 Phoebe asks you to rub her head for a while. She lies on the rug in the back and moans with pleasure. A customer rings the doorbell. She says to ignore it, and when her massage is done she sends you around the corner for cappuccino and brownies.
4:00 You leave for therapy, collecting your hundred dollars.
6:00 This is the time work was actually supposed to end, but you are already home, half asleep, waiting for Jeff Ruiz to finish his landscaping job and meet you on the roof of his building to drink beer and feel each other up. Only once in nine months does Phoebe admonish you for your poor work ethic, and she feels so guilty about it that at lunch she goes across the street and buys you a scented candle.
Table of Contents
Section I Love & Sex
Take My Virginity (No, Really, Take It) 3
Platonic Bed Sharing: A Great Idea (for People Who Hate Themselves) 10
18 Unlikely Things I've Said Flirtatiously 21
Igor: Or, My Internet Boyfriend Died and So Can Yours 24
Sharing Concerns: My Worst Email Ever, with Footnotes 33
Girls & Jerks 38
Falling in Love 67
Section II Body
"Diet" Is a Four-Letter Word: How to Remain 10 Lbs. Overweight Eating Only Health Food 81
Sex Scenes, Nude Scenes, and Publicly Sharing Your Body 99
15 Things I've Learned from My Mother 107
What's in My Bag 110
Who Moved My Uterus? 113
Section III Friendship
Girl Crush: That Time I Was Almost a Lesbian, Then Vomited 127
The Best Part 141
13 Things I've Learned Are Not Okay to Say to Friends 145
10 Reasons I <3 NY 157
Section IV Work
This Is Supposed to Be Fun? Milking the Most of Your Education 163
Little Leather Gloves: The Joy of Wasting Time 177
17 Things I Learned from My Father 191
Emails 1 Would Send If I Were One Ounce Crazier/Angrier/Braver 193
I Didn't Fuck Them, but They Yelled at Me 197
Section V Big Picture
Therapy & Me 205
Is This Even Real? Thoughts on Death & Dying 222
My Top 10 Health Concerns 234
Hello Mother, Hello Father: Greetings from Fernwood Cove Camp for Girls 238
My Regrets 252
Guide lo Running Away 254
About the Author 267