#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Includes two new essays!
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
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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About the Author
At only 23 years old, Dunham wrote, directed and starred in the multi-award winning ‘Tiny Furniture’. She now stars in the HBO series, ‘Girls’, which she created and also serves as an executive producer and writer. Dunham graduated from Oberlin College in 2008 with a degree in Creative Writing and currently resides in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
Not That Kind of Girl
A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"
By Lena Dunham
Random House LLCCopyright © 2014 Lena Dunham
All rights reserved.
Little Leather Gloves
The Joy of Wasting Time
I remember when my schedule was as flexible as she is.
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.
Phoebe ran the store with her mother, Linda, though Linda spent most of her time in Pennsylvania or, if she was in the city, upstairs in the apartment she kept, smoking and eating popcorn from a big metal bowl. As thoughtful and conflicted as Phoebe was, her mother was so wild her hair stood on end. Phoebe handled the practicalities of the business, while Linda conceived designs so fantastical that rather than sketch them she would just wave ribbons and scraps in the air, outlining a sweater or a tutu. Phoebe and Linda's fights had a tendency to turn rabid and ranged from small--business issues to the very fiber of their characters.
"All my friends were getting abortions!" she screamed. Linda often spoke of her former life in San Francisco, prechildren, a utopia of knitwear designers and early Western practitioners of yoga who supported and inspired one another. The money was good, and the sex was even better.
As they fought, Isabel and I (or Joana and I, as it was rare we all worked at once) would look at each other nervously, shrug, then proceed to try on all the dresses we carried in a child's size 8, whose hemlines hit right below our crotches (aka just right). Another common distraction was to cover our heads in rabbit--fur barrettes ($16) or strap each other up with ribbons like some ersatz Helmut Newton photograph. Sometimes I would find Phoebe crying by the air conditioner, head on the desk where she kept her old PC, staring at a pile of unpaid bills. The fact was the store was in trouble. The recession was in full swing and, in times of economic hardship, high--end children's clothing is the first thing to go. We felt a deep and impenetrable sadness when we watched a hip--hop mogul's credit card get declined, a sure sign of doom for Peach and the Babke—and for the world.
Every day we hoped for a big sale, and every day we watched Phoebe's brow furrow as she went over the books, and every night we took our one--hundred--dollar bill home without reservation.
The job allowed us a lot of time for socializing. Together we were finding our own New York, which looked a lot like the New York of our parents. We went to art openings for the free wine and Christmas parties for the free food, then peeled off to smoke pot on Isabel's couch and watch reruns of Seinfeld. We stopped by parties where we didn't know the host, wore skirts as tube tops and tights as pants. We split bowls of Bo-lo-gnese at chic restaurants rather than get full meals at boring ones. A night of carousing never passed without me stepping outside the experience to think, Yes, this must be what it is to be young.
Upon graduation I had felt a heavy sense of doom, a sense that nothing would ever be simple again. But look, look what we had found! We were making it work, with our cash and our bad wrapping jobs, with our fried overdyed hair and our fried overprocessed foods. Everything took on a hazy romance: having a pimple, eating a doughnut, being cold. Nothing was a tragedy, and everything was a joke. I had waited a long time to be a woman, a long time to venture away from my parents, and now I had sex, once with two guys in a week, and bragged about it like a divorcée who was getting back in the game. Up to my knees in mud from a night on the town, I rinsed off in the shower as Isabel watched and said, "Handle it, dirty girl!"
I didn't know the word for it, but I was happy. I was happy wrapping presents, catering to listless bankers' wives, and locking the store up with a rusty key a few minutes before closing time. I was happy being slightly condescending to people with platinum cards, reveling in our status as shopgirls who knew more than we were letting on. We would stay here in our cave, looking out on Tribeca through the picture window, and on weekends we would trip up the West Side Highway in red dresses, sloshing beer, ready to fuck and fight and fall asleep on top of one another.
But ambition is a funny thing: it creeps in when you least expect it and keeps you moving, even when you think you want to stay put. I missed making things, the meaning it gave this long march we call life. One night, as we readied ourselves for another event where we weren't exactly welcome, it occurred to me: This is something. Why didn't we tell this story, instead of just living it? 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. Why didn't we make a webseries (at that point, the Internet webseries was poised to replace film, television, radio, and literature) about characters even more pathetic than we were?
We never made it to the party that night. Instead we ordered pizza, curled up in easy chairs, and began pitching names and locations and plotlines into the night. We ransacked Isabel's closet for possible costume pieces (a beaded flapper dress, a Dudley Do--Right hat), and Joana conceived the hairstyle that would be her character's signature (a sleek beehive built around a shampoo bottle for height). And so, using the money that Peach and the Babke provided, we began to create something that would reflect the manic energy of this moment.
It was called Delusional Downtown Divas, a title we hated but couldn't top. Isabel portrayed AgNess, an aspiring businesswoman with a passion for power suits. Joana was the enigmatic Swann, a private performance artist. My character, Oona Winegrod, was an aspiring novelist who had never actually written a word. All of them were obsessed with a young painter named Jake Pheasant. We completed ten episodes, many of which featured cameos from our parents' friends, who still viewed us as children doing an adorable class project.
Looking at the videos now, they leave something to be desired. Blaringly digital, with shaky camerawork, we careen across the screen in messy costumes, cracking up at our own jokes, tickled with the ingenuity of our concept. Lines like "I just know we can join the feminist art collective if we put our minds to it and we will finally be IT girls!" are a little too real to feel like parody.
The first time I showed my father the footage, we were sitting at our dining room table. He took a long sip of tea, then asked, "Why did you have to do this?" And yes, it was broad, amateurish, a little vulgar. It didn't have narrative propulsion or cinematic graces. But watching it now, I can also feel the giddiness, the joy of creation we were all experiencing, the catharsis of admitting to our situation. It jumps off the screen. It's silly and obvious and high on its own supply, but it's something. It's a step forward.
Excerpted from Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. Copyright © 2014 Lena Dunham. Excerpted by permission of Random House LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you are looking for a book delving into the psychology of Generation Z, there are other books out there. But, if you like the show and are looking for a light-hearted look into twenty-something awkwardness, you will love this book. Lena Dunham does not disappoint with her first book. What reads like a series of personal essays, the book touches on navigating through twenty-something life, sprinkled with advice and of course plenty of humor. In many ways, the book feels in tone like Girls is to watch: self-deprecating humor, neuroses, therapy-laden dependence, bad choices, and awkward situations. Best of all, Dunham sprinkles it with enough humor and affability to let the reader look back at their own life and laugh a bit too. Overall, this book is highly recommended and definitely a must read even if you have to convince your sister to buy it and borrow it when she is done.
After perusing the "New Arrivals" on my Nook and reading what was at best a poorly penned review followed by a half dozen or so reviews attesting to how marvelous the book is, I purchased "Not that kind of girl" by Lena Dunham. After reading the first 20-30 pages, I was so appalled at how trite and empty-headed the writing and the story were that I couldn't go on. My main complaint is the obscenely ridiculous reviews that came nowhere near delivering the truth and suckered me into wasting my time and ten bucks on an effort that couldn't survive an adolescent book club even if it came with pictures.
If I could give this book zero stars I would. I should have listened to the people who gave this book a 1 star review. I don't understand why some people feel worthy to write about their lives, and charge $17.00 for it. There are people out there who have more interesting stories than this, who can teach women REAL lessons about life. Don't waste your money or time on this book.
There is obviously an audience for this, as I guess there must be for the "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang" stuff which this reminded me of. But it certainly isn't me. I found it too crude to be humorous, and too trite to be interesting. But, then she said she doesn't like people who tell you TMI (too much information). Well, I am one of them. My book club picked this, or I am sure I would have never picked it up. I do admire any author for their accomplishments. If we all liked the same things, the world would be boring. Sorry, Lena.
This got 3.7 million dollars?! I just hope Tina Fey and Amy Poehler received that much (or more) for their book deals, because they had the sense to wait until they'd actually lived enough life to write an interesting memoir. This is sophomoric, boring, and feels too long because nothing is happening. I hate myself for reading it to the end.
Not that kind of book. And by "that" I mean readable.
Most of it trite and empty -- a couple of good chapters (notably, the final 2). Found it lacking it insight and big on exposure. Really, Lena. Who cares about how much you talk about your vagina?
BORING! poorly written---COME ON! who reads this and 'acclaims' it?????
Unequivically one of the worst reads ever. Rauchy girl tells raunchy stories that obviously someone likes to read. Very unoriginal. Borderline pathetic. Passed through the use up paper diet lists to porn. If there is more than a ramble here let me know. I quit.
I agree with one of the reviews. Boring and poorly written. I was given the book to read and Gave it back. Don't waste your money and time.
Like Talking To That awkward girl at the bar. Not a huge fan of Girls, but that may change as Lena comes off much more respectable, funny, and intelligent than the character she plays on the show. The real Lena has been through the wringer and isn't shy about about admitting her mistakes along the way. What really makes this book flow is that unlike a lot of millennials Lena has reached the point where she doesn't have to pose, and that in itself is a lesson to be taken away. It is okay to not be perfect and to stumble, as long as you recover smarter and learn to laugh at it in retrospect. Good read.
I was hooked on the first paragraph. If you're a woman looking to laugh at some of your flaws (instead for crying), then this is for you. Lena is so talented and I sincerely hope that she keeps writing books. This will probably go down a favorite.
A self-obsessed young girl discusses her experiences as an upper-middle class white hypochondriac. Not That Kind of Girl has a few (if fleeting) moments of wisdom, but hardly any humor.
Started it and after 1/3 through it decided it was not that interesting.
One of the worst books I've read in ages. There are pages and pages describing sexual abuse!! Lena was six years older than her sister, and describes in full detail how she'd force the sister to kiss on the lips and let Lena touch herself with the sister right next to her (along other things I won't print here). Buying this book is like supporting a sexual predator. Don't do it!
Im 20 years older than Dunham and relate to the experiences she writes about in this book from my own past and gasp, even present.
Disappointing read. Cannot believe all the booze & drugs and bad situations. She is lucky to be alive and i can't believe her parents are still together AND had another child! Lena sounds like a nightmare kid. She should have held back- even lied more in the other direction to make some more positive, relatable stories.
One of the poorest written books I have ever read. Please do not waste your time resting this book or throw your money away by buying this book. There is no rhyme nor reason as to how this book was written and for some authors they made that work for them... but not this one. I finished the book not knowing what Lena Dunham wanted to accomplish with this. Most of the stories are about her sex experiences and they are so uncomfortable to read not because of graphic descriptions but they are neither funny or seem even relevant. I did not find the book witty at any point. I would choose Mindy Kaling over this any day.
For all the reviwers that say "nothing is happening" do not understand what Lena is trying to say. There is no action or climax but thats the beauty in it. Its up to the reader to aspire or relate their young life to Lena's unfortunate experiences. All these negative reviews scared me from buying the book on the spot, so I got the SAMPLE (yeah, samples exsist people) and I was surprised how funny and honest the book is. She made money while doing simething that keeps her sane and embraceing herself at the same time. -TONS of sexual topics. - funny, cute, and honest in its own weird way!
Sorry to say, but I was disappointed after finally finishing this book. It was boring and not very well written. Lots of paragraphs. That were full of tiny sentences. Leading to nothing. I love Girls and am glad to see Lena Dunham make it in the industry, but her book wasn't that great. I'd rather read about Chelsea Handler's vagina than hers. There were a few chapters that were pretty good, but like Lena said herself, she's young and will in the future laugh at the things she found so significant.
I fail to understand why this woman is successful. As a writer, entertainer, actress, and representative of her generation, she is completely underwhelming.