I Am Lena Dunham and I Want to Be

22 Feb

I’m a 55-year-old married, mother who is Black and lives in the suburbs. She’s a 27-year-old, White girl who lives child-free with her boyfriend in Brooklyn. She’s also the creator and star of the hugely successful HBO series, Girls, and I’m a stay-at-home writer of four successful, if mostly out of print novels, and an adjunct professor (can you say, the new slaves). Obviously, our stats prevent us from being twins, yet we are so much alike. I’m only an occasional watcher of the show–I’m not the target audience–but after reading a profile on her in Vogue magazine, I so admire her writing hustle and her freedom to be herself.

This girl writes ALL THE TIME. She creates. She grew up the daughter of artists, a photographer and a painter, who  gave their daughters “an office” in which they  created everyday. I not only admire her drive, which doesn’t seem grabby and aspirational,  I admire her freedom and to be so in front of millions.

She’s been criticized for often showing her naked rather un-thin, kinda doughy body one on the show. Lena looks like most women. She’s not fat, not thin, just a regular sized American woman. We’ve become so used to the unnaturally thin, fake boobed, Gisele Bundchen protracted legged image, that we think normal is an anomaly.

Last year Howard Stern referred to Lena as a “little fat chick.” After which, when Lena was on the David Letterman show, and said that her gravestone would read: “She was a Little Fat Chick and she got it going.”

Judd Apatow, the director (Super Bad, 40-Year-old Virgin , Bridesmaids among others) and Girls’ ex producer said: “The criticism hasn’t thrown her…I would be naked and crying under my pillow.”

Me too. Another reason I want to be her. I want to be inured to criticism.

And then, there’s her ability to,  “work pretty well within the whirlwind of my life.”

If Only…

I would more prolific . It’s not  like I don’t have an idea a day, but between running to the grocery story, worrying about the amount of time my son spends on the Xbox, being on 24-hour call for my college-age daughter, trying to accompany my husband on the occasional work/social outing, looking after my 88 year-old father who has dementia, there’s not enough free head space to create. You might say, cut off some of those things; and you know what, you’re right and that’s exactly what I am going to do.

Lena’s executive producer, Jenni Konner, says: “Where it takes me 20 years to write about my 20s in a really honest way, it takes her 24 hours to have gone on a bad date, experienced it, had pain about it, gone home, metabolized it and turned it into art. It’s the fastest system I’ve ever seen.” Another colleague calls Lena an “aggregator of humanity.” My gift is that I’m a vacuum of people’s stories. I ask because about people’s lives because I’m genuinely interested. I want to be a person I actually am, whose collected stories actually morph into tangible work and not just remain in the tangle of my brain; and I want to be able to do it with regularity.

IMG_0898She writes constantly on planes at the Girls studio, in bed. “It’s her great ambition to be the sort of writer who sits down go  to work [at her desk], but hasn’t ever gotten there.” Finally something I can do that she can’t.

“…I can’t overstate how much I hate leaving the house…no one would describe me as a private person, but I actually really am. It’s important for me to have a lot of time alone and to have a lot of time in my house by myself. My entire life sort of takes place between me and my dog, my books, and my boyfriend, and my private world. To me privacy isn’t necessarily equated with secret-keeping. What’s private is my relationship with myself.” Twins!

 

With all her success and the bootlicking from celebrities and being a media darling, she maintains:

“I still go to a party and say something embarrassing to someone and then write them a weird email about it the next day, and then write them a text because I think they didn’t get the email…no matter what happens with your level of success, you still have to deal with all the baggage that is yourself.”

And if you’re lucky, you can turn the baggage into art.

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