Friday, January 16, 2015

Not That Kind of Girl: A Personal Essay of My Own

It seems almost too on the nose that Joan Jett bellows "Bad Reputation" just as I am contemplating whether I like or hate Lena Dunham's collection of personal essays, Not That Kind of Girl. She's only a few years younger than me, so some of the shit she goes through is all too real. Stories that literally happened to me too make for both easy and hard reading. Not to mention carefree references to 90's pop culture icons - such as Angela Chase or over-plucked eyebrows - and how they shaped our lives.  Or the way her writing sometimes feels like you're in on some inside joke makes it feel fun and relatable. The very New Yorkness of it all, even when she left for Oberlin (yeah, Liz Phair!), makes me feel so at home. Then there are times where she is so frank it's kinda gross. Other times, she's so awkward I cannot relate, and it seems almost staged. I'm not looking to pick her apart like the media has, or request she change the details of her life, or anything like that, because well, I'm not that kind of girl, but, maybe it's that I don't really like her.

That's OK, right?

As women in this generation, we are taught to fight for our right. To get a fair wage, to have a fair representation in congress, to control our bodies, to discuss rape openly, hell - even to party. We are also taught that not only are men the enemy, but by god, other women are too. We are jealous of other women's success, their bodies, their lives, anything really, and we end up cutting each other down for being too ambitious (cold), too fun (slutty), too pretty (bitch), too thin (ugly), too fat (ugly), and a slew of other double entendres shared with a resting bitch face for emphasis. Women are constantly talking about how we need to band together and stop fighting each other in an effort to fight the real enemy. And I agree.

In theory, I should love Lena. I should be all about some Girls on Sunday nights. I should take her irreverent point of view and celebrate it! Yeah, speak out for all of us Lena! But really? I kind of can't. I've got about 50 pages left of her book, and I can't wait for it to be over. Reading about her entitled, albeit awkward, upbringing isn't nearly as entertaining as reading about Sarah Silverman's. At least Sarah is self-aware, unlike Lena who I can't tell if she knows how bat shit she sounds. And there I go both comparing and destroying women! But seriously. I have a hard time taking this book of essays as anything I can learn from. Maybe that means I went about it all wrong. Stripping off the need for meaning from her book allows me a little more space to just try and enjoy it. I still might not when I reach the end, but I don't think I have to like Lena to appreciate what she is doing for comedy, for women, and even for me. Reminding me that being in a tribe of women who are trying to make a difference in this world is worth cultivating.

Being in this tribe is where I am supposed to be. I like being a girl. A woman. And I've worked hard to get over myself to be able to enjoy it. It's kind of like being in an Al Anon meeting and hearing, "We aren’t perfect. The welcome we give you may not show the warmth we have in our hearts for you. After a while, you’ll discover that though you may not like all of us, you’ll love us in a very special way—the same way we already love you."

So, I guess I love you Lena, in your own special way. I just don't like your book all that much.