I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book. I often read reviews before starting a new book, (although, I try not to let the reviews weigh too heavily on whether I actually decide to read or not read a book) and the reviews of Dunham’s Not That Type of Girl were mixed, to say the least.
However, I figured that since I enjoy her TV show GIRLS so much (for reasons I have yet to understand), her book would most likely be enjoyable as well, so I went for it.
I am very glad I did.
Some read the book and saw it as a time waster. They considered it page after page of random and thus useless information presented in no detectable order. Vapid.
Some read it and were taken aback by what they consider “TMI”.
I read it and was immediately struck by her blatant honesty.
She is an open book, and I found that refreshing.
One reads it and receives a strong sense of who she is, for better or for worse. She presents her good and her bad. No sugarcoating. Nothing is off limits. Nothing is hidden.
I found myself admiring her for that. Even envying her fearlessness.
How much easier my world would be if I were just able to embrace myself, present my whole self every time without shame, without thinking twice, instead of hiding so much of who I am behind false pretenses and made up personality traits. I spend so much energy trying to guess who people want me to be and so much more trying to become that person every time I am around them.
It is exhausting, it is a defense mechanism I sorely wish I didn’t feel to need.
Dunham opens herself up to judgement, her book and her words shout “here I am! take me or leave me! Either way it’s all good.”
I want that attitude. I feel like a true connection with others can only be formed if both parties are being truly honest about who they are. If they are both playing roles, if they are both pretending than the relationship (friendship or otherwise) is just as false as the image of themselves they are presenting.
Here’s a little personal tale: In high school, every night, I would cry myself to sleep because I had no idea who I was. Everyday I would morph into the person I thought would receive the most positive reactions, and every night I would regret it. For me, it wasn’t as easy as “just be yourself!”, I couldn’t show the world who I was because I had no idea myself. I would just pick up bits and pieces of other’s personality and idiosyncrasies and work them into myself, dropping and changing parts depending on whom I was around at that moment.
I didn’t know who I was, but I had an idea of who I wasn’t.
Dunham knows who she is. She is honest about who she is to both the reader and herself.
I can say that I am not even sure I would like myself if I were to come in touch with who I truly am.
I know that I am a compulsive people pleaser. It is the one thing that I hate about myself, and yet the one thing I can not seem to change. I feel I would hate myself even more if people were not constantly pleased with me.
Dunham does not have that problem.
Some have dubbed her “the voice of our generation”. I don’t know if that’s true, but I also can’t say that it isn’t.
It's true that many of subjects she writes about I can’t connect with. Such as sex, the casual attitude she has toward it and the same goes for the drugs. However, I do understand her need for both, she says that she “...stuffed herself with substances to make being out in the world with people my own age a little bit easier. To lessen the space between me and everyone else. I was hungry to be seen.”
I get that.
Having someone else describe the insecurity that I am always carrying with me makes me feel less pathetic, less abnormal.
She also comments on college. How she was so eager to learn at first, how she was A+, do everything right, go above and beyond type of student at first, and how that quickly fizzled when she found the “rewards weren’t enough to keep me on task, and life got in the way.”
Oh yea, I have been there. I am there. Shit, I practically live there.
Dunham describes the feeling of loss she has when she thinks about her student days, although, she has problems pinpointing why she feels this way.
I share similar feelings with her on this. I came to the conclusion that it’s because academia failed me. I had so much hope for it, so much desire. It disappointed me, horribly. Professors gave busy work instead of assignments that actually pertained to the class at hand. Figuring maybe if they bury you in meaningless assignments, you wouldn’t notice how horribly inadequate they were to be in front of a classroom.
We notice. Incompetence isn’t easy to hide.
Professors that make a million illegible marks on your paper, and when you are finally able to chase them down for some explanations, they are unable to remember why, let alone read what they wrote.
Professors that fail you on your oral report solely because you didn’t dress up as a character or present it as a play as if we were in kindergarten (I shit you not).
Professors that could not give two fucks about whether or not you show up for class, or do the assignments, because they are barely present themselves, everyone passes.
I know these are shitty professors because I had an amazing one once.
He was an Asian professor who taught using the Socratic method. It was a class on existentialism. My first philosophy class. I had never taken philosophy before, but in my eagerness I skipped right over Intro to Philosophy and signed up for Existentialism.
Best impulsive decision ever.
He would spend some time in front of the classroom talking, walking up and down the aisles, sitting in the empty desks among us. Only writing keywords on the board, so you really had to pay attention to what he was saying, which wasn’t difficult because what he was saying was always interesting. It wasn’t memorized or just a regurgitation of last night's readings.
It was thought provoking, and always led to a deeper understanding of the work. He would randomly call on students and ask them questions based on the lecture or reading, but not in an intimidating way, in a way that made you feel as though you were adding to the grandeur of the class discussion.
He would call you on your bullshit, he was stern, but just. You couldn’t fake it with him, and he didn’t want students quoting back the book. He really wanted us to understand, to learn. NOT to memorize. I have never learned so much in my life. I have never felt so proud of myself for receiving a passing grade. The class was immensely challenging, but in the best way ever, in a way that supported true growth. It wasn’t difficult just for the sake of being difficult. There was no busy work. The assignments were few, but when there were assignments they contributed greatly to the class. They were of substance, not tedious and trivial. I had to buy two extra books that were not needed for the class just to understand the mandatory texts.
I had never been happier.
My intense desire to learn and grow was fulfilled. My gratitude toward this teacher is infinite.
I've never had an experience like that again.
Dunham may not be for everyone, but that is only because she does not water herself down to be more palatable for the masses. Which is what so many of us tend to do on a daily basis, water our personalities down. She presents her raw, unrefined self, and I think there is something beautiful about that if only because it is so rare.