I just finished the book Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham which was mildly exciting because there’s raging controversy about the book right now and I usually don’t hear about controversy until Cliff Notes are available. This time I was actually reading the book that was the center of trending tweets and Facebook posts. I was practically pulling off the slouchy hat and huge glasses look while ordering a double espresso, immersed in the thick of entertainment news analysis with my trendy hat wearing friends.
To retain my level of mildly cool and almost-informed, I had to stop myself from raising my hand, shouting “Pick me! Pick me!” whenever others asked who read it and for opinions on whether the comments were taken out of context. I should not tell you that I originally began this post by typing Dana Lehman instead of Lena Dunham only to later turn my Kindle on and realize I had no clue who I was about to talk about.
Anyway, on to my analysis of the book… to make a long story short Lena has been accused of molesting her sister because of events she recounts in the book. Before I even got to the chapter of the book that is being debated, I have to say I was sort of jealous of Lena’s writing.. She is raw and honest and speaks openly about everyone and everything in her life. Revealing too much or too little has always been a struggle for me. I’m often so worried about what I’m going to say or who is reading that I write nothing at all. As my kids have gotten older this has become more of an issue for me and is my official excuse for why I have 132 posts in draft.
As I read how openly Lena discussed everyone in her life I was a little jealous. Why can’t I write confidently about the embarrassing decisions of my twenties? Am I not grown up enough to put it all out there? Look at Lena throwing people under the bus, I’ve barely tossed an ant in a puddle during my writing career.
But the controversy unfolded as I was reading the last quarter of the book, causing me to read the rest a bit differently. Did the people in her life, who she talks so intimately about, get a chance to read the book before she published it? Were her stories intricately placed to illustrate her quirky life or was the booked edited down to crude stories for shock value?
Unfortunately, the media coverage jaded my opinion of the end of the story.
There’s a saying by Anne Lamott I’ve seen over and over again in writing:
“If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
I’ve pinned it on Pinterest and liked it on Facebook and probably shared things I shouldn’t have shared, patting myself on the back with this phrase (I love you Anne Lamott, if for some insane reason you ever stumble upon my blog please don’t hate me for dissecting your quote). But maybe it’s not always true. Maybe it’s not my children’s fault that their mother is a writer, or my parents or my siblings’. Maybe it’s my responsibility to take ownership of what I choose to write, to think carefully about whose story I’m telling and the reasons I feel the need to tell it.
Writing has always been my therapy but no one in my life asked to be dragged to the therapy chair, names fully disclosed. I would like my blog and my writing to be a diary of my life and my views, one that my children look forward to reading one day in the same way they’ve eagerly sounded out the few (very few) words in their baby books.
Lena’s book is raw and honest and has some hilariously funny lines but it’s too much. There are too many blinding spotlights in other people’s eyes, too many vivid recounts of friends and enemies who might not be comfortable enough in their skin to see it in black and white. To an extent, this is what memoir is but in my opinion, not to this extent. Writing and blogging and social media will always beg the over-sharing question and maybe the answer is: what do we have to gain by sharing too much?
In the book, Lena talks about what she would like to say about people when she is old and gray and they have all gone and as I read that I thought… but haven’t you already said it?
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