thoughts from pages
Lena Dunham, at a ripe age of twenty-six, has been the assertive voice of the post-millenium generation; a transgressively candid and humorous vociferation of the culture and lifestyle that surrounds us. Lena is a continual pendulum; she just keeps on going on.
We are entrusted to praise Lena. To see her as someone we trust. With an empirical network behind her and her already affirmed trusted viewership, Lena is somehow un-vanquishable; she’s everything we wish Carrie could have been. And although as an audience we feel there’s nothing left to know; since the woman has borne her naked flesh and emotions to the thousandths within her semi-autobiographical alter-ego Hannah Hovart on HBO’S GIRLS, she still remains a perplexity.
In the world’s newfangled obsession with feminism; Lena’s intelligence and creativity has come under scrutiny, however, in her memoir-of-sorts, she finally asserts how a woman has “learned” — been the listener, not the listened. Lena’s writing may not fully resonate with a twenty-something year old male like myself, but the pull factor remains in her writing; Lena unlocks for us what we mutely know, the little things we know but are too afraid to comprehend or discuss. This is enriching to read, especially from a woman — no longer silent and obliging. Her capriciousness is enchanting.
Lena encourages you to follow what she has “learned” in five seismic-sounding laughable sections; Love and Sex, Body, Friendship, Work, and The Big Picture. Although the essayist sectionalises or categorises her experiences, they all seem to reflect one another, and as a result, a woman’s experiences seem impossible to categorise. Once again, we’re reminded that we’re not being pulled by the mechanical reins of a robot. Lena’s down-to-earth writing does not allow you to imagine; it’s there, in the pages — and the black and white never felt so real, there is no admission for the Imaginaton.
Lena’s musings on ‘Platonic Bed Sharing’ are bed-wettingly funny indeed. Platonic Bed Sharing, as Dunham coins, is the solution she found to sharing a love-bed with someone. Because sleeping in the same bed with someone after sex is entirely crazy; what next? It’s done — how’d I go about what happens now? Lena inscribes this inexplicable feeling in her trademark outrageous hilarity; ‘how could I sleep when the person beside me had firsthand knowledge of my mucous membranes?’. Maybe that’s the OCD in her talking, but it’s a fair point for anyone. “Platonic Bed Sharing; the act of welcoming a person you’re attracted to into your bed for a night that contains everything but sex.” (Not to be confused with butt-sex, as I read it). Somehow we can all comply to Dunham’s solution — a spoon, some warmth in the eternally cold dungeon-esque temperature of college housing, and no strings attached. NSA cuddling. It needs to be marketed!
All comedy aside, the remnants of PBS are significant; being able to lay in a bed with someone and not have sex, to feel sexy or close to sexy without engaging in a sexual act. To see sexy as synonymous to mysterious. To show someone how your body feels against their own, and for the multiplicity of questions to entice you to find out the answer; are their legs always that soft/prickly, do they always sleep with socks on or off, do her boobs really look like that without a bra, is his dick that big when soft?
Lena’s bed-sharing experiences are something one can glean from, and she finally compiles who you should never share a bed with. The results are touching; self-revelatory and distressing at the same time. Here’s who not to practice bed-sharing with; ‘Anyone who makes you feel like you’re invading their space. Anyone who tells you they just “can’t be alone right now.”’ Lena instructs if the person beside you meets this criteria then ‘remove them or remove yourself.’
‘I’ve spent a lot of my career trying to break down some of the negative forces that the media exert on women in trying to control their body image. It felt anathema to who I am, to admit that I too have struggled with the concept of sort of perfection’.
Other than sex, platonic or the opposite, Lena opens up a conversation about the sensationalism the media curtails on women. It remains both howlingly funny, but hauntingly honest.
Lena maintains her mother invented the selfie. I’m unsure of whether I was happy or unhappy about this; however, her endearing prose carried a weight far heavier than the much-abused ‘selfie’ of our day — ‘she turned the lens toward the mirror so her face was obscured by the chunky black camera body, pulling focus to her dry heart-shaped lips and rabbit teeth. But mostly the eye is drawn to her nakedness. Legs spread defiantly. This wasn’t officially her art, but she was committed.’ Lena tells of how her mother understood the power of the camera. As her mother potrayed a shamelessness about nudity, Lena does much of the same, not disillusioned by the capitalist-capturing camera of the business she intersects with in present day America. ‘I didn’t look elegant, beautiful, or skilled,’ Lena says after her own naked stunt in college, ‘This was sex as I knew it.’ Lena is unapologetic for her exhibitionism and it is enthralling to see her sombre defiance for freeing the nipple. Her activism is curtailed, not silent but nonchalant, intending to exert as much normalisation to the bodies of women as men.
Dunham’s book has been deemed as ‘clit lit’ — and as misogynistic as it sounds, well, it is. Undoubtedly. Yes, this is a helpful, encourging guide to share, learn, laugh or cry from the experiences of one woman. However, Lena unearths a much needed conversation, one I’ve heckled a few times; mental health.
‘I have only the vaguest memory of a life before fear.’
This conversation has been had, is being had, yes — but not to the extent it should. Mental health is a spectrum. If you’re ignorant enough to synonmously tie mental health soley to depression, there is a lot more to discover — but Lena allows you to discover it with her. Stigmatization of mental health is eroded within Lena’s unshielded writing; she bares all and invites you, whoever you may be; male or female; young or old — to listen.
Lena’s ‘Hannah’ has been quite the visual represental of how defects in mental health can leave you airless. However, Lena breaks away from Hannah, and uses her words. Lena has become the nexus or pinnacle of over-sharing and her personage has led to a publicising of these issues. The ravages of her OCD and anxiety knock depression off the map; these exist, this is mental health, her listed experiences enable us to firmly believe.
Dunham operates on a higher plane, an artistically-imbued place of grittiness, emotion, braveness, and pride. She’s bananas, really. She bespokes a generation, yes, but there will be a time where Dunham’s generational voice fades. However, her attribution to this generation, has been a eclectic addition, one that may hold an advantage over the other voices before her, and her ephemerality may endure a longevity that her literary heirs did not enjoy. The considerations of body image, sex, sexuality, and mental health will be attested as long as Ms. Dunham hangs around — that’s a given.
Buy it, read it, and think about it. It’ll leave you salivating for more Dunham.