Lena Dunham is known for her signature bold candor—onscreen in her HBO show Girls, and now on paper, too. The writer’s first book of autobiographical essays, Not That Kind of Girl, retells embarrassing experiences from the bedroom to the office to the therapist’s office. So for Stylist‘s interview with this week’s guest editor, they recruited the only person with enough pluck to ask the hard-hitting personal questions: Lena Dunham. The resulting Q&A is unbridled one-woman funniness.
“Lena Dunham swans into the room, one hand holding a bag of tortilla chips, the other hastily bringing them to her glossy lips. ‘Mhh bshdhhd schlumph’ she says breathily through a mouth full of masticated corn. She is wearing what some might call a sweatshirt but only she knows is actually part of a fashion craze known to the chic upper echelons as a ‘comfort blouse’.”
Here are some of Dunham’s ballsiest questions—and Dunham’s most revealing answers.
In your new book you write a lot about your friends and family, but the most vicious stuff is aimed at ex-boyfriends. Do you have any death warrants out for you? Do you wear a wig at the grocery store to avoid these vengeful men? Do you even care how your family feels?
Absolutely I do. I’m not interested in exploitative writing. I’m interested in personal writing, and I think the adage that you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelette is totally false. I think it’s possible to write your truth in a way that’s thoughtful and considerate. So I always show my friends my essays if they’re referenced in them. With the exception of a few ex-boyfriends who I do not think it would be safe for me to make contact with.
What’s it like having artist parents? Were they ever so distracted being creative that they left you in a freezing bath for hours? Did they do LSD in your kitchen?
Nope, they’re the best. I would have lost my mind doing this job if I didn’t have them. Because having parents who had a creative life means they know the ups and downs. Yes, sometimes everybody loves what you’re doing, but sometimes, everybody hates what you’re doing and you are totally ignored, yet you still have to find a way to be excited and make your work for yourself. I also find them to be a real safe haven. The amount of disasters I had in college where I came home depressed and fat and sick and I just knew it was going to be alright – that’s such a great thing to have.
Certain people on the internet seem to hate you. WHAT DID YOU DO TO THEM?! WHERE’S THE BEEF?!
Beef would be the wrong word because beef has to be two-sided and I never started anything with them. But for some reason, certain sites have made it their stock-in-trade to take me down. Whatever issues they have with me, whether I irritate their writers or whatever, I think the people at these websites want to aggress creative people because they’re dissatisfied with their own lot in life. It was hard at first to have such targeted nastiness. because it’s such a double standard. The treatment of women by the press illustrates this point day-in-day-out; a guy can be called a douche but he won’t have his every word picked apart and have his character and his look assassinated. At the end of the day, the toxicity comes from constantly seeing yourself reflected back by a male-dominated media.
Why are you so weird about talking about money and yet you talk about your vagina, like, non-stop?
I remember once asking someone, “How much did that cost?“ and my mom was like, “You never ask someone how much they make or how much something cost.” So to me, how much I make is part of my private life. I understand that, for some people, it must be confusing that I’m comfortable talking about my sexual life and not comfortable talking about how much money I make, but guess what? That’s a personal choice.
You can read the rest of the interview here.