In my bra and underwear, before putting my little business dress on, I examine myself in the mirror and try to convince myself that I don’t look like Lena Dunham.
The magazines that you buy as a teenager – the innocuous pink things whose psychological sledge-hammering you will spend your life trying to undo – will tell you that you fit into one of three categories. You are a pear, you are an hour glass, or you are a tall drink of water. Surely, someone has already pointed out that none of these objects have anything to do with a human body. And yet. If we are going to be imposing fruits and vegetables on our fragile self-images, it must be pointed out that some people are really just apples. Some people, like my high school librarian, or Snooki, are surprising apple-on-stick type deals. Caramel apples. Lena Dunham is fortunate enough to be a pear. She just happens to be an upside-down one.
I am now one of those despicable people who talks about Lena Dunham’s naked body. Except for that I’m not, really. I’m talking about my naked body. Which somehow, in my mind, has become the same thing.
It’s not that I don’t admire what Lena Dunham is doing. I do. I admire it, and I get it. Her up-front nudity is a victorious fuck you to the world. If you’re going to put tits and ass on everything – to the point where parts have become almost arbitrary, any day now food packages are going to start coming with little nipples on them, on the off-chance that this might confuse us into buying the right brand of cookie – if you’re going to put tits and ass on everything, eventually someone is going to come along and insist on putting some real tits and ass on something, to show you that really it’s just boobies and bumbum you’re mooning over. Fat deposits. Lena Dunham is reminding us what naked bodies actually look like, in their raw form, and someone had to do it. Although really, by keeping her pretty actresses clothed, isn’t she sort of perpetuating the mythology? Wouldn’t it ultimately be more scandalous to see the cellulite Jessa is hiding under her billowing onesie? An issue for another time, or another person.
Okay, so it’s not her nakedness that I have a problem with. My beef with Lena Dunham is that since day one, since the pilot episode of that brilliant, critically-acclaimed, discussed-to-death show, people have been comparing me to her.
This is unflattering, since the show is named for its female characters, who inhabit convincingly adult shells but who harbor the collective emotional maturity of a talking Kelly doll, as well as hosts of neuroses most often compared to those of Woody Allen but sometimes reaching dangerous George Costanza territory.
It’s also silly, because I doubtless have little in common with the person Lena Dunham, a wildly successful television and film writer, director, and actress, also occasionally published in The New Yorker, who was raised in Brooklyn by non-struggling artist parents and who likes to cast her family and childhood friends in her (wildly successful) shows and films. What my friends really mean is that I am like Hanna Horvath, the character that Lena Dunham plays on the brilliant, much-discussed show. And as much as I resent this, I must admit that there are some disconcerting points of comparison.
There is, for example, the persistent, cloying need to be liked, the gnawing and implacable insecurity – paradoxically and disastrously paired with an egotistical edge, driven by a hubristic confidence in her/my own talents and her/my fascination with introspection. (“Seriously, I have never met anyone who thinks their life is so fucking fascinating,” says the sidekick character.)
There is the struggle with the inability to sustain healthy friendships in the long-term. There is the occasional, unfortunate mental breakdown. There is the (always protested by accused comparers – “No, that’s not what I mean!”) overzealous consumption of cupcakes. There is the sometimes awkward, cynical sense of humour – although perhaps I truly do share that with the real Lena rather than the infamous HH. There is the penchant for strange boys and relationships that self-destruct. And sometimes, like right now, the events of my life line up with the events of the show in a rather uncanny fashion.
So today, as I put on my business dress in order to go off on the first day of my quest to eventually hopefully be paid for putting words on paper (at the expense, perhaps, of the words themselves), it becomes urgently, painfully necessary to me that my body be the shape of any inanimate object but an upside-down pear. On my first day in advertising, I must not be Lena Dunham.