Lena Dunham tends to grab focus for all the wrong reasons. She’s a relatively enlightened feminist voice but purposely draws our attention away from her accomplishments by trolling the red carpet. You may disagree that Lena purposely made a statement against beauty with her recent Emmys ensemble. That’s fine. I’m not really interested in talking about dresses at this moment.
Here’s my topic of conversation concerning Lena. She has penned a memoir (for which she received $3.7 million). That price is staggering, especially since the publishing industry rarely hands out such dollar amounts upfront. Maybe that wasn’t the true payment amount. That headline could have been the work of PR geniuses. Lena’s book is called Not That Kind Of Girl (subtitle: A young woman tells you wnat she’s “learned).
Since I (like many people) have never found Lena relatable, I assumed that this memoir would be a cutesy, hipstery book of tips in manner of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s The Secret Of Life. That book was a mess and simply a way for Wurtzel to fulfill her Random House contract while mainlining random substances. Wurtzel, a self-avowed feminist, spent hundreds of pages giving hair tips and talking about how to attract men. I didn’t expect much more from Lena. If these new excerpts are any indication, then Lena’s book is much more promising. Via People, one of the sections talks about Lena’s crippling germaphobia. I am aware of Girls dramatic treatment of OCD (with its eardrum puncturing episode). These memoir excerpts seem more real:
“I am eight, and I am afraid of everything. The list of things that keep me up at night includes but is not limited to: appendicitis, typhoid, leprosy, unclean meat, foods I haven’t seen emerge from their packaging, foods my mother hasn’t tasted first so that if we die we die together, homeless people, headaches, rape, kidnapping, milk, the subway, sleep,” she describes.
This paralyzing worry continues to manifest itself in new ways. Only a few years into elementary school, and Dunham is spending days in the school nurse’s office certain that she is stricken with scarlet fever, polio or leukemia.
“The germophobia morphs into hypochondria morphs into sexual anxiety morphs into the pain and angst that accompany entry into middle school,” Dunham writes.
She then goes on to describe in great emotional detail the search to find the right therapist to help her comfortably confront her concerns, and how she found that professional mother figure in a woman named Lisa. The progress with Lisa reveals to Dunham her underlying obsessive-compulsive disorder, an area she has also explored through her character Hannah in Girls.
“Sitting with my mother in the beauty salon one afternoon, I come across an article about obsessive-compulsive disorder. A woman describes her life, so burdened with obsessions that she has to lick art in museums and crawl on the sidewalk. Her symptoms aren’t much worse than mine: the magazine’s description of her most horrible day parallels my average one. I tear the article out and bring it to Lisa, whose face crumples sympathetically, as though the moment she’d been dreading had finally arrived. It makes me want to throw my needlepoint supplies in her face.”
Finally, I identify a little bit with Lena Dunham. The details of her discovery are almost uncanny. Lena realized that she wasn’t alone in suffering from obsessions and compulsions. Lena goes on to talk about how she met with a therapist monthly, weekly, and momentarily. She consulted with said therapist via the phone when she didn’t feel like walking to the therapist’s office. Her therapist’s voice immediately put her at ease. This was a far cry from many young OCD sufferers’ upbringings. Lena was lucky. Back in the 1980s, most of us were simply told that we were “weird.”
I’m not about to claim that Lena is embellishing her claims of extreme germaphobia as a variant of OCD. Not at all. She’s fortunate to have found help at an early age for her affliction. I do wonder how she’s managed to move past her OCD rituals and work on television sets. Not to mention how she manages to deal with hair and makeup while trying not to think about all the germs on brushes, etc. Whatever the case, I’m semi-interested in reading Lena’s memoir. Even though she still thinks people who write for money are weird. Ahem.
Bedhead lives in Tulsa. She can be found at Celebitchy.com.