Skip to content
Watch the DANGERS of the World in the Safety of your Home

Lena Dunham Writes for Vogue- Exerts from that article


It’s 1997 and I want to be cool. About to be twelve, and my mother, understanding the urgency of the mission, has finally agreed to let me shop in the grown-up section—albeit of a vintage store, Alice Underground, on lower Broadway. (For once in my life I am small, under-sized in fact, and she says that the antique fit works better for “petites.”) So I’ve headed to school in flared ’70s bell-bottoms—purple, embroidered with orange pop art footprints—and a ringer tee with a mess of smiley faces. Inspired by reruns of The Brady Bunch, my hair is short and feathered with a smattering of fuschia strands. Lilac Sketchers with a chunky heel. I think I’m hot shit. -Lena Dunham for Vogue

Later at lunch, Ruby and I sit in silence. She is doing fine—lack of expectation has led to lack of disappointment. I am a fiery ball of impotent rage. And so I seize the only power I have, staring at Ruby and telling her to sit somewhere else. “I can smell your sandwich.” My teacher Kathy notices, takes me aside, and dresses me down with a swiftness you’d never guess she possesses from her Laura Ashley smock: “You and Ruby are in the same boat, and you should know better.” -Lena Dunham for Vogue

It would be wrong to call not being invited to an Emily’s birthday party a central trauma in my life, but it would not be wrong to call admonishing Ruby about her sandwich a central regret. I can still remember the way her face fell, how self-consciously she gathered the deli paper up around the remaining half of tuna on wheat and moved away. And how bad it felt—I wasn’t punching down, but punching across, trying to prove that we weren’t alone on an island but that we had two distinct problems. Her exclusion was inevitable, while mine was a horrific oversight. This moment—the anger, the shame, the bad behavior born of bad behavior—cast me as the mean girl when I’d always fancied myself a victim. I’ve spent my life trying to square the space between the two. -Lena Dunham for Vogue

I drifted between groups in my late teens and early twenties, trying desperately to enter crowds I later realized I didn’t want to belong to. I transferred colleges, switched majors, and I regarded the accompanying end of friendships like a medical emergencies, desperate and terrifying—as when, senior year of high school, I cried out to the girl I thought of as my best and only friend, “have a nice life, bitch!” as she walked away from an argument. (To be fair, I think she did have a nice life.) -Lena Dunham for Vogue

After college, a group crystallized around us—city girls of the kind I had known my whole life but had never been able to fully engage with until this friend was in my corner. Suddenly, I was back in New York with a way to dress (like Nancy Spungen if she’d watched Designing Women) and behave (like the party was thrown just for us) and a place to go (whatever bed or couch we were all on, talking smack and eating takeout sushi we pooled our money to afford). -Lena Dunham for Vogue

But I never got it quite right. Certain dramas were par for the course—miscommunications about who was going to call who about the evening’s plans, omissions and triangulations that were chalked up to forgetfulness, but always felt infused with sharp meaning. Some of this was about my essential lack of understanding, the irritating guilelessness mixed with obsessive candor that had made me prime for exclusion. I also couldn’t be part of a tribe without writing about it, which made me both a valuable historian of our experience and a liability. -Lena Dunham for Vogue

By the time I wrote Girls, I had 24 years of experience with feeling both connected to and separated from, well, girls. Many people saw the title of the show as a pronouncement that I was speaking for all the girls, that I fancied myself a microphone for half the population and, in the process, was grinding us down to one monolithic and unlikable soapstone. But this was actually my attempt to understand, perhaps even master, my relationships with girls, with women. -Lena Dunham for Vogue

As a fantasy and nostalgia addict who is now married, I wondered if I would have pangs for old flames, if I would see pictures of men I had once donned Little Black Dresses for and dream of running into them on an empty corner. We are early yet, but it hasn’t happened and I don’t think I will. When I lie in bed at night, husband already snoring, my mind goes back to the women who were in my life and are no longer. The friend who took me all through Tribeca eating at fancy restaurants and never being handed a bill because of her arresting beauty. The one I took long walks around Brooklyn with, talking about romance novels and manor houses, whose motherhood journey forked away from mine and a silent chasm opened. The blonde who told me, in no uncertain terms, my circumstances had become a bit heavy for her, and the artist who I thought would always be a phone call away but who somehow simply isn’t. The smell of the bedsheets in my best friend’s house, how we lay there prone after big parties dissecting every interaction we found spicy. And her. And her and her and her and her and her. -Lena Dunham for Vogue

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Scroll To Top