Manifesto: Be Your Own Lena Dunham


In the past couple of years, women have gained so many great, new heroes. Thank god, because I was really getting tired of Oprah—we get it, you have a lot of favorite things! For me, my recent female heroes have come in the forms of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kalhling. Sure there are other amazing women, like Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Gisele, but their lives seem way to serious and/or calorie-free. I like my heroes like me: with cellulite, a crush on Jon Stewart, and a Liberal Arts degree. Tina, Amy, and Mindy are wonderfully imperfect, the way heroes should be. In order to succeed, they’ve had to battle a male-dominated industry, their own imperfect bodies, and that annoying natural urge to just have children and watch Bravo (note to self: always use birth control and never watch any Real Housewives).

Now, women have a new hero emerging in the form of Lena Dunham. I have little pride in admitting I closely relate to Lena’s relationships with men, food, and clothing – in my life they have all been disastrous and plentiful. Sure, Lena and I have differences, like that her father is a painter of “overtly sexualised pop art” and her mother is a photographer/designer who creates “disquieting domestic tableaux” with dolls…. which is just ever so slightly different from my parents, who are teachers and not complete weirdos.  But even with the differences in upbringings, Lena’s voice and experience speaks to me directly. Clearly, I am not alone, the first season of her hit HBO show Girls received much praise (and hate… but haters gunna hate), she was nominated for five Emmy’s, a much-anticipated second season is quickly approaching, and Lena recently signed a $3.6 million deal with Random House for a book which will cover “Work, Friendship, Body, Sex, Love and Big Picture.” For young, twenty-somethings Lena represents what you swore to your parents you might do a couple of times, but never had the lady-balls. Lena is our hero—honest, flawed, self-deprecating, cocky, and a bit overweight. What more could we want?

The truth is, we are now spoiled with inspirational female role models, to the point where I believe we are leaning on these heroes a little too much. Why balance relationships and work when Tina is nailing it? Why inspire young girls everywhere when Amy’s got it covered? Why push against societal constraints when Mindy’s killing it? Why be a creative, feminist powerhouse when Lena Dunham exists? It’s just so much easier to watch them do it! But deep down, we know that’s not what they want. And don’t you dare disappoint Tina, Amy, Mindy or Lena! Don’t you even think about it!

So, in the coming New Year (it is coming, regardless of Mayans), I welcome you to join me and challenge yourself to be more like these amazing women. Don’t just take in their messages, but put something out.
Make this your manifesto: Be your own Lena Dunham.

Here’s how:

Step 1. Proudly admit you are imperfect. You don’t literally need to get naked in a toilet stall in the opening scene of the Emmy’s… but figuratively, you do. Put down the articles about [insert amazingly perfect movie star here] and take a semi-break from the treadmill. Repeat after me: “I am an imperfect blob of carbon!” Again: “I am an imperfect blob of carbon!” Doesn’t that feel better? Once you accept that you aren’t ever going to have Jessica Alba’s ass, you might start developing some of your weaker muscles, like your personality, sense of humor, and triceps. It’s really ok to be imperfect. Nobody is going to hate you for it, in fact, they’ll probably love you more. I mean, just look at her:

Step 2. Psychoanalyze the shit out of yourself. You are a mental and emotional mess. Admit it. Look in the mirror and think about it. Drink a bottle of wine alone and start a journal. Tell yourself you need to be single for a while to “concentrate on you.” Then hookup with someone. Ugh, you can’t believe you did that. Think about it some more. This is the beginning of personal greatness. Wonderful, self-centered greatness. Sometimes it can be painful to analyze your thoughts and actions, to actually figure out why you hurt yourself and set up obstacles in your path, but then some brilliance will come out of your mouth and you’ll know yourself that much better (maybe do this after the holidays, shit might get real).

Step 3. Be yourself. Even if it really scares your parents. Did your parents say you could be anything you want when you grow up and then when you grew up they were like, “as long as you have health insurance.” And you’re like, “Excuse me, mother, but that is a pretty big addendum!” Part of growing up and being mother-fracking-fabulous is pushing back against your parents. It starts at age 14 when you try to wear that mini-skirt to school and adds up when you figure out who you really are and (when you’re brave enough) share that with the people who made you (try not to think about it, sooo gross). Sure mom has known best many times—you really did look terrible with green highlights—but it’s time for you to take the  reins. Take the risky job! Date the guy they might not accept! Write the totally inappropriate thing you’ve been thinking about! Go Vegan!… actually don’t go Vegan, cheese is too yummy. If they freak out at all, feel free to make Hannah’s point:

Step 4. Do the damn work. This is the hardest part. You have to actually do work. Ugh. Like, not go to every party or watch the entire series of  Downton Abbey in a day, which is hard, because for a show about two cousins falling in love, that show is really beautiful. If you’re like me, things have come easily for you most of your life. School work was always easy, jobs were never challenging, and you were always the professor’s favorite even though you showed up late and cursed, but damn, you could write a good paper. Sadly, you’re going to have to actually put in effort now. The important things in life are harder to accomplish, like finding a fulfilling career and getting into Spanx, but the payoff is oh-so rewarding and stomach flattening.

lena working

Step 5. Dance like a total weirdo. You would think this is unrelated, but in fact this is a key final step. Extra points for dancing with friends. Let go, be yourself, listen to Robyn, and don’t ever figure out how rhythm works. You did it.

Thanks for reading!

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