Best-selling author, blogger and lifestyle expert Katherine Schwarzenegger is InStyle.com's resident advice columnist. Tune into her weekly video series answering reader questions at InStyle.com/askkat.
From the moment I watched my first episode of Girls, I have been a fan of Lena Dunham. Her show portrays the harsh realities of life as an uncertain 20-something, so I knew that if her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" ($17; amazon.com), was anything like the brutally honest writing in her show, I would be glued to it. And as it turns out, I was.
In the book, available Sept. 30, Dunham writes openly and honestly about her experiences in love, sex, heartbreak, family relationships, therapy, death, being naked, regrets, and finding a solid relationship. Before reading the book, I had a huge amount of admiration and respect for Dunham, her talent as an actress, writer, and how she never seems to lose sight of who she really is. Now, after reading Not That Kind of Girl, I have even more respect for her—for everything she has experienced in life, and for always finding the humor and a lesson in it; for her ability to laugh at herself, especially when most of us wouldn’t; for her way of writing explicit details of almost every event in her life; and most of all, for always being 100 percent real.
Every episode of Girls, leaves you with a nugget of wisdom, and Dunham's latest body of work is no exception. Here are a few of the important lessons I learned from Not That Kind of Girl:
1. Face the facts with a sense of humor.Having a sense of humor about your past is the only way you can move forward. Both the amazing parts and the horrifyingly terrible parts have made you who you are today, and it doesn't pay to dwell on the bad stuff. For most of what Dunham writes, it is doubtful that she was laughing at herself in the moment, but when you read her recounts of the past, you can’t help but laugh as you imagine her in these various situations (like refusing to take her grandmother’s clothes off after hearing about her death).
2. There are three types of people you should never share a bed with.Follow Dunham's advice and avoid anyone who makes you feel like you’re invading their space, anyone who says they "just can't be alone right now," and finally, anyone who doesn’t make you feel like sharing a bed is the coziest and most sensual activity they could possibly be undertaking.
3. We all do irrational things when we feel lonely.Everyone has times of feeling lonely—what you do to cure your loneliness is up to you and, according to Dunham, should be judgment-free. Whether it is sleeping on your friend's pull-out couch and later being asked for some "space," or trying to push a "relationship" further just to have the comfort of another human, you will learn, like Dunham, that you deserve more.
4. Sometimes, you just can’t help loving a jerk.Most of us, including Dunham, are attracted to jerks; however, she now considers herself to be in "jerk recovery." It is likely that this attraction to jerks develops early on, when we are told as children that if a boy likes you he will hit you or tease you until you cry. No wonder so many of us in our 20s find ourselves attracted to a guy who is rude to us!
5. No relationship is worth changing who you are.Dunham writes openly about all of her past relationships and the lessons learned from each of them. We have all found ourselves in a relationship where we feel like we are tirelessly trying to make it work. We try to change them; change ourselves; give more; give less; morph into someone they want us to be—until, hopefully, we learn we deserve better. "When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back for more, before you know it, you start to mean less to yourself," she writes.
6. Get comfortable with "shaking what your mama gave you."Anyone who has watched Dunham's hit show Girls knows that she is very comfortable being nude on camera. Everyone talks about her "bravery," but the reality is that the only reason people give her credit is because she is showing us her real body—carefree, without starving herself or making us hate her for showing another unrealistic version of a woman's figure. For most viewers, especially the younger ones, watching Dunham be so openly comfortable and confident with being a woman allows for more openness and freedom for women of all shapes and sizes to accept and embrace the figures we possess.
7. Experience it now, save it for your 80th birthday.When Dunham turns 80, she says she will write the greatest tell-all book titled, I Didn't Fuck Them, But They Yelled at Me. Keep this in mind whenever you are wronged by someone or have a strong desire to give them a piece of your mind, because, well, you will always have your 80th birthday to really let them know how you feel!
8. You can love being a woman, and still be envious of men.Dunham admires two types of women: enthusiastic women who do everything womanly without ever thinking "why?" and the "beautifully depressive" women who, when you ask how they are, give you the hard-cold truth whether or not you really wanted to hear it. Dunham writes about her love of being a woman, but has found herself being envious of the way men get to live their lives, both personally and professionally, with such ease. And that's okay.
Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" is available at amazon.com for $17 beginning Sept. 30.