Today marks the paperback release of Lena Dunham’s memoir, Not that Kind of Girl, and to commemorate the occasion, Dunham annotated one of her book’s chapters using Genius. For those unfamiliar with how Genius works when it comes to annotating a literary work, rather than a lyrical one, it’s… basically the same. Annotation serves to provide more contextual meaning of the subject at hand, and allows for a deeper understanding of what the hell is actually going on in an author’s mind—particularly when it is—as in this case—the author herself who is doing the annotating.
Now perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, But isn’t the whole point of a memoir already to get the full, behind-the-scenes story? I mean, maybe? Sure. Or actually no, because those essays are still stories that are self-edited (and, like, otherwise edited) in order to better get the point across. In other words, there’s always more to say. And as Lena Dunham knows perhaps better than anyone else working in the creative industry right now, sometimes your published work can benefit from a little further explication, lest people interpret, or misinterpret, what you say as they see fit.
All of this is to say, Dunham annotated her essay “Diet Is a Four-Letter Word,” which is about the eating-related roller coaster she’d been on for pretty much her whole life. It’s an eminently relatable (and very funny) part of Not that Kind of Girl and Dunham’s Genius-fueled marginalia take you further into her history of everything from her angel food cake-only diet (apparently, carrying around angel food cake everywhere is “an amazing conversation starter”) to what pizza tastes like in Ohio (“it literally tasted like a quit with sauce on it”) to how much she now hates Rice Dream (“this was metaphorically shoved down my throat by my parents far too much so now I can only fuck with goat and nut milks”).
As could be expected, Dunham’s marginalia is funny and illuminating, but what is perhaps the most important part of this type of annotation is that it acts as a type of real-life postscript. And in the case of this chapter of Dunham’s life, which deals, after all, with disordered eating, this is important, as it allows Dunham to address a big question that readers had for her after reading about how obsessively she used to count calories, namely: Are you “still as mental about food now as when you wrote this?”
Dunham assures us via annotation:
[T]he answer is no. A lot has changed in the last five years and I’ve learned an incredible amount about what I need to be healthy and happy. I work hard and I don’t have time to put my body through this kind of shit, and I also don’t have the mental space. I also think the dialogue around health and body positivity is changing in a really great way, even when it doesn’t exactly feel like it based on internet comments. Lastly, I want to thank my boyfriend for being a cool feminist who doesn’t subscribe to any commercial notions of what a woman should be. A loving partner isn’t what makes us love ourselves, but it sure can help us stay on the right path. Also, he once guessed my weight as 105 pounds. Bless his heart.
And because we’re suckers for happy endings, this is the kind of annotation that we’re not only pretty happy to read for ourselves, but which we’re happy is out there for other people, who wonder if there’s a light at the end of the mind-fuck-that-is-disordered-eating tunnel, to read as well.
Read the annotations of “Diet Is a Four-Letter Word” here.