“I lost my virginity to a total psychopath”: Lena Dunham publishes her college diary, and it’s pretty much exactly what you expect

For readers with a desire to relive bad dorm sex & sophomoric "deep thoughts"—but hey, it's for charity

By Erin Keane
May 18, 2016 2:14AM (UTC)
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Lena Dunham (Reuters/Danny Moloshok)

A refrain I hear often from my fellow old-lady peers goes like this: Thank Christ there was no social media when we were young. The thought being, of course, that given the opportunity, most people would prefer no living record of their most callow, inebriated, impulsive, insufferable moments of youth. We would prefer to pretend we materialized whole, from a cloud of organic cleaning products and CSA-approved vegetarian compost, as fully-formed adults, with the eating, drinking, sleeping, sexual and self-censoring habits to match. This crippling fear of letting the most awful earlier versions of ourselves see the light of day is why we are toiling in day jobs while Lena Dunham basically rules the world.

Our reigning Queen of The Monetized Overshare expands her rule today with the surprise drop of a new chapbook, made up entirely of fragmented diary entries she kept in college from 2005-06. These "creative snippets and observations" have been collected into "Is It Evil Not To Be Sure?," sales of which benefit the very cool nonprofit Girls Write Now. The limited-edition bound copies sold out immediately, but e-books are still available and very easy to scroll through.


Dunham's preserved "creative snippets" are elliptical and sometimes daring, and the effect is not unlike reading someone's discarded Twitter Drafts. This solid example, “you kiss like a two year old on meth,” would not be the most outrageous subtweet I've read today alone, but it would make me desperately want to know who it was about. In today's Lenny Letter, Dunham writes of her form:

I'm not sure what inspired me to record my thoughts this way. While nonlinear observations are now the norm because of Twitter-enforced brevity, at the time it wasn't such an obvious way to write (unless, like me, you were reading a ton of confessional poetry and listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs exclusively). But I think the form mimicked what I was experiencing internally: massive personal growth, the kind that comes from a million tiny shocking moments rather than one big bang. In reproducing the journal entries, I've held on to a lot of the unorthodox grammar and punctuation, to keep that immediacy alive.

Because Dunham is either fearless or shameless, depending on who you ask, she likewise does not shy away from preserving such age-appropriate clunkers as, "At the wine and cheese party she whines and eats cheese."

Much of "Is It Evil Not To Be Sure?" deals with Dunham's sexual coming-of-age. College sex here is depicted not as the gauzy romps of the nostalgia-driven memoirist but in turns as banal, devastating, and infused with a kind of dread. It is humbling in its accuracy and melodrama. "I lost my virginity to a total psychopath," the narrator muses, adding, "I saw him shave with his hat on."


This kind of ritual scab-picking is not for everyone, and even young memoirists write and edit from a distance that allows them to craft a narrative. Don't expect that from this book, and don't expect fully-formed essays, such as those found in her collection "Not That Kind of Girl." But if you have managed to somewhat forget how awful and exciting and earth-shattering and disgusting being a 20-year-old woman can be, expect to be reminded, in detail.


Erin Keane

Erin Keane is Salon's Editor in Chief.

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