Dunham in New York on November 2nd.
Photo: Gillian Laub
One morning, about three weeks after we met, Lena Dunham sent me ten text messages in a row. She was in the hospital, recovering from a procedure to remove her right ovary, "which was enclosed in scar tissue and fibrosis, attached to my gut and pressing on the nerves that made it a little difficult to walk / urinate / vampire", as She later explained on Instagram. She sent me a postoperative photo of herself on the bed, a red bracelet that read "NO BENZODIAZEPINAS" hanging from her wrist, a hospital gown lifted, her medical mesh panties.
He sent more photos, all with small captions and taken with Huji Cam, an application that makes everything look like it was broken with a disposable camera in the 90s. There were striking portraits of his artist parents, Laurie Simmons and Carroll Dunham, who kept the wake up next to the bed with elegance and look a little annoyed at the camera phone in your face.
There were pictures of all the nurses and doctors and surgeons. A close-up of his pubic area, showing tattoos and hair and the place where the doctor had drawn incision marks in blue ink.
"I'm like Virginia Woolf writing lyrics with emojis alone, and nobody cares," she wrote. Then, for days and weeks, she sent another text message.
She sent texts to complement the conversations we had already had in person, texts that answered questions that she thought she would probably do in the next interview. She expressed disappointment with the negative criticism of Camping, the HBO program that he co-wrote with her Girls his partner, Jenni Konner, and, days later, refused to be killed by the bad guys. Camping She entered the new writers room for a program she is developing, perhaps for HBO, about a larger heiress, and she sent me a screenshot of the first session. Sometimes he shared memories of his ex-boyfriend Jack Antonoff, the musician Fun and Bleachers. Once, she described her ovarian remnant as reminiscent of a bean or perhaps a fried clam. She sent a screenshot of a motivational text conversation she had had with her friend Lady Gaga, who is saved in her contacts as Lady Gaga, not as Stefani. There was a picture of a gift he had received for his surgeon (a silver business card case with ENDOKING engraved on it). There was a #RIPPariana (a reference to the separation of Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande). I assure you that I did not take painkillers: "I'm all me, baby!" There was a video of a hairless black puppy that was thinking of adopting and naming Rosa. "I worry that people get angry with Rosa Parks because I have to consider those things," she wrote.
At first it felt overwhelming, but then I got used to the intimate fragments of his life. She became like a television show that was watching binge. Then, when we were together again in person and she asked me if I wanted to see a picture of her uterus, I hardly hesitated. He had seen so much of her, what was an organ?
She turned her screen towards me and there it was: the uterus that she had extracted During a hysterectomy last year. A crimson orb, swollen and bloody, resting casually on an industrial blue surgical drape. It was smaller than I expected it to be a womb, it also seemed more alive, as if I could put it back on and resume its function. "The doctor said he had never seen a womb as misshapen as mine," he said proudly. I leaned down so I could better see his fallopian tubes. They looked like small arms extended.
Photo: Gillian Laub. Matin makeup using ChapStick / Tracey Mattingly.
Dunham has been living in Los Angeles from time to time, but she has been there more full time since May. Antonoff took over her shared apartment in Brooklyn Heights when the couple separated, in December, after six years together, so she filled her other home with a lot more "fucking wallpaper," she says. Her parents' home was white and austere when she grew up, but this bungalow is full of things that make her feel happy and safe, like at a kitsch gift shop in Lena Dunham World.
"I would have to say that I feel pretty good here," he says, offering me three choices of refrigerated drinks from the fridge one September afternoon. At this time, there are purple snakeskin poufs, leopard print carpets and bright green walls. There is a small pink room, called "Lady Room", full of memorabilia: a picture of teenage glamor framed by Dunham pubescent in a blazer by Nicole Miller, ceramic printed on the lips that he made in Color Me Mine and wanted to sell on Etsy . Eloise posters But all this will change, she says. She redecorates all the time; in fact, his interior designer, Paul, lives with her; He moved into his guest house with his two poodles, Susan and Karen, when Dunham became ill a few years ago. He has been a friend of the family since Dunham was a baby, when he followed Simmons through Soho while she pushed Baby Lena in a stroller.
In the bungalow are also Dunphy's three hairless Sphynx cats: Candy and Irma velvety gray, and Lou Lou, a small wrinkled peach kitten that looks like a walking prepuce with watchful eyes. Dunham sits on her soft cream-colored sofa, tucks the skirt of her olive-green floral print under her knees, looks at me with her anxious eyes and her nervous and unsmiling mouth. Irma and Candy jump to her side, snuggling under a blanket. She got Irma right after she and Antonoff separated. She called her "good friend" Emmy Rossum, who asked what she wanted to do to feel better. Dunham had found an ad on Craigslist for hairless cats and replied, "I want to drive to Brighton Beach and get a cat in this woman's house." They did it.
The two cats begin to suck each other, making loud noises and sipping, while one of the cats sucks on the other's belly. "They love doing this, I'm sorry, but can I confirm? The fact that they do not have hair does not make it 70 percent more interesting to look at them? Jack hates cats, so making him come is a chore." (Dunham says that she and Antonoff stay close).
There is a long theory of Internet conspiracy that says Dunham kills his pets; started last year when she gave up her adoptive dog, Lamby, because she had severe anxiety and behavior problems. After Lamby, about whom she had written in The New Yorker – He bit her ass, she installed a picture of the bloody damage. Later, she also published the story of leaving it on the app. Shortly after, an employee of BARC, the shelter of the one who had adopted him, wrote an email saying that the dog was fine, in fact, until he met Dunham. In June, Gia Marie, a Sphynx cat who had adopted, died suddenly; A couple of months later, her 13-year-old daughter, Bowie, also died. Gia Marie suffered damage to her lungs after surviving a house fire, Dunham explains to me, and Bowie … well, when you're a good person who adopts pets at the end of life, sometimes they die.
"You can say a lot about me, but I'm a very committed pet," says Dunham. "Ask anyone who works with me at the pet level."
"In addition," he continues, addressing the Lamby controversy, "what is the type of animal shelter," I am an electronic DJ and I am also looking to talk with Yahoo! Celebrity & # 39 ;? But dragging him through the court of public opinion that way does not get me anywhere. It's better to simply relax and say: "Okay, sir, you can extend your career by telling people how bad the owner of my dog was." "She raises her hands." That was one I was really like, Welp! It is not rich in life."
Dunham one day after his surgery on October 16.
Photo: Lena Dunham
Dunham came in Pop culture through a narrow door. Your great movie, Small furniture, He established his weirdo, self-deprecating, self-referential art. Before I got to the theaters, I had to show it to the distributors. A guy loved the movie, but he told Dunham, then 23, that he could not stand the main girl, without realizing that she I was the main girl "His voice only comes to me," he said. "It's so annoying".
"I always feel that this has been a metaphor for my career," she says. "Everything is so interesting, it's very well done, I can not stand that main girl."
When Dunham quickly became famous and powerful, on the cover offashion The famous, creator of stars in his own right, powerful – that dynamic replicated itself on a larger scale. I can not stand that main girl. In a way, he dared everything to happen, the insane expectations and attention. The first episode of Girls contains a joke that mocks the grandiosity of his character: "I think I can be the voice of my generation", Hannah Horvath complains to her parents, trying to cheat them for money, "or at least a voice of a Generation. "Captivated by his strange / normal body, his precise and new mark of satirical humor and the good taste he exhibited in Adam Driver's casting, people took the joke seriously, as a statement of purpose.
His talent was anointed and formed by the main critical and creative voices of an older generation: David Remnick, Nora Ephron, David Carr and Judd Apatow, who became mentors. Dunham's agent, Bill Clegg, was impressed by what he saw in Girls "I kept thinking that each episode was like a great story by Deborah Eisenberg in The New Yorker,"She told me." She is fantastic with the details, the very local things of shared cafes and apartments, parents of artists and private schools, but equally expert in the great universal themes of hopelessness, doubt, new love, shame and the longing. "
However, people of the same age were annoyed with the teacher's pet status that was granted and bothered her $ 3.5 million book contract, but they also paid close attention. Throughout the decade close to Dunham's fame, culture has become much more sincere and reprehensible. His comedy was cruel in its precision, but the avant-garde jokes and the vision of the world that looked at the navel could not be the work of an author; they were inspected, especially by their peers, for their morality, their political conscience, or their lack of it. When he was 28 years old, Dunham went to visit a class in Oberlin, his alma mater and a child raised his hand and asked: "How does it feel to be a line element in the history of supremacy and oppression?" "Well, sir, you know many words." It was like, by the way, a 21-year-old white rastajo that asked me, "she says," One that I probably would have slept with. "
"I sent a text message to Jack last week and I told him:" HOW DO YOU FEEL THE DATE WITH SOMEONE HATS ALL? "In all the capitals, he replied:" They just hate you. because they love you so much, a real story. "Which is like, What love What a liar and affection."
Dunham lists the reasons for hatred, with his explanations of why he is as he is, as if he were reciting a poem printed in his brain in elementary school: he grew up privileged in New York, which led to what people perceive as a sense of right. Her parents are members of Soho's art scene, and she was educated around "very specific and liberal provocateurs," who taught her that she could say things that "could now justify an activation warning," which informs her sense of humor. (For example: the joke he made in his podcast, Women of the hour, about never having an abortion, but wishing she did.) The race is a chronic blind spot for her because she did not grow up with much diversity at her private school in New York City, she explains.
An incomplete list of things. Dunham has been asked to apologize for: the non-university process in Girls; the election of Donald Glover as a black Republican boyfriend the season after she got into trouble for having a cast of all whites; saying in an interview: "Nobody would call me a racist if I knew how bad I wanted to fuck Drake"; declaring himself "thin for, like, Detroit"; writing a New Yorker Essay called "Jewish dog or boyfriend? A test, "constantly naked, tweeting a photo of her with a scarf around her head like a hijab, accusing a Spanish magazine of airbrushing her photos (she did not), comparing Bill Cosby with the Holocaust, giving Horvath a brown baby at the end of Girls (and launch a baby that was Puerto Rican and Haitian, not half Pakistani, as dictated by the script); comparing the reading of Jezabel's negative coverage with being hit in the face by an abusive husband; accusing NFL player Odell Beckham Jr. of not wanting to sleep with her; saying that he did not like India because of visible poverty; apologizing but never learning.
Dunham internalized the feedback – something like that. Sometimes it seemed that his newsletter, founded in 2015 with Konner, was a line of defense against a variety of Dunham's criticisms: Lenny Letter featured writers and artists of color and LGBTQ voices who wrote about identity issues. In a way, was it the smell of insincerity that clings to reflective apologies? – Her efforts to use her platform for just causes only made people more angry with her. She says that Antonoff used to tell her: "You are a provocateur and you do not even know it, you have to see the fact that when you say things, not only are you not trying to please, sometimes you try to actively displease people." And he forced me to look at one side of me that had that desire to push the sleeping bear. "
This is a point at which many celebrities, on the advice of their management, would move away from the public. Dunham is trying. While you are in L.A., you are doing promotion work for Camping but less than what I could have done in the past. It's the latest project she and Konner worked on together before they abruptly announced plans to dissolve their production company last summer. Dunham does not seem particularly attached to her, he was in the writers room only sporadically, due to health problems.
Mainly, at this moment, she is trying to figure out whoGirls Dunham is and how, perhaps, he can distance himself from the meta-version of Lena Dunham that has overshadowed the work in recent years. But as she writes me the increasingly intimate details that she knows I'll put in this article, as if she were trying to be the director of her own magazine story, generous of sympathy, I begin to wonder if Lena Dunham, the performance artist. challenging us to hate her, is the play.
The next morning Girls He filmed his last episode, in September 2016, when Dunham woke up, it was raining. He called an Uber and spilled a milkshake on the seat during the trip. "I was like, My God, I'm a disaster in the real world."She went to make a" not very famous rap "video for Funny or Die, a pro-Hillary parody of Hillary Clinton's celebrities called"Sensual Anthem Pantsuit. "As" MC Pantsuit, "she sang and pronounced some lyrics in support of Clinton, tore off a red trouser that tore into a red bikini and ended the song by saying," I wonder if it's … " Are I really hurting your chances of winning?
Dunham is proud of the alter ego, and of the trouser suit, even anyway. "Because it was a very white rapper who wore a Hillary Clinton costume, and we have not had one of those before," he says. He spent some time in 2016 campaigning for Clinton, interviewing friends, carrying pictures in a tailored jacket with VOTE 4 HILLARY dazzled in the back. She did not donate. "My job was, like, making noise, because frankly Bernie was something like that, I felt that my voice was like a young hyperliberal person who was useful," he says.
After Clinton lost, Dunham began writing new projects: a storybook and a second memory, both published by Random House at some point. But that fall was mainly due to a chronic pain caused by endometriosis, with which he had been diagnosed in 2014 after realizing that his years of periods of intense pain were something more serious. His illness had worsened Girls Curl up: underwent surgery to remove injuries and clean broken ovarian cysts. He had nerve damage in his leg and rarely left the house because he was using a walker. After six seasons of doing the show, their relationships were "in poor condition at best" and "fractured in the worst case," she says. "The physical pain is really isolated … I was alone and medicated." He lost 30 pounds and people asked him if it was by Tracy Anderson's method. She fainted at the Met Gala and was rushed to the hospital, where she posted selfies on Instagram. That summer, he was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and a mixed connective tissue disorder, which means that his joints ache. ("I'm very flexible," she says. "That's why I'm good at sex and also why I'm going to die.")
In November, despite the rejection of his doctors (most obstetricians / gynecologists do not recommend this as a treatment for endometriosis), he underwent an elective total hysterectomy at 31 years of age. He did not have time to freeze his ovules. "It hurt too much to wait," he explains. "It's really amazing, at points of extreme anguish, how things you thought were not negotiable start to be negotiable," says Dunham. "I thought I would do anything to have a child naturally, it turned out that was not true."
When he awoke from his surgery, his first question was "Did you find something?" "Because I think what they're going to say is, like, & # 39; No, damn hypochondriac psycho," he says. "And so, when my surgeon told me:" You have the most deformed and ill uterus I've seen in my entire career ", I thought, This is vindication."Talking about chronic diseases, from her and other women, has since become her main focus of public attention, her Instagram has changed from still photos and ironic legends to paragraphs of self-help, remembering the readers, and herself, the force that demands his illness.
By the time the hysterectomy was made public in fashion on Valentine's Day, he had overcome two very public incidents: his break with Antonoff and a misstep of #MeToo. Two days after Dunham's surgery, TheWrap reported that an actress, Aurora Perrineau, had filed a report with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department accusing a Girls the writer and executive producer, Murray Miller, of having raped her at a party in 2012 when she was only 17 years old. Dunham and Konner had heard about the accusations for a month; Miller approached them in October and told them their version of the story, which they believed. When The Hollywood Reporter He reached a statement, Dunham says: "I remember thinking, Well, people know that I am a defender of these problems, so if I say this, they will know that I do not come from X or Y."(Dunham has been public about her experiences with sexual assault.) She was" high as a fucking bitch "from surgery, but" I think I was like, Fuck everyone else. This is my tribe. Let's keep it safe."
Dunham begins to cry and then points out how it should appear so that his eyes fill with tears. His statement with Konner – which said, in part, "While our first instinct is to listen to each woman's story, our knowledge of Murray's situation makes us trust that, unfortunately, this accusation is one of 3 percent of the cases of assault that are reported every year. "- was not well received: Dunham, a woman who loudly claimed her ally, had chosen to publicly discard the story of a young black woman, her digital strategist sent her a text message with four familiar words: "You are on Twitter".
"Some people came up and said in a low voice:" It's great that you defend him, "says Dunham, but most people in his life approached her in disbelief. Apatow warned, "I do not think this is what you wanted to do, it's not like that, especially in this era, that's not how we talk about women."
"That was a" girl, what the fuck "moment for me, then it also became a moment for her," says model Hari Nef, who began her friendship with Dunham on Instagram. "I asked him: 'Why did you do that? & # 39;
Zinzi Clemmons, collaborator of Lenny Letter, She wrote a statement asking women of color to renounce Lenny and Dunham, accusing her of a long history of "nonconformist racism" that goes back to her days in Oberlin. So Dunham did what Dunham had to do again and again: he apologized on Twitter. "Now I understand that it was the wrong time to present such a statement, and I am very sorry," he wrote. A few days later, Skyped with Lenny's editorial team, asked him to refrain from calling the meetings until he was given the green light to do so again.
Not even two months later, Dunham alienated the organizers of Time's Up, the anti-Hollywood harassment group, when he appeared in a photograph with the architects of his Golden Globes protest. It was the only meeting he had ever held. assisted the actress Tessa Thompson said expressly: "Lena's presence was a surprise to all of us." In August, the Los Angeles district attorney's office refused to pursue the charges against Miller; The following month, five months after the Perrineau family's first attempt to establish contact, Dunham approached Perrineau to apologize, which, according to Perrineau's mother, "was better than expected." (Konner refused to talk to the family and this story.)
Dunham begins to squeeze Irma's shins, the hairless cat's chin. "I sent a text message to Amy Schumer the other day and she said:" How are you? "And I said:" You know, the fourth operation in a year and I lost my fertility and my boyfriend and all these things with Aurora & # 39; and I was like, & # 39; It's like, we all went through that & # 39 ;, and she wrote, & # 39; Not really & # 39;
Dunham begins to remove his rings and gold rings. "This is what I do right before my naps, I take off my jewelry, I prepare to rest," she says, saying goodbye to me so I can go back to bed.
The Dunham family The residence in Connecticut is majestic, comfortable, and in a previous life was a school for "bright but disturbed children," as Simmons tells me. Dunham is building his own little house in the courtyard of his parents' property, with six corners of writers for staff and friends to go out and work with.
Simmons and a big suspicious collie greet me at the door. "Lena is taking a shower," he explains, and leads me to a living room. It is sparse and dramatic, with dark walls, luxuriously large furniture. Each object seems to have been chosen and placed after much deliberation. Simmons takes out a bowl of almonds. His face is Dunham's face, only longer and narrower.
Dunham enters the room in black and white pajamas, bright and pink after the shower. She is really good in her pajamas, since she spends a lot of time in them these days. These are ASOS, she says; Since the hysterectomy, Dunham has increased 24 pounds, he says, and is investing in the search and promotion of brands of inclusive size.
"Mom, I like that shirt! Is it an elegant brand?" Dunham calls Simmons when he passes in. The tunic dyed blue and white tie is "Thakoon forever," says Simmons and disappears into the kitchen, where he roasts a chicken in A Showtime roasting machine that I had found through a neighborhood exchange in the dumpster.While Simmons sets the table, Dunham talks about this, that and his tendency to tell potentially offensive jokes when he is nervous. a creative writing workshop, I tried to defuse a harsh criticism by joking: "You only hate it because I'm black."
"Are both of them Are your parents black, Allison? Dunham asks in response.
Simmons was supposed to be vacationing in Jamaica, decompressing after opening a retrospective of his work in Fort Worth, Texas. But she canceled the trip to be there for her daughter during the most recent surgery. "It's been hard," says Simmons. "I've become really good at hospitals."
"She brought all the nurses Chanel face cream this time," says Dunham, "but she did do not I love my hospital post. "
"I'm a pretty private person," says Simmons. "But what can I say? If Lena calls her her job, then it's her job."
"Mom, can I have this chicken leg?" Dunham says, getting up to serve himself more food. She stands in the salad surrounding the chicken.
"You just remembered your iguana," says Simmons fondly. "You have arugula coming out of your mouth."
"At one point, we had 16 pets living here," says Dunham.
"No, we did not," says Simmons. Dunham begins to list them: the iguana, a dog, three cats, another dog, a rabbit, two mice, two turtles, two frogs and snails.
Dunham slips back into his seat, chatting about what's on television later. Simmons is obsessed with CNN's Don Lemon, which Dunham thinks is fun, but they watch it together. Simmons especially liked his comment on the recent controversy of Megyn Kelly's black face.
"I am pleased to report that I have never done an ethnic disguise," Dunham announces.
"Seriously?" Simmons asks and moves to get more wine. Dunham repeats how much he likes his mother's shirt. "However, we do a lot of round-trip transactions," he tells me, and then turns to Simmons. "Everything good that I've been using recently belongs to you."
"Just come in and help out, honey," says Simmons, then clarifies.
"I'm not saying, & # 39;Just come in and help, honey. & # 39; I am saying, "Just come in and help."
Recently, as a guest at Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Dunham played a joke on his parents. She sent a text message to her mother with images of potential clothes that she would wear in the program, each dress worse than the last. He read her mother's text messages out loud, "too short and horny when you sit down," and finally called them to her face to reveal that they were live on the show.
Did Simmons enjoy it? "Do not."
Dunham seems surprised. "However, you did not hate him, right?"
"More or less."
"Did you do it? Sorry mom."
"Did you have a violent reaction about it?"
"No, I just wish I had lipstick."
"You were great about it, you were an angel, dad loved the joke."
"Oh, did he?"
"He told me he did it; He said he was a genius. "
"If the joke was great, it was very smart, it's separate from whether we liked it or not."
Simmons is philosophical about his frequent appearances in Dunham's work. "Writers and artists use their parents as their subject. They extract the family history to understand who they are. I did a lot in my own work, so I feel like I can not understand your case. But, on the other hand, I do not like to be teased and Instagrammed so much, "she says, withdrawing dinner.
The studio is full of the framed art of the Dunham brothers since childhood. Dunham's younger sister, Grace, now Cyrus, is a 26-year-old trans writer who lives in Los Angeles and starred in Tiny furniture. (Cyrus prefers they/they pronouns.) "They have a book that will be released next year," says Dunham and jokes, something like everyone is about to discover who the real talent of the family is. In his memoirs of 2014, Dunham describes having gone to his mother for her sister, who was not quite ready to share. In the book, Dunham also describes with curiosity how he explored the genitals of his 1-year-old sister at the age of 7, which became a right-wing obsession that Dunham describes as "painful, insane and terrifying" for the family. Even now, when some people attack Dunham, they call her a child molester.
Este año, Simmons realizó un nuevo trabajo sobre el género y fotografió a Cyrus como parte del proyecto. A Lena no le gustaba quedarse al margen, a pesar de no ser un ajuste natural para el tema. "Te obligué a hacerme", le dice Dunham a su madre. "Tiré muy duro. Yo estaba como, 'no quiero que me dejen fuera de esto' ".
Dunham me lleva a su habitación y cierra la puerta. Ella acaba de comenzar a quedarse en esta habitación, que está al otro lado del pasillo en la que solía quedarse todo el tiempo con Antonoff. Su habitación está llena de bolsas de maquillaje de plástico rosa brillante, una bolsa de aros dorados de Jennifer Fisher y medallones de la enfermedad: un Biomat 7000MX (la almohadilla de calentamiento con infusión de turmalina, alrededor de $ 1,600), además de varios frascos de pastillas. Ella explica cada una: Lyrica, un medicamento para el dolor nervioso que toma para su fibromialgia (me gustaría ser la cara de la fibromialgia, me dice); su Lexapro; un medicamento para sus glándulas suprarrenales; y la oxicodona, por el intenso dolor postoperatorio, que toma solo después de haber consultado a su terapeuta y sus padres.
Hace ocho meses, Dunham salió de debajo de un Adicción al klonopin. Antes de renunciar, tomaba cuatro miligramos prescritos de la droga al día y recuerda estar en el plató y olvidarse de comer o olvidar las palabras.
Tampoco le gustaba lo que las drogas estaban haciendo a sus relaciones. "Estuve tomando medicamentos para el dolor por un par de días después de salir del hospital", me dice, "y mi padre estaba como," Tienes una personalidad muy específica con los medicamentos. Es una mezcla de agresión y regresión ". Él estaba como," No eres amable ". Yo estaba como," Lo siento ".
Dunham quería estar libre de drogas para ingresar a un tratamiento intensivo para su trastorno de estrés postraumático no diagnosticado previamente. Ella había comenzado a experimentar ataques de pánico y depresión paralizante. Ella dice que el trastorno de estrés postraumático fue el resultado del trauma de la agresión sexual y el "trauma médico". Las citas ginecológicas fueron particularmente desencadenantes. Comenzó la terapia de exposición prolongada (y sigue acosando The New YorkerDavid Remnick le permite hacer un perfil del terapeuta que lo creó. Hasta ahora, no hay que ir. Ahora asiste a la terapia de grupo y está en comunicación con mujeres que se acercan a ella con sus propias historias sobre la dependencia de las benzodiazepinas. Ella les aconseja. "Soy una doula benzo".
Recientemente, Dunham, que se encuentra en la perimenopausia a los 32 años, ha tenido dificultades para observar a las mujeres embarazadas y los bebés recién nacidos, y especialmente a sus amigos que tienen hijos. "Siempre es como un pequeño retén en la garganta cuando lo pienso. Es todas esas cosas como el olor de un bebé recién nacido, la lactancia materna y mirar a un bebé que usted sabe que se parece a usted ”. Dunham se sienta con las piernas cruzadas en el borde de su cama sin hacer. “When I just figured out you could mute Instagram stories, it was such a fucking blessing.”
Perhaps because we’re sitting in her room like teenagers, with her mom downstairs, Dunham begins to talk about her breakup with Antonoff. They had been set up on a blind date by his sister, the designer Rachel Antonoff, and the comedian Mike Birbiglia. “Jack and I made a couple of Jewish-power-couple lists, which I was proud of,” she says. Three years ago, she wrote in The New Yorker about her expectation that they would get married.
“Our relationship probably lasted longer than it should have,” Dunham says. “He’s a very loyal person, so he was not going to bail when the going got tough. He literally held my hand while I got an enema on New Year’s Eve while his family celebrated. But when you’re sick, so much energy goes into making sure the other person is well that you’re not even noticing maybe our schedules aren’t compatible. Maybe we want different things out of our lives. Maybe we have different attitudes about what family means. Maybe these essential questions that people have to ask themselves all the time are not being asked, because we just want to make sure that I don’t pass out at the grocery store.”
They officially broke up a month after her hysterectomy. It was a mutual decision, she tells me. The breakup felt real to Dunham only when she saw the announcement on E! and paparazzi showed up at her home. She has processed her feelings publicly; her 5.6 million followers saw her tweet out a list of baby names she wrote with Antonoff in 2015. (“Hey @jackantonoff I just found a potential baby name list we made in 2015. I could definitely keep this private, but then the world wouldn’t know that you suggested ‘Carrot’ over and over … Love u!!!”)
“I still think it’s funny,” she says. After the list went out, she called Antonoff a few times and he didn’t pick up right away. (He was in the studio). When he got back to her, he said, “No, it’s funny.” “He knows that being the hysterical ex-girlfriend is kinda like the weirdest, funniest, public performance.” But it hurts, too, she admits. It hurts looking at his new girlfriend’s Instagram stories (Antonoff is reportedly dating model Carlotta Kohl). “I thought I was kind of proving weird girls can have love too. And now he’s dating somebody who looks regular and normal and like girls are supposed to look.”
It also hurt when it was heavily rumored that Antonoff had very quickly started dating Dunham’s close friend Lorde, whose last album he’d produced. Antonoff defended himself, tweeting that the rumors were “dumb heteronormative gossip,” but it didn’t help that Lorde sat on his lap during the Brooklyn stop of her tour or that both discussed their late-night cereal binges and daily FaceTime sessions on various nightly talk shows and in magazines. Someone even created an obsessively researched viral PowerPoint presentation that made a near-airtight case for Antonoff’s cheating on Dunham. “Actually, I completely respect this girl, because she did a very good job and she was very funny,” says Dunham. But in the bigger picture, “it was so embarrassing,” she says, closing her eyes. “It was awful because I felt like a weird — ” She cuts herself off. “I don’t think anything happened between them. I can never know someone else’s life. I have never spoken to Ella [Lorde] acerca de eso We haven’t talked since Jack and I broke up. It was awful, and I couldn’t do anything about it except trust that what he was saying to me was true.”
For several months, Dunham has been very casually seeing an artist she met through mutual friends. She remembers, right after the hysterectomy, crying to Jemima Kirke, “Who’s gonna want to date me? I have PTSD and no uterus.” Kirke’s answer: “A soldier who hates condoms.” After many months of not being this way, sex is now pain free, and without having that fear or hope of getting pregnant, Dunham describes sex as more chill, “like an intimate high-five.”
But a week later, she’ll text me on a Sunday night, while she’s listening to Robyn’s new album, Honey (the title song first appeared in Girls’ final season), “Robyn is how Jack and I connected 6.5 years ago (technically 6 years 6 months and 5 days … but who is counting?).” She was living with her parents and would call him while he was on tour, from the baby-pink landline in her room. Even now, “Sometimes when I’m worked up, I’ll text him a pic I took of my legs while we talked on the phone” during that initial first blush of their relationship.
Dunham’s split with Konner seems harder to process than the one with Antonoff. The women had an intensely close friendship, which they often described in interviews as co-dependent. Others told me Konner was like Dunham’s “mom.” Her phone, Dunham jokes, is full of photos of herself and Konner still, as if they were married. The loafers she is wearing in Connecticut were a Christmas present from Konner. Last month, Lenny Letter announced it would cease publication. It was a portmanteau of their names (Jenni plus Lena), so it made sense that it couldn’t survive their split. The only times Dunham gets uncharacteristically tight-lipped are when I ask questions about Konner. When she starts her answers, they are usually hedged with “All I will say is” or “I don’t want to speak for Jenni.” It seems there was no explosive breaking point but rather a slow dissolution. People who are close to both of them say they are no longer friends.
Dunham seems to shoulder the blame. “Maybe my illness made me impossible to be close to, maybe my fame made me impossible to be close to … I’ll work that stuff out in the future, but I was not operating in healthy relationship to the people closest to me.” She began her PTSD treatment while Camping was in production, leaving Konner to take care of the show.
“Now she doesn’t have to absorb whatever bullshit I tweet that day,” Dunham says. “Whatever I do doesn’t have to now be hers, which, I’m sure I’d imagine if I were her, would be a relief.”
Recently, Dunham has come to a realization that other people came to a while ago: “Yeah, I’m not for everyone.” She’s doing her best to be quieter. She skipped the Camping premiere, owing to her health, she said. She was meant to be on a New Yorker Festival panel in October with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom and Kristen Roupenian, the author of “Cat Person.” She canceled on the day of, again citing health. While Simmons remains an active member of Time’s Up, Dunham has decided to step back. “My voice isn’t needed,” she says simply, a sentence she might never have uttered before. She’s still friends with Taylor Swift, which surprises even her. She has a new plan to go to parties only if they have no more than five other people. She doesn’t plan to quit Instagram, however, no matter how many people on the internet tell her she should. “I’m like, ‘Bitch, you get 3 million followers, then delete you account.”
She also got an apartment in the West Village. “My whole identity was, like, Brooklyn, and now I’m like, Thank you, Lord. I’m back amongst my tribe, which is like old people puttering around the health-food store. If I never see another fucking person in a cool sack dress with their baby again … I just wanna live around old people who are not reminding me every day of my infertility and loneliness. A lot of the stuff that happened last year couldn’t have happened if I was happy in my life, right?” she says. “It was almost like I was throwing a match, burning it down.”
It was always impossible to separate Hannah Horvath from Lena Dunham, the creator. Plots were pulled directly from her life, after all. But Dunham says she’s not doing anything that channels herself again — though she did give Camping’s main character a history of gynecological surgeries and chronic pain culminating in a total hysterectomy. Her new plan, she swears, is to be a conduit for other people’s stories that focus on themes she’s often thinking about. She’s also working with friends, like Nicole Richie, to help them develop their own writing.
“All I would tell her is to not try to do everything. Not have to say everything or react instantly,” Remnick says. “For the sake of her own work and the sake of her own ability to live in this world.”
She has signed a solo two-year deal with HBO and is working on an adaptation of “Anna Delvey, German Princess,” a scammer story based on a Vanity Fair article. (Shonda Rhimes is also doing an Anna Delvey project, based on a New York article, that will air on Netflix.) She’s got plans to adapt the YA novel Catherine, Called Birdy. She has a role in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Charles Manson film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. the Daily mail ran a picture from the set: Dunham lifting up her dress, inadvertently revealing her massive thigh tattoo — and underwear — to Brad Pitt.
She’s also adapting a true-life story, A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, about Doaa Al Zamel, a Syrian refugee who was stranded in the Mediterranean. The film is being produced by J. J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg. It seems like a fairly extreme version of attempting to get outside her own perspective in her art — there are smaller steps she could have taken first. But she tells me she has a multipoint plan to avoid stepping into it again. She is working with Al Zamel, her translator, and Melissa Fleming, who wrote the book. She’ll go to Sweden in December (health allowing), to spend time with Al Zamel, and to an undisclosed location with the U.N. Refugee Agency. She hopes to work with collaborators of Syrian ancestry, and of course all of Dunham’s fees from the film will go to organizations dealing with the Syrian crisis. She hasn’t announced all of this yet because the plans are still in the works.
But she did announce the news of the adaptation in late October, and, as if on cue, Lena Dunham was trending.
*This article appears in the November 26, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!