I don’t know what compelled me to save every email I received from Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter. I really don’t. My inbox is littered with some 200 newsletters dating back to the spring of 2017 when an equally mysterious force compelled me to subscribe. I’ll miss the subject lines most.
Essays on Lenny typically fell somewhere between artful and gratingly pretentious, not unlike Dunham herself, although most of the content was probably more pretentious than artful. The website shuttered formally on Friday, and its proprietors remained rather coy about why.
Back to those subject lines. I counted on them. They were hilarious. Some of my favorites include: “Deep Soul Hugs From Mother Earth,” “Treat Your Bod Like a Horse,” “A Witch Cured My Full-Body Meltdown,” “Omnisexual Before It Was Cool,” “Do Orcas Have Hot Flashes?” “Cecile Richards Finally Takes a Vacation,” “Learning to Love My Hairy Arms,” “I Prayed That Masturbation Wouldn’t Turn Me Into a Leper,” “Drowning In Estrogen,” “I Trapped My Grandmother’s Ghost in a Box,” “The Ravages of Negligent Moisturizing,” “My Coven Conjures the Best in Me,” and, of course, “I Ate Cold Cuts Almost Exclusively.”
In retrospect, my Lenny archive actually seems like something of a historical record. The vacillation between self-deprecation and self-importance is classic Dunham. For all her insufferable ravings, Dunham’s flashes of self-awareness have produced some of the wokest critiques of millennial feminism this decade. “Girls” was brilliant. Lenny usually wasn’t.
That’s the mystery of Lena Dunham. Sometimes she’s smart, sometimes she’s unbearable. Sometimes she’s both. It’s what explains the seductiveness of Lenny’s subject lines, which invited you to discover by way of a quick click-and-scroll whether to laugh at or with them. I just can’t tell if Dunham and her coterie of fourth-wave personal essayists always knew that.
I’m sad to see Lenny fade into the night. Sure, it pumped a robust stream of rambling feminist drivel onto the Internet. But I think Lenny understood that, at least sometimes. So I wanted more, if only to figure it all out.
By the way, please don’t trap your grandmother’s ghost in a box, treat your bod like a horse, or eat cold cuts almost exclusively. Do, however, pay close attention to the ravages of negligent moisturizing. That advice is sound.