This is what Miranda July said about the interview with Lena Dunham:
A couple of weeks ago, Lena Dunham and I met for dinner. As soon as we'd placed our orders at a French-ish café in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles, we plunged into a conversation about love between girls—both platonic and romantic. I began to describe my first real relationship, which was with a girl, and Lena immediately asked, "How did you feel about her vagina?" A few days later, I was telling this to an old friend, and the old friend said, "I've known you for 20 years and I've never thought to ask you that. . . How did you feel about her vagina?" Of course, Lena always goes straight for the most interesting thing, the thing you really want to know, even if it seems too intimate or too silly or too gross. Other things that might be considered too intimate/silly/gross: Lena's normal-looking thighs. And stomach. Self-empowerment through self-degradation. The stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms. Or pretty much anything on her half-hour TV series Girls, the second season of which recently began airing on HBO.
I want to take a moment to point out the manner in which Lena asked me the vagina question: She asked it seriously, her two adorably big front teeth momentarily hidden by the earnest line of her lips. I felt like my answer was going to be the most important thing anyone had ever said. This, in case you don't know, isn't particular to Lena—this is how girls talk to one another when they really like each other, endlessly pushing deeper with growing boldness. This is why women have to talk to each other so much and for so long; it is simply more satisfying than other things—exactly in the way that Girls is more satisfying than a lot of other shows. No other show makes us (and by "us" I mean us girls and the show's considerable male viewership—56 percent of the audience that watched the series premiere last April were men) feel so buzzed and almost uncomfortable with excitement. "What is this new feeling?" we ask ourselves. "It's like I'm high on a drug I never knew existed." It turns out that this is how it feels when concerns that have historically been considered too intimate/silly/gross—too female—are publicly treated with serious attention by a very skilled artist. The huge skills, along with her totally unedgy good will, are why Lena can be so radical and so mainstream at the same time. She's a real writer, has a thrilling sense of timing, and her casting (Adam Driver, Jemima Kirke) is a gift to us all. And I also happen to know from intel on the crew that she has no problem saying, "Uh, no thank you" when her executive producer, Judd Apatow, makes a suggestion that she doesn't think works.
People love the mythology of talent popping up fully formed out of nowhere. How could Lena's first feature, Tiny Furniture (2010), be so good—so zingy and perfectly executed? She must be a genius! Or: nepotism! The truth is less exciting and doesn't let your lazy ass off the hook: Tiny Furniture was Lena's second feature—the first was Creative Nonfiction (2009), and no, it's not quite as good. She had to work to figure it out. And Girls? Not her first multi-episode series either—and not even her first show about girls in New York. Lena's web series, Delusional Downtown Divas, launched on Index magazine's site in 2009 and ran for 20 episodes over two seasons. The kooky, campy divas make the privileged Girls girls look like everywomen. I'm not saying that Lena's ascent has not been quick—my neck hurts from looking up so fast. But this is the kind of woman who is so relentlessly diligent that she makes us formerly-perceived-as-productive people have to rethink our whole approach. My answer to Lena's question at dinner? Terrific. I felt terrific about it. I thought of it as a warm Danish from an expensive pastry shop.
Lena and I did this interview over the phone a couple of days before Christmas. She was in L.A. and pushed the time of our call by 30 minutes so she could get acupuncture; I was in a house in the mountains and pushed it another 15 minutes so I could finish feeding sweet potatoes to my son.
MIRANDA JULY: I have a baby on my hip, so I need a minute.
LENA DUNHAM: Of course! Hi, Hopper!
JULY: "Hi. Lena!" He's actually talking a lot now.
DUNHAM: Is he really? What kinds of sounds has he been making?
DUNHAM: Oh my god—I just heard one!
JULY: That was a laugh.
DUNHAM: I just heard what sounded like an adult giggle!
JULY: Yeah, exactly.
DUNHAM: So cute! Sorry I'm late. My acupuncturist pushed everything a half an hour, and he has me convinced that if I don't do acupuncture, then something terrible is going to befall me.
JULY: He's probably right.
DUNHAM: I brought Jack [Antonoff]—who you did see on Sunset Boulevard, by the way.
DUNHAM: Yes. I told him and he said, "I thought I saw her in a car and that I was imagining it."
JULY: That's such a trip to me because, I mean, I've only googled him once.
DUNHAM: That makes me think that you're like some kind of super-recognizer.
JULY: The thing is that he was wearing really bright clothes. I somehow saw that in that instant, and I was like, "Would Jack wear clothes that bright?" Then I was like, "How would I know?"
DUNHAM: It's funny that you say that because he's been wearing these neon sneakers, and he told me that they were supposed to be a one-time statement, but now they've become an everyday staple. He's really upset about it.
JULY: Well, if he hadn't been wearing bright clothes, then I probably wouldn't have noticed him.
DUNHAM: So then I brought him to acupuncture, and I was like, "The acupuncturist is going to let you know that you've really been burning the candle at both ends and it's been a rough scene." He told Jack that he had too much energy and not enough places to put it, and then he told me I had so little energy that I almost had no pulse, so I was sort of pissed at the situation.
JULY: You should just suck out some of Jack's energy.
JULY: Not through his penis, though. That's not what I meant.
DUNHAM: By the way, as we're talking, if there's anything that we don't want to say in the interview, then you can always say, "Off the record." You can say, "I would say, off the record . . . Okay, back on the record!"
JULY: Right, you have to remember to say, "Back on the record," or there's no interview.
DUNHAM: Yes. Otherwise, they can't publish anything you've said after "off the record."
JULY: From now on forever.
Article: Miranda July
Photographer: Gregory Harris