Are You There Judd Apatow? It’s Me, Wendy

That Judd Apatow contacted twenty-four year old Lena Dunham, after watching her first indie film and asked her if she would like to write her own television series, is the best and worst story I have ever heard. Lena is crazy talented and it’s amazing that her genius can be funneled into meaningful artistic expression, instead of having it drained in the process of trying to find an agent, an audience and a boyfriend. Her voice is raw and connective and powerful and it deserves to be heard without the dilution of struggle.

 As someone who lacks all schmoozing abilities, though, stories like Lena’s are dangerous for me. I have so many ideas, so many things I want to say and produce, but my ability to market myself is about as strong as Snooki’s birth control. Stories like these nurture my complacency, telling me that if I am meant to be a successful writer, it will happen without my doing.  They give me an excuse to hold onto my weaknesses like a ratty security blanket, laying it atop my ambition and sense of reality. I have no idea how to create my own opportunities, so instead I dream of being discovered, I fantasize about success finding me, instead of my having to go through the necessary process of self-affirmation and actualization. I dream about getting an email from Judd Apatow. I can only assume that he hasn’t gotten in touch with me because he’s had difficulty finding my contact info. That’s a failure on my part. Judd’s busy and I should have made myself more accessible (you can reach me at, Mr. Apatow. Sorry for the inconvenience.)

Things like this generally don’t happen, though. People don’t get Imaned, discovered by a photographer on the streets of Kenya and launched into supermodel stardom. People don’t get unsolicited emails from famous directors/producers offering them a network television show. Except they do. It happened to Dunham. It’s hard not to carry around this bite-sized nugget of hope that you’ll be one of those people whose story gets repeated in front of an incredulous late night talk show audience. It’s especially hard when you have as much in common with Dunham as I do.  

For starters, Dunham grew up in what she describes as a “niche artistic world in Tribeca” with creative parents who considered self-expression paramount. I grew up in Thornhill, a white, middle-class suburb of Toronto, saturated with doctors, lawyers and accountants, with parents who also valued self-expression, so long as it didn’t conflict with my Hebrew homework.

As a child, Dunham was babysat by NYU drama students with whom she would run lines to help them prepare for Les Misérables casting calls. I was babysat by the local paperboy who my mother thinks may have touched me inappropriately. We’re not really sure.  

Dunham, who is naked for much of the first season of Girls, says she’s not really self-conscious about her body. I have difficulty changing in front of my overweight cat while she is sleeping. 

Dunham has multiple, prominent tattoos of children’s storybook characters across her body. I have thought about getting a tattoo AND I have read children’s storybooks.

Dunham doesn’t like to read reviews about her work. I don’t have any reviews of my work to read.

Crazy, right!? We’re practically doppelgangers. It’s no wonder her voice resonates with me so deeply.

Despite these parallels, it was a story Dunham told on a Bill Simmons’ podcast that I feel most reverberating in my chest:  [] It turns out Lena and I have the most fundamental thing in common, so elemental is it that it renders our other similarities almost superficial. She describes to Bill the excitement that ensued after the success of Girls’ premiere. “You have all this wonderful stuff going on and you feel so lucky to be in the position you are in,” she says, and after the show came out, two days later, all she felt was upset that the guy who inspired the lead male’s role hadn’t texted her to say ‘good job.’ “That is the darkest part of our human selves that does this,” continues Dunham, “so that a boy who hurts our feelings, will text and say ‘good job.’”

It strikes me that no matter where or how we grew up, whether or not we have tattoos, no matter how much success we achieve or how brave we are in telling our truths, we all want to be seen. We all want to be loved. We all want the boy who hurt us to text us. A text like that shouldn’t mean more than one from Judd Apatow, but somehow, it always does.   

I am not sexy and confident like Dunham. I am not as young or as beautiful or as comfortable in my own skin as she is. I am not as edgy or as funny, as talented, as capable or as lucky as she is. But I do know what it’s like to use one’s flawed self as a canvas, to want to write something so achingly honest  and to be understood, accepted and loved beacuse of that honesty. I know what it’s like to be willing to risk heartache in pursuit of a dream. I know what it’s like to obsessively refresh one’s phone, checking for mail.

I hope that’s enough to make good art, whether or not it is ever discovered. I hope the boy who hurt me will text me anyway, regardless of what I make.