I should be packing for holiday which I am going on in two hours, but I’m still so buzzed from last night that I have to post.
A couple of months ago, my BFF and I started on an epic journey to get tickets for the Lena Dunham book launch at the Royal Festival Hall. I booked out some time in my work calendar and furiously refreshed the booking website, only to find myself 6ooth-ish in the queue. Sigh. I settled in to wait watching the numbers very slowly tick down, and then got a text from Tim telling me that he’d somehow beaten me to the front of the queue. That’s the bloody patriarchy for you.
Halloween found us sat in the sold out hall – a member of staff had told Tim that we were lucky to get tickets so I was super excited. The event was initially billed as a conversation between Lena and the legendary Caitlin Moran with the addition of a book signing afterwards. That was shelved a couple of days before which I was quite relieved about – looking around the hall, I couldn’t imagine how they could possibly have managed a signing. There were 2500 of us there – how did they ever think we could all get through a signing?
We had a couple of odd moment when we were collecting our books from outside the hall, which has nothing to do with the evening but I feel like they need to be documented. There was a guy at the table saying to the staff “Oh, so are these free books?” and they were desperately trying to shoo him away. We grabbed ours and took them over to the bar to photograph (of course) and his friend came up to us demanding to know how she could get a copy. It was really weird, and even weirder when she took Tim’s book to rifle through. YOU’RE NOT GETTING A FREE BOOK! This is the moment I thought Tim had lost his book forever.
Weirdness aside, we took our dead-centre seats towards the middle of the auditorium and waited giddily (to be fair, that was me). Caitlin came out first, and gave a very loving and reverential speech.
When she introduced Lena, I felt excitement bubble up inside me. Of course I’d been excited for weeks, but this was finally it, and I turned to Tim to say “ooo, I think I’m getting overwhelmed” (he could tell). I appreciate that as a white privileged feminist, she is ‘problematic’ for some people, but at her core, she is a young female writer which is something I desperately wanted to be in my youth. She is living my dream, so to see her on stage in front of me was incredible.
She read a chapter from her book (“Sex Scenes, Nude Scenes, and Publicly Sharing Your Body”) and she reads with such grace and elegance – she’s so incredibly well-spoken. I’m so glad I heard her read because I’m now hearing the book in my head in her voice when I read, with all her beautiful stress and intonation.
After the reading, Lena sat down with Caitlin for a good old chat. She was delighted that Caitlin had invited Miranda Hart and various Midwives because it’s one of her favourite TV shows (I’m sorry Midwives, I don’t watch your show so I can’t remember your names). She was also really pleased that Sarah Millican was there and said she was going to look into her brand of comedy. It was quite sweet, knowing that these British female ‘celebrities’ were just as excited to be there as we were. (Richard E Grant was there as well, and a writer from the Guardian who I frustratingly cannot find the name of, plus numerous others I expect).
Lena started off telling us about her day – filming with Jennifer Saunders for Newsnight. Jennifer was mentioned a few times and she’s an idol of Lena’s – she loves characters where there is a gap between how they see themselves and how they are which is clearly Edina Monsoon all over. Caitlin then went on to diagnose her with hypermobility and listed symptoms such as an inability to walk in heels and bad reaction to alcohol – I’ll be honest, I did start thinking those symptoms were basically me, so now I have something else to research online. Caitlin Moran MD indeed.
The issue of how she is supposed to represent every woman was discussed a lot. She’s expressed frustration at being vilified for various different things, and how she could never get away with being wasted on a golf cart in an airport like a young actor she once saw on the way to SXSW. The criticism and intrusion she has received is completely ridiculous, the notion that she is purposefully trying to ruin people’s days by wearing ‘awful’ clothes on the red carpet (dresses which I thought were fabulous), the whole intention behind “What was she thinking?!?” as if she is only wearing clothes in some kind of competition with other actors.
She is obviously very aware about the criticism around race, but explained that she can only tell her story and then pave the way for other women to tell theirs which is absolutely true – she only has her version of reality but knows that other women are better placed to show theirs. She said she wasn’t born knowing everything, and is grateful that so many people have opened her eyes, and if she was the one to start this conversation, she’s happy for that. The question that was asked by an audience member about representation of people of colour in Girls wasn’t shyed away from but was discussed in a dignified and eloquent way. Kudos.
It was a largely white female audience which I guess was too be expected. Husband was concerned for Tim that he’d be overcome with oestrogen but I think he coped ok, despite being hit with a jigsaw and breasts on the way out of the venue. (Sidenote – I’m so incredibly proud that my BFF is a feminist – there needs to be more men like him). Some people came in costume including a two separate Mario’s for some reason, but there was no Halloween rowdiness. The audience was very respectful and eager to listen to everything she had to say – I usually end up sat near chatty, noisy people, but the only time the girls next to me got overexcited was when Lena was talking about her friendship with Taylor Swift (they were big fans). I think I was the noisy one after dropping a packet of popping candy that Tim had given me. The shame. At the end, she received a standing ovation and I was beyond inspired and empowered. Cannot wait for the new series.
Embarrassingly, after a late dinner at the BFI, we were walking back to Waterloo passed Canteen which is one of our favourite restaurants. I was waving hello at Canteen (because why wouldn’t I) when Tim pointed out Caitlin Moran was sat in the window. I then continued waving like a nut because my mind stopped working – we could have ate in the same place as Caitlin! I sincerely hope she didn’t think I was waving like a demented person at her. Although, is waving at a restaurant better?
This has turned out to be a bit of a gushing fangirl review, but I can’t help it – I loved everything about last night. Lena was so heartwarmingly endearing and Caitlin knew all the best questions to ask. I desperately want to know what shoes she was wearing because I want them, and I can’t wait to read her book this week. I didn’t quite *meet* an idol last night, but I was just 36 rows away from her and that will do for me.