Lena Dunham Speaketh the Truth: Talking About Your Dog in Polite Company Is Just Bad Manners


When Lena Dunham’s new advice book/memoir/diary finally reaches the masses, it will most likely serve as a handbook for modern living. Everyone will finally get an uninhibited glimpse into the mind of Lena Dunham. What does she eat when it’s cold? When it’s hot? Does she have a special name for those rubber shoes old people and toddlers wear when they wade into the ocean? What is her opinion on our foreign space policy? Should we kill all the aliens or try to make friends?

These are a few of the questions Dunham will have to answer in Not That Kind of Girl, which should have several follow-up editions if only because there are simply too many topics to cover in a single volume. One very important topic, however, has been dispensed with in the latest issue of the New Yorker: dogs, but, more specifically, the procuring and discussing thereof.

Dogs, Dunham explains, are a personal matter, and talking about them in polite company is a social taboo on par with describing a mole on one’s inner thigh and asking whether or not, based on the description, it sounds like melanoma:

I also realize that writing about dogs is a very tricky business. It’s nearly impossible to do without some simpering sentimentality. In a dream world, you write about your dog and you’re J. R. Ackerley. Or perhaps your words will have the droopy intelligence of a Thurber dog. Jo Ann Beard’s essay “The Fourth State of Matter,” a stunning account of a mass shooting in an academic community and its surreal aftermath, describes a dying dog with such eloquent precision that you can see every heartbreaking curve of his body, feel every labored breath, and you reflect on how we all fit together as a mesh of messy creation. But, more often, you’re writing “Beethoven.” “Marley and Me” if you’re lucky.
The same caveats apply to conversation about dogs. Just discussing your dog can be as tiresome and offensive as talking about the weather, your own dreams, or the newest wrinkle in your married sex life. At least when people talk about their children, there is a chance that the kid will grow up to be President.

Besides, every dog conversation amounts to the same thing: dogs are cute, aren’t they cute? My dog is cute this way, your dog is cute that way. Listen to this stupid thing my dog did — isn’t that cute? Aw, your dog ate a whole tray of brownies and got a tummy ache because it’s stupid and cute? Wonderful.

A Box of Puppies [New Yorker]

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