What Lena Dunham Taught Me About “Sunshine Stealers” And Why I Can’t Wait To Read Her Book

Last night, Amelia and I went to see David Sedaris and Lena Dunham read their work at Carnegie Hall. Surprise guest Zadie Smith introduced them and David announced that his sister Amy Sedaris was in the audience, which means that pretty much all of my idols were in one concert hall, so I could have just died right there in my nosebleed balcony seat and all would have been right with the world. From Sedaris, who I’ve seen read before, I got what I expected: wit, brilliance and quirk. He read his most recent piece published in The New Yorker about his sister’s suicide. If you haven’t already read it, please do.

From Dunham, I wasn’t sure what to expect writing-wise. I knew she was paid an absurd $3.7 million to pen a book of essays — an amount which makes it near-impossible for any writer to live up to. After hearing a few selections from her forthcoming book, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, here’s what I learned: that woman can write like a motherfucker (as Cheryl Strayed would say). The book going to be a memorable read because she has something to say. Is it worth $500 a word? That’s not for me to judge. But I will be purchasing it.

Since I wasn’t crazy enough to record and transcribe major chunks of her unpublished work (that seems like a violation of writer code), I will have to tell you about my favorite bit from memory. The thing Dunham read that struck me the most was a piece about how she can’t wait until she’s 80 so she can out all the slimy men who foisted themselves upon her in her first year of superstardom. “Sunshine stealers,” is what Dunham and her partner Jenni Konner have taken to calling this special breed of  Hollywood man who is slightly past his prime, doesn’t want to fuck you physically, but wants to pillage and plunder your creativity. These men want to feed off your ideas, your un-jaded enthusiasm, take you under their wing as a protege, call you at 2 a.m. to talk, remind you how grateful you should be that they’re paying you so much attention and maybe make an off-handed sexual comment or a pass at you if the mood strikes them. Dunham’s essay focused on what she learned from dealing with these “sunshine stealers.” Spoiler: she didn’t let them steal her sunshine. Instead, she made a vow to herself to “never be vengeful or jealous of the old or the new” and to wake up “wide as a daisy every day and make her work.”

Sage wisdom, I think. You don’t have to be famous to come across “sunshine stealers”–  in your life or you career. I’ve encountered them, you’ve encountered them, we all have. The inspiring thought here is that the only way to protect yourself against having your sunshine robbed, is to remain open, wondrous and unjaded to the world around you. And the most powerful antidote to “sunshine stealers” is to wake up every day and keep chipping away at life, regardless of what or who tries to derail.