On a Sunday morning at Soho House, the West Hollywood outpost of the posh members-only club for creatives, Dunham and I search for a table in the buzzing dining room. We’ve already rejected the garden area, which threatened to erupt into live jazz at any minute. We could wait for a hostess, but instead Dunham sidles right up to the bar in her tan Ugg boots, heather gray sweats, and Fair Isle cardigan. “Hiiiiii,” she says in a bright, cheery tone, followed by a honeyed but firm request to be seated, her unwavering eye contact reaching state diplomacy levels. We’re led to a lovely perch by the windows. But when the waiter doesn’t visit fast enough, she’s back up to the bar. “Hiiiiii,” she says, before sweetly demanding that he come by quick.
To me, she says, “I’ve always done this. I learned it from my Jewish mother. I didn’t start doing this when I got famous or anything.”
Dunham tosses this off nonchalantly, but there’s a perverse thrill to it, this mentioning of her celebrity. She was perfectly polite to everyone, but realizes how close she veered to the diva celebrity cliché (and being a diva to service-industry people is the rankest of diva sins). Instead of letting it quietly gain traction, she calls it out. This is peak Dunham. Naming the chafing spots that happen in everyday interactions is her favorite sport. The trivial, the gauche, the downright forbidden—she loves all of her awkward children. Part of the game is that she recognizes you’ve noticed it, too, and she’s already one step ahead of you by having the audacity to name it.