Last night I watched Lady Bird. We had to drive to the next town over, but we paired it with Laotian food (boba tea, Sai Oua, and the noodle soup special of the day) and a stop for grocery store candy bars, instead of movie candy, and a beer afterward.
I felt emotionally wrecked driving away from the theater. The beer helped a little. The Olympic women’s cross country skiing event helped more, I think. The release of adrenaline.
Why aren’t there more movies like this? Why weren’t there movies like this in 2002? I grew up with Heathers, Clueless, 10 Things I Hate about You, Mean Girls. Funny, memorable films, but nothing like Lady Bird with a character that is complex and vulnerable, open. With a story that didn’t culminate in boy loves girl, but in girl loves girl (self) and all the people that have contributed to self (best friend, parents, hometown). There’s been nothing like this before, where the girl retreats, but then reaches out, pulling everything in her universe closer to her. Sustaining herself on all that’s been good and reliable and strong. It made me feel happy for her and happy for the world we live in that this story can be told now, told well, told to open, accepting audiences.
Nothing was wrong in the film, nothing was traumatizing. The mother/daughter relationship was real, was full. The teenage girl was self-absorbed but was conflicted, trying to sort out, who am I and who are you? Where does that edge live? Support, safety, hope.
And it made me sad, made me cry, feeling that sureness, that vein of solidarity throughout the film that I felt, still feel, was missing from my life. That feeling of, if only you had grown up with a catcher, with someone to catch you if you fell. With some trust. You should be able to go through life with some bumpers. You should be able to spiral outside of yourself and trust that you will bounce back, off of someone who loves you and wants you to be the best version of yourself. Anyone–friend, parent, teacher, sibling.
That was the difference I always felt. The separation between me and them. The kids at school. The customers in the grocery store. They grew up with nets, with bumpers. I felt like I was careening through the sea, “decks awash.”
Alone. I felt terribly, incredibly alone.
And I wanted to grab my housemate after and shake him and tell him, you are my parent now. My mother, my best friend, my net. You catch me when I start to fall. You help me step out of harm’s way. You want me to be okay, but you’re not forcing me to be okay. You reach for me, but you don’t hold me, don’t keep me. You are my bumper. You let me bounce away, bounce back.
I feel safe and steady now. I can see the shore.