It’s been a while since I posted on this blog – not because I haven’t seen any great theatre or created any work or read any great books or written anything worthwhile or because nothing’s inspired me lately. Quite the opposite, in fact. Since the last time I published a post, I’ve seen some incredibly inspiring work – Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks, created by my incredibly talented friends Sarah Hanly (writer/performer) and Alice Fitzgerald (director) which I have now seen twice at TheatreN16 and Leicester Square Theatre, Ballistic at Jackson’s Lane which has now transferred to King’s Head Theatre, #Hashtag Lightie at The Arcola, and Twilight Los Angeles, 1992 at The Gate. I’ve read some great books – Yrsa Daley-Ward’s poetry collection Bone and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas being my 2018 favourites so far. I’m halfway through Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened at the moment and loving it. Since my last post I’ve started a theatre company, Snapper Theatre and mounted our debut production, Lobster by Lucy Foster at Theatre 503 and performed my own solo show Hear Me Out at Herstory Feminist Theatre Festival. I won the October Genesis Slam and competed in the finals in December. I danced at my cousin’s wedding in Texas. My mother moved abroad. My depression got worse. I started seeing someone. It snowed. Life got in the way. This may not be a triumphant return to regular posting, but I wanted to write about Lady Bird.
After having the busiest of busy months, during which I had close to zero time to watch any theatre, see my friends or boyfriend, hang out with my dog or even simply look after myself properly, I finally had a whole day to myself. I didn’t clean the house, or apply for jobs, or call my grandmother, or do any of the things I’ve been putting off for five weeks. Instead, I went to see Lady Bird with my friend. I’m going to struggle to write coherently about this movie, so instead, here are collection of somewhat incoherent thoughts I had whilst watching it (spoilers galore):
Lady Bird made me nostalgic for my adolescence in both warm and bitter ways. I was a self-destructive teenager, battling with severe depression and body image issues and a broken family. I kept thinking about the towering stack of diaries I have on top of my bookshelf and how similar some of my thoughts at that age were to Lady Bird’s. At 17, I was desperate for acceptance, desperate to be ‘cool’, desperate to be thin and pretty like the Jenna Waltons of my own school. I was desperate to go to Sarah Lawrence in New York and be a writer. I was desperate for more than the EVERYTHING my parents had already worked to give me. I made bad decisions. No, I made terrible decisions. I would definitely not have been badass enough to throw away my teacher’s gradebook because I was failing math (I was failing math for a long time). I might have once or twice ditched a close friend for the chance to hang out with someone cooler than us. I would totally have gone weak at the knees for the pretentious twat she sleeps with. I mean, just look at him:
Everyone knew boys like this in high school. When Lady Bird goes to a party at her rich friend’s house (mansion) she finds floppy-haired Kyle on his own across the pool, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and reading Socialist literature (he bent the spine all the way back which DRoVe mE mAD). He says things like “I hate money” and “You’re deciding to be upset”. But by the end of the movie, Lady Bird has learned not to compromise her own identity and self-worth for dudes like this. It took me five years to learn the same lesson. The moral of the story here is that teenagers are stupid as hell. But it’s those stupid decisions and ideas that make us better people in the long run. On the bus home last night, I kept thinking about things I did as a teenager, and how much I learned from them without even realising it. That dirtbag snobs like Kyle make you feel stupid on purpose, for example. That nobody can be good at everything and that not being good at math and science has not once held me back since leaving high school. That I am absolutely terrified of having children because if they are half as rebellious as I was, I’m in trouble.
I want to give a quick mention here to the importance of female friendships, as shown through Lady Bird’s relationship with her long-time best friend Julie. Their friendship warmed my heart and reminded me of how my friendships with women changed through my adolescence. I had some friendships with girls as a teenager that burned bright for a short time – girls I called my ‘best friend’ for a few months or a year, who I eventually fell out with, or simply realised were not great friends for me. One ‘best friend’ I had at around age 16 found a new best friend one day out of the blue, and after not seeing her for a while I realised she had only kept me around because I made her feel better about herself – thinner, prettier, cooler, more intelligent – while she only made me feel more insecure. Another ‘best friend’ I had at around age 17 fell out with me over a boy, and despite the fact that I did nothing wrong, continued to spread vicious rumours about me to mutual friends and strangers throughout our university years (she has since apologised for this, and we’re ok now). Lady Bird’s friendships with Jenna vs. Julie made me think a lot about how I viewed my friendships with women as a teenager, and the toxic ways that young women are pitted against each other. I hold nothing against the ‘best friends’ who dropped me as a teenager. I’m sure that I wasn’t a great friend to them either. I constantly felt in competition with my friends, for popularity, grades, academic/extra-curricular achievements, and the attention of boys. It is one of my greatest regrets that I felt this way. I wonder how much better a friend I could have been without that nasty, insecure streak. Anyway, the purpose of this incoherent ramble about female friendships was Lady Bird’s friendship with Julie and how, after months apart, they just snapped back together like nothing had happened at all – just how grateful this made me for my own female friends. My oldest best friend from high school who now lives with me. My tight-knit group of female friends from university. The incredible, creative, talented women I met at drama school, one of whom was sat next to me in the cinema last night. My business partners at Snapper Theatre who are my greatest champions. Don’t get me wrong, I adore all of my friends, but there is a different kind of connection that comes with close female friendships – those women who understand you in a way that others don’t, who are your constant cheerleaders, who call you out on your shit and give you groggy 4am pep talks when you need it. Basically, women are great.
My main takeaway from the movie was just how much I miss my mom. I read somewhere that at one point during development this movie had the working title Mothers and Daughters. I have nothing profound to say here in regards to the movie except that I fucking miss my mom. Lady Bird opens on her and her mother driving home to Sacramento from a college visit, both silently crying as a book-on-tape reads the closing lines of The Grapes of Wrath. I love travelling with my mom. I’ve told her so many times and I’ll tell anyone who asks, my mom is my favourite travel buddy. I especially love road trips with her. I loved listening to Swan Lake on cassette with her the many times we drove from our home in Maryland to her parents’ apartment in Yonkers when I was seven. I loved listening to LBC when we drove from London to Birmingham and back for a university open day. I loved updating her on my year-abroad life when we drove from Jacksonville to Orlando in Winter 2014. Denver to Estes Park. Dallas to Austin. DC to Virginia. London to Leeds. Harry Potter and E.B. White books-on-tape when I was little. Talk radio. Spotify playlists. Deep, meaningful talks as I got older. Sometimes, silence. It’s been nearly seven weeks since I last saw her and for the last seven weeks there has been 3,047 miles between us. It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday. I am grateful that my mother is alive, and healthy, and has done absolutely everything in her power to give me a life worth living, but I fucking miss her.
The closing monologue of Lady Bird is a beautiful one. I bet young women will be using this monologue to audition for drama schools for the next ten years, and for good reason. After moving to New York for college without her mother’s blessing (Lady Bird begging her mother to just talk to her broke my heart), she phones her parents and leaves a message on the answering machine for her mother, beginning the message with “Hi, Mom and Dad. It’s me. Christine. It’s the name you gave me. It’s a good one.” She asks her mother if she felt emotional the first time she drove in Sacramento. She talks about the streets, and the stores, and the bends she’s known her whole life. It didn’t make me think of London, where I spent most of my childhood and where I live now. I don’t have a full driving licence, so maybe that’s why. Oddly enough, it made me think of something completely different to what she was actually saying. It made me think of Montreal: the cab journey from the airport to my new apartment on my first night in the city. I had been travelling for close to twenty-four hours, lugging three enormous bags with me, and was truly on my own for the first time. I rolled down the window in the back and rested my arms on the window-frame, my head out the window for the entire thirty-minute journey, a big, goofy smile on my face. I had given the cab driver my address in broken French and I’m sure he thought I was insane, but I didn’t care. As we drove through the city, I drank in the details of this place that would be my home for the next year – the lights, the smells, the colour – and I felt just how utterly different Montreal was than anywhere I’d been before. It was the most that I have felt, either before or since, that I was truly embarking on an adventure.
P.S. The title of this blog post is a play on the movie Riding In Cars With Boys and I’m a little worried nobody will get this joke so please watch that movie because it’s great.