Monday, May 16, 2011

cinema verite

after a really long saturday that involved driving to all corners of the Bay Area, zack and I were both in the mood to relax and do something a bit mindless. we found the nearest movie theater in san francisco (bonus! you can buy a beer and bring it into the theater, which lets you pretend like you're in Europe) and went in to buy tickets. Forgetting that this was san francisco, the city where selling PBR at any event means a guaranteed sell-out to flannel-wearing hipsters, we realized that we had no shot at getting in and walked down to the decidedly less-cool AMC. Two tickets to Bridesmaids, a chocolate chip ice cream thing, and a medium popcorn later, and we're good to go. (Okay, and some peanut M&Ms. Go ahead and judge us.)

We laughed, a ton, and were glad for something funny after that hectic day. It is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen, and I've seen Left Behind. (Actually, I haven't seen Left Behind. I just thought that was a funny joke.) I'm such a fan of any time we can remember that women are totally funny - and not as sidekicks to men, and not as someone's wife or girlfriend, but as lead actors in a big studio movie. Women are funny, and we don't get to see that enough. (The airplane scene in the movie is worth the price of admission alone.)

But the thing that really, surprisingly, got to me about Bridesmaids was its touching and totally accurate portrayal of female friendships. (This may apply to guys as well - not being one, I wouldn't know.)

Without giving too much away, it's safe to share that a big part of what drives the movie is the friendship between Kristen Wigg and Maya Rudolph (I cannot remember movie character names, so don't even ask. It's my fatal flaw.) Maya's gotten engaged, and has this new WASPy friend, and Kristen's business has closed down and she has to move home with her mom and their friendship is totally changing. They're not the same people anymore, not in the same stages of life. And what the movie captures beautifully is how, when friends grow at different rates, one or both of them can end up feeling lonely and confused, and the friendship that was once so life-giving is now in a shambles.

Remember that movie Waterboy, with Adam Sandler? I wouldn't, either, except that while the rest of us were busy wondering when Adam Sandler would go away, my dad sat crying a few seats down from me. There were some family dynamics in that movie that resonated with him deeply, and this strange film had managed to communicate something of his own experience to him, with new words and enough distance that he had permission to access his own feelings around the dynamics.

Well, Bridesmaids was my Waterboy. Not mine alone, apparently--there were several other women in the theater who were quietly crying during the same scene, a bridal shower gone totally bananas where the growing distance between Kristen and Maya came to a head in one of those laugh-through-your-tears moments.

And this is what it meant to me: Sometimes, friendships don't go the way that you think they will. Sometimes, the closeness that meant security shatters when you reveal too much of yourself, and the safety that you enjoyed in vulnerability is lost. You learn to put guards up again, and to hold things a bit closer. Sometimes, the women you thought were your champions have actually been saying things about you that breaks your trust and breaks your heart a little bit, too. Sometimes you get your hopes up, enough to lift you out of loneliness, only to find out you things don't really look like you thought they did. You can grow apart from someone, you can disappoint them, you can hurt them, you do all of these things and it makes a life and without forgiveness and grace and open hands, you just get lonelier and more stuck.

The movie brought up sadness and anger in me about a particular friendship I lost a bunch of years ago. I know it's absolutely a good thing for me that this friendship ended, but the scars run deeper than I thought they did. The loneliness is still there - even though I have more lovely and wonderful friends than I could rightfully expect, to fill that loneliness - and the void from that friendship is a place that I will painfully invite God into, time and time again. Relationships are hard, people aren't perfect, and every time we enter into a relationship we open ourselves up to the possibility of hurt--the closer the friendship, the greater the potential for pain.

But knowing you aren't alone in the pain -- seeing the movie, watching other women in the theater use their shirt sleeves to dab at the corner of their eyes -- that is the gift.

Did you see the movie? What did you think? I'm curious to hear from some of you about this whole issue....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the gift

Sometimes, for some period of your life, you get a gift. A gift so good that you can't explain what it means to you, or why you received it, and so comfortable in that era that you may not recognize the richness of the gift until it is farther away from you and impossible to recreate.

I wasn't too cool in high school. I liked it well enough, but I didn't walk down the halls every morning with tons of friends, and sometimes I felt lonely. And through luck and grace and that magic confluence of time, place, and personality, I found myself belonging to part of a group of friends whose presence in those high school years have left an indelible mark on my heart and my character. I can hardly think of these people and these memories without a welling up of emotions, thinking of how I was so in the middle of that gift as a 17 year-old high school junior, and I didn't even know it. these people are still some of my very best friends, and we are entering into a totally new phase together now, with the first baby of the group on the way.

but those times - the nights outside around a bonfire, sitting in someone's basement - kaitlin's to draw on the walls, cook's to play silent football or the sign game, randi's after a dance or taking communion together in our earnest attempts to learn to live into the church - the school dances that we all attended together, switching dances and making long-living memories, the first sadness of some going off to college, and the making our way through the ending of high school and into a new life. the visits to california and back to chicago, trips to michigan and camp and long summer nights drinking beer outside and welcoming new members as the weddings started happening. those times have defined me and now, ten years later, those times bring tears to my eyes.

some of us are still very much part of the faith in which we all grew up, and some of us have questions and thoughts that are drawing them down different roads. some of us are married, some of us are not, one of us will be, very soon. but here's the thing: there was safety in this group. there were lovely friendships in which deeply vulnerable conversations took place. there were young men and women who learned that good, healthy friendships between men and women are not only possible, but are life-giving in really unique ways. There was, perhaps more than with any other people in our lives, a sense that we were all truly known and truly loved, even as we revealed flaw after flaw. We had each other, and for a time, that was all that mattered.

now, we don't have what we once did. we have weddings, and several years back, we had a funeral. we have facebook and pictures and email, which are nice but are poor substitutes for what we know we share. but we still share the goodness of it all, that thing that unites the memories we have and makes them real and relevant, that gives them flesh and the ability to, even now, transform us and remind us of who we really are.