Normally, when it comes to movies, I'm a Die Hard, Bourne and Bond kind of gal. Last week, between the cruddy news in the world and the looming changes in my own nest, I found myself in a bathrobe-wearing, chocolate-grazing, hot tea-drinking sort of mood, for which the only cure is to watch a movie about women, starring women, and for women.
Though I can't figure out which TV remote does what and miss the days when there was a single ON button, I managed to find a movie with a title that (at least) spoke to my state of mind -- The Women starring Annette Bening, Meg Ryan, Jada Pinkett Smith, Eva Mendes and Cloris Leachman. Yes, it was released in 2008 and, yes, I'm a little late to the party, but I got there and that's all that matters.
Don't worry, a review is not forthcoming, only an acknowledgment that it wasn't unpleasant and that unlike the characters of Bourne or Bond or McClane whom I normally watch to provide some balance to the feminine view of the world I am shaped by, The Women reminded me that sometimes, girls gotta do what girls gotta do, and at this stage of my life -- when my kids are mostly out the door and I am creating a new roadmap -- the company I miss most to help me figure it all out is women.
Yes, I did laugh and cry, and probably in inappropriate places. But, it was a great excuse to expunge dormant feelings about missing having little ones around, about dreams that have come and gone, about wishing I could talk to loved ones who have passed. And isn't that one of the many benefits of watching movies? You get to let it all out?
Of course, the whole process of losing myself to a story, of deviating from healthy food and dabbling in chocolate -- all the while wearing my less-than-glamorous but very warm bathrobe -- made me nostalgic for the female relationships and intimacy I had before motherhood, before I climbed over the picket fence and landed on this side of reality. In those days, there was a lot more time to develop female friendships, to be spontaneous and involved. Don't get me wrong, I've still got friends, but we've all become so busy raising our kids that we haven't had as much time as we'd like to stay in touch.
Even though I'm well aware that the relationships I see in the movies are just that, relationships in the movies, I wonder if I could have maintained closer "movie-character" friendships with women while being married and raising my now, nearly grown family. The type of friendships where you see each other weekly, and talk constantly -- the way I once did when life was less complicated and there wasn't always someplace to be. Then there's the issue of sharing confidences. I've always wanted to ask other women, women who seem to have these intense and deeply rooted friendships where they share everything: Is there a point where you draw the line in terms of revelations? It would seem hard to turn it on and then shut it off, to control the flow once it's started and everyone has a vested interest.
Last night I watched the original version of the movie by the same name. It was made in 1939 and starred Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. I couldn't have watched without the aid of my 17-year-old who found it for me through his Xbox, which means it involved yet another controller. I'll use the excuse that it was after midnight and I worked all day and was tired, but really, do we need that many buttons?
"How will I turn it off?" I asked.
"Just push this button, then this one, then this one," he said, handing me the device.
"You have got to be kidding," I said. "How am I going to watch anything when you're in college?"
"Mom, if you don't want to use the gaming controller just push the big green button on the Xbox itself, then go up to the TV and push the on/off button. For volume, use this button in red on the TV controller."
And with that, he handed me the remote, and went to bed.
My right thumb was glued to the red button. Not only was I afraid I'd lose the spot, but I couldn't hear what those women were saying. They talked FAST. Ten cups of coffee fast. Faster than the Gilmore Girls on speed. I didn't want to miss a minute. They were of another era, it's true, and rich and catty besides, but emotionally they were the same as most every woman I know today who is in search of self, in search of love, in search of happiness. Their journey, even the long strange train trip to Reno (the only way to get a divorce in those days), forced them to confront each other and themselves so they could move forward and live life on their own terms.
Isn't it funny how we can come away from a movie feeling better, and with newfound resolve, even when nothing in our own lives has changed, other than the fact that two hours have elapsed in the company of women?
Next time, I'm going to invite a few of my friends over to watch a movie with me. What better excuse to get together and reconnect?
Maybe one of them can work an Xbox.
Join me next Monday for another installment of The Pre-Empt Chronicles, as I transition from full house to empty nest.