Visiting Lady Bird: A Love Letter to Wanting to Grow Up

I knew that I was going to enjoy “Lady Bird” before I saw it, though this premeditated thought was more focused on the film’s score and the acting talent of Saoirse Ronan, who plays the film’s protagonist. I knew that it was going to remind me of myself, in the best and the worst ways, and more.

 

Spoiler alert: I loved it more than I thought I would, and for more reasons than I’d thought.

 

“Lady Bird” follows the senior year and summer of titular character Lady Bird, as she goes through the ups and downs of growing older. As it is a coming of age film, it feels just like that: Lady Bird finds herself crying and laughing with those around her, learning life lessons along the way. It depicts a teenager quite literally morphing herself into a young adult and preparing herself for the “real world” while still attempting to unattach herself from home. She wishes to leave her same-old Sacramento and explore different places, such as New York or “at least Connecticut or New Hampshire; where writers live in the woods.”

 

Immediately, this reminded me of my first goals in life: to leave Georgia and return to where my family had originally come from, to hopefully settle in Brooklyn and achieve the “apartment life” that I had - and still - glorified so much. Despite going there almost every year for the holidays and even just to visit family, it still felt too far away to be real. During my first solo trip to New York, I had created an elaborate plan to remain in Brooklyn, even though I had no way of keeping myself there. Still, the prospect seemed more obtainable the more I thought about it, despite how outlandish it seemed.

 

One thing that became apparent to me is that Lady Bird lacked an identity, or did not yet know who she was. The name “Lady Bird” is false – having been given to her by herself, to supplant her actual name, Christine. Her change in name represents the dramatic change in her identity, as well as the branching out from who she was born as to who she wants to be: it’s a perfect example of the teenager-to-young-adult transition that everyone goes through. Lady Bird goes through identities as one would a set of clothing, from dating the theater boy who respects her “too much” to go underneath her shirt, to the bad boy who lies about his virginity and seems not to care that his lies hurt her. Her changes in who she is and who she wants to be even changes with her choice in friends, as she immediately dumps her best friend for a more archetypal popular, wealthier one.

 

( IMBD, Lady Bird 2017)

 

The thing that hit me the most was the presentation of the mother/daughter relationship in this film. It hit too close – uncomfortably close – for me to ignore. The film opens with Lady Bird and her mother Marion sleeping side-by-side in a hotel bed. Then it switches to the two of them, side by side once more, in a car, listening to the end of “The Grapes of Wrath” and crying together. For a moment, it seems peaceful, as if nothing could wreck this moment. And in a flash, an argument happens, almost instantly, and within a minute Lady Bird has opened her door and jumped from the car in a display of teenage dramatics.

 

This scene set up their dynamic for me, and this scene made me think of my own mother.

 

The quickness of their arguments throughout the film, the intensity in which they escalated and the speed at which they died down, reminded me of how I communicated with my mother. How we acted together, and how I even act in retaliation to her. I remember there always being a boiling rage to her words, to how she said her words, or even how I imagined she spoke. In “Lady Bird,” the father blames it on the “strong personalities” between mother and daughter, something I’d heard a lot while growing up. In some cases, the strong bond between the two intensifies the hostility felt, and this sometimes borders on hatred.

One particular scene in the film, where Lady Bird and Marion are picking out prom dresses felt like a stab in my chest:

 

“I wish you liked me.”

“Of course I love you,” Marion replies.

“But, do you like me?”

 

I had always been told growing up that being liked was different from being loved, and I had always put the former as more important than the latter. This exchange of words was all too familiar with me, with my mother jokingly stating, “I love you, but I don’t particularly like you,” and me frantically attempting to remedy whatever I had done to falter her ability to like, rather than to love. Nowadays, I know she loves me. Better yet, I know she likes me.

 

The film ends on a happy note. There’s a scene of Marion rushing through the airport in order to hug Lady Bird before she goes to college, but misses her. The final scene is of Lady Bird leaving a voice message to her mother, simply thanking her. What for? That’s left up for the viewer to decide. But I like to think that she’s thanking her mother for existing in her life, for being nothing more than a mother, in the best way that she could.