Last week Sam and I went on a mother-daughter excursion to see a film about a mother and her daughter. The IFC Film Center was sold out, even though it was a rainy Tuesday evening, but we seemed to be the only mother-daughter pair in the audience. Maybe the subject matter would have cut too close to the bone for some.
We wanted to see the movie, “Tiny Furniture” by the filmmaker Lena Dunham, because it’s mostly about what it’s like to be twenty-something; we figured it would be great fodder for our book. But while the movie was amusing and cleverly done, it seemed so specific to that particular twenty-something that we weren’t quite sure what we could make of it. We thought that, if nothing else, we might want to interview Lena and her mother, Laurie Simmons, who played the role of the Lena character’s mother in the movie. For my part, I’m curious to hear from the mother what it was like to work with her daughter, to take directions from her, to bare her soul (the character, Aura, finds her mother’s diary from when she was young and reads portions of it aloud — and it turns out that the diary is Laurie Simmons’s actual diary). I wanted to hear how it felt to have her daughter treat her, every now and then, quite snarkily and dismissively. What a good sport Laurie Simmons seems, even when her on-screen daughter is screaming at her and accusing her unfairly of being harsh and demanding. I suspect that Laurie and Lena occasionally have pretty much the same scenes in real life.
We had a lovely evening, my daughter and I, first sitting through the film together and then having a really nice dinner at the Cornelia Street Cafe, around the corner from the theatre. It was an interesting movie, and it gave us some stuff to talk about — mostly, it seemed, me asking Sam if she remembers feeling the way the main character did when she first graduated from college. To me, Sam was always so sure of where she was headed, so directed, the opposite of the aimless Aura who returns from college to move back home with her mother and sister. But Sam says there was one thing she used to do when she was 22 or 23 that was a sign of her aimlessness and confusion, no matter how straightforward her day-to-day life seemed to be. She would, she told me, often “get drunk on purpose.” I guess I’m glad I didn’t know about that at the time. Her comment was enough to make me wonder whether every young person, even the ones who seem the most pulled-together (like me, nearly forty years ago, married and in graduate school and then gainfully employed without skipping a beat between the last day of college and the first day of the rest of my life), are occasionally doing a little inner quivering, uncertain about how the next decades are going to play out.