I think movie raters might be dyslexic. The PG-13 rating? At times, I think they really mean for it to be PG-31. In fact, I’m not sure the movie I saw last week should have been less than a PG-42. I wasn’t quite ready for it. Maybe when I’m 43…
It was a good idea in theory — Mary Claire and I were in Indiana for a long girls’ weekend, and I thought it would be fun to take her and a couple of her girlfriends to a movie. Of course, the PG-13 show they wanted to see was at the Keystone Arts Theatre, so I wasn’t complaining. A theatre that serves wine is my favorite kind of theatre, indeed.
And the movie we chose?
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
Let me set the scene… the girls — ages 12, 13, and 14 — positioned themselves in the very back row of the crowded theatre with a buffet of popcorn, Cokes, candy, and sugar-filled slushies. (The treats were twice as expensive as the tickets themselves, FYI.) I had them save me a seat while I ran across the hallway to the lounge.
“I’ll have two glasses of Cabernet,” I ordered. They’re small glasses, after all.
“It’s only $2 more to buy the bottle,” the bartender told me. “And I’ll give you the cork, so you can take what you don’t finish home.”
It was a financially sound decision, friends. Nothing more, nothing less. But I did take both glasses with me into the theatre, lest anyone raise an eyebrow at me walking through the hallways with a full bottle of red and one teeny tiny glass.
“A whole bottle?” Mary Claire asked in her pre-teen, eye-rolling way as I sat down.
“It was cheaper,” I said.
And the lights dimmed.
The previews — always my favorite part — were fabulous. Did you know they’ve made “Anna Karenina” into a movie? ANNA KARENINA!! Be still my heart.
We settled in, I poured ONE glass of wine, and the movie began.
Within the first five minutes — and I’m not exaggerating — the words “Blow Job” were spoken. (And, yes, they was spoken in initial caps!)
I poured a little more.
This movie. Oy vey. If I’d seen it by myself, it would have (maybe) been okay. Might have, in fact, been one that would have brought me to tears and provoked great adult conversations. But over the course of the next two hours, here’s what we — the tween and teens and I — experienced:
1. The aforementioned Blow Job. It warrants a second mention because the shock I experienced when I heard the words (“Blooooowwwww Jooooooobbb”) over the sound of my 12-year-old crunching popcorn is still reverberating through my very bones.
2. Teenage suicide. The main character’s best friend — as an eighth grader — shot himself.
3. Mental illness. The result of said bff suicide… and apparently, an issue with other family members as well.
4. Incest. Oh, Aunt Helen. Damn you.
5. Homosexuality. Nothing wrong with it — just wasn’t quite prepared for these girls to witness the boy-on-boy kiss. Nor were they. Their uncomfortable giggles and whispers of, “Oh, my God. I think I’ve just been scarred for life…” were a testament to that.
6. Drugs. Underage drinking. Tainted brownies. LSD. Hallucinations.
7. Boobs. Sex. More boobs.
8. A more-than-shocking revelation about a 40-year-old man kissing an 11-year-old girl.
9. Did I mention Aunt Helen?
And just when you thought every subject in the Horrible-Things-Teenagers-Might-Experience playbook had been revealed, those damn movie kids UNBUCKLED their seat belts, CLIMBED through the window into the back of a truck, and STOOD UP in a moving vehicle that was speeding through a tunnel. AS IF the mental and emotional scars and turmoils weren’t enough, they had to put themselves in physical danger, too! Come on, Hermione! If you’d fallen, even Harry wouldn’t have been able to save you!
You should know that I’m not a book-banner, not a prude, not an overprotective parent in any sense of the word. Most would, in fact, say I’m the exact opposite of all these things. My kids have been exposed to waaaay more than most would consider age-appropriate. We were careful with Sam, but by the time George arrived on the scene, we entertained him with a pacifier and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy on our 20-hour trips to Florida.
I think what hit me most about “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was that it’s real. Too real. And we’re right in the Belly of the Beast. High school, middle school — they’re hard. Every kid in that hormone-laden purgatory is trying to find his or her way. For some, it’s easier than others. For some, it can be a little, fiery slice of hell on earth.
Like every parent, I love my kids unconditionally and would do anything to protect them. But life is sometimes about letting go and watching them figure it out on their own. Difficult as it is, we can’t live their lives for them. We’ve already been there, done that. They get to experience it now.
And choosing to smoke pot for the first time at age 14 is a much bigger decision than choosing to drop a load in your Baby Gap jeans when you’re three.
We’ve reached a different dimension here.
For all those high school and middle school kids out there fumbling your way through the forest of mean girls and risky decisions, Godspeed. Stay the course, beloved ones. Make the best decisions you can make with the tools you’ve been given. And if you make a sketchy choice, don’t compound it with another. (Yes, I’m thinking about condoms! God forgive me, but I am! Carry them, Young Bucks! Carry them!) Think with your head, not your body, and most certainly, not in the moment. We Mamas and Dads have done our darndest to prepare you for this journey, but you alone must walk it. We’ll be on the sidelines, cheering you on and catching you when you stumble. But when we pick you up and dust you off, you have to go solo again.
But the really great thing? At the end, there’s a treasure waiting. You’ll find it… keep going…
That treasure? It’s you.
In all your beautiful, cray-cray, luminescent, imperfect glory, it’s YOU.
March on, Highly-Dramatic, Hormonal Soldiers. March on.