Sometimes a movie just gets me, and this week that movie was Mistress America. From the start it reminded me of myself as an 18-year-old college freshman in New York City. The girl even looked a bit like me, with brown shoulder length hair, trying to figure out her style. I used to narrate myself around the city (still do, in the country), exploring myself and the streets, being on my own for the first time, trying out different friends and eating perogies at Veselka in the East Village.
What is the feeling Mistress America sustained for me, during the 84 minutes it ran on screen? Is it being young, being new, getting lost? Eating mozzarella sticks alone in a booth at night, and then dancing with a new friend in a downtown bar. That specific time of 18-ness. Actually getting lost walking from Union Square to my dorm on 12th Street and 3rd Ave. Running around and laughing in Gristedes with my roommates and a couple of guy classmates I might like. Making tortillas in our dorm kitchen, eating brownie batter (mistake), drinking cherry coke when everyone else was drinking beer. Having deep crushes I never did anything about. That first semester, the only one when I didn’t have a job, when all I had to do was go to class and figure out the city and take naps and write papers which were the first ones any teacher ever told me were good. Deciding to become a writer. Realizing a little bit that maybe what I wanted to do and the way I wanted to do it did not fit in with what everyone else was doing.
But there’s also the other side of the story– being 30, and what does that mean? Having all that hope and creativity and wanting so badly to do something meaningful with it, but finding no place for myself in the city anymore. Being older, but still young, feeling a lifetime away from 18. Deep crushes leading to bad relationships leading to some good ones and even a really good one which became a marriage. Being 30, being an “adult,” having a dead mother, feeling lost in a whole other kind of way. But also having found a piece of myself again that was hidden for a while during those years of 18 – 26.
So, yeah, I loved the movie. I’m going to see it again on Wednesday.