So I'm watching this movie Chillicothe, which, besides being a frank rip-off of Clerks and Chasing Amy, down to stupid half-metaphorical, title-explaining anecdote about a woman, is sparking all kinds of thoughts.
There seemed to be a lot of movies like this in the late 90s--Woe, Life After College Is So Fraught movies. These are the genetic precursors to the Manchild Grows Up movies, where women exist only as forces of chaos which break up the Collegiate Male Pack and cause Strife Among Bros. Chillicothe is a particularly egregious example of the latter, as it opens with a monologue to this effect, and supports its data by not letting any women have more than 90 seconds of screen time. Nice, guys.
Anyway. I do, to some extent, identify with this genre of movies--the WLACIF oeuvre, that is, though I rather prefer the Grosse Point Blank version to the Kevin Smith. And it requires me, as so many stories do, to couch my own experience in male terms. But! Life After College, after all, Is Fraught. For girls as well as boys, which is a lesson I wish many of these films would learn. Women also long for partners they cannot have, are confused about their direction in life, seek solace in ways stupid and sublime. We are not gender segregated in our late-twenties ennui.
But life after college is hard, I do understand that, Movie-Makers. I understand that when you're lost and looking and creative and have a useless degree, making a movie seems like a great idea, and hell, you write what you know. There aren't many other times in life where you have the free time and the desire to do anything to make your life meaningful as in the twenties wasteland--and if you lose that time, you don't generally get to wrok that shit out later. It's much less attractive in that scruffy arty way when you behave this way in your thirties and forties. LAC is not as hard as say, real poverty or real oppression, but for most people, pain does not have a relative scale. My pain is always real and piquant. Yours? Maybe. Have to wait til the movie comes out. Thus is the nature of white, middle-class emotional turmoil. See also The Ice Storm, Into the Wild.
But I look around at my age-adjacent friends and at me and I see most of us floundering in the post-collegiate sea, trying to figure things out. trying to put together a social circle without the benefit of classes and lackadaiscal college-atmosphere, which is no mean feat. It often proves impossible, in fact. Trying to find a partner in a world of very diverse OKCupid fuckery, trying to find something to identify as, trying to make oneself legit in the eyes of the community that identifies us. It's no joke, the lost desert of those twenties years, and while older folks may mock it, while those with more serious problems may mock it, while even I may mock it while going through it, the alienation and fear and directionless wandering is there, and it's hard to solve.
Our generation is a generation of elves: we live a little longer, and so we stretch our adolesence. Like hobbits, coming of age is more 33 than 18. So the twenties, which for previous generations was a time of settling down and having kids and getting into the grown-up gig, are no longer matched with a societally-proscribed behavior pattern. Except for the WLACISF movies, which tell us that this is how it will be. And it is. I'm not sure which came first, but it's a vicious circle.
For myself, I solved it by getting as lost as I could. In a marriage, in a foreign country. In myself. I see the pattern now, of isolating myself, making choices I knew would lead into further and deeper isolation, giving up dreams before anyone else could take them away. To protect myself. That I found a path to where I am now at 29, is a small miracle, since I was pretty determined to disappear when I was 23. I have not much insight, in part because I feel I am still looking for my place, not so much with my job, though the economy might lead to the end of that, too, but with friends and loved ones, creating a net of friends and partners and colleagues that is based on something real and genuine and not the frozen con-smile we all have to put on so often. I feel like that is starting to happen, in this new part of the country. But I am not settled in the soul by a long shot. Ever so much closer than before, but not yet. And that is probably good, and recognizing that likely means I am in a swell place. My world is lovely, and if I don't quite know where I ought to stand in it, well, that's ok.
Most of us know now, even without Kevin Smith and his clan of man-boys, that marriage and children are not the end of anything or the answer to anything. Life Is Always Fraught. At every decade and turning point. But as I prepare to leave my twenties I am amazed at how like a movie they turned out: graduate with useless degree, get married too soon, get lost, get depressed, get suicidal, have affair, get divorced, write a book, write another one, get found. Get a tribe. Get happy, by slow increments. Add in snappy dialogue and you've got an indie hit.
I'm not sure what my point is, other than to say, wow, making your way is not easy at all, and I watch my younger friends go through it and feel such sympathy, and wish I could help, except that my path is not really replicable. If anything I feel like these films make it seem easier than it is, since all you need is a girl and a grizzled mentor with a wallet full of monologues. Doesn't work like that on this side of the lens. But how does it work?
All I can say for my own battles is that the one golden thread that dragged me through was my passion for books and writing. Knowing that I wanted that for myself, that my whole being stretched towards words and narrative and literature, that no matter how bad things were I still had that love burning in me, that need, that was what guided me through. For those who do not have such a consuming drive, I have no advice. I can't understand it, I have not lived such a life. And I don't know how to get through pain without that passion to balance it. that has been my only answer, for these 30 years. Passion, for anything. For everything.
And if I never see another scene where a guy getting married is treated like a funeral and the END of HIS LIFE, I will be pleased as fucking punch.