Another review requested by S. It’s becoming increasingly evident that I am having a good time working through the list she requested/recommended. More than ever, I feel like all hope is not lost with my review writing and that someone, somewhere respects what I do, and that is often enough to keep me going. That she addresses herself as “my biggest fan” not only humbles me a great deal any more but only adds the icing to the cake of the wonderful movies suggested. Lest we forget, words and movies are the best way to carve a niche in my heart.
CAUTION: Implied spoilers and a personal rant embedded somewhere in the middle.
Teenage Dirtbag is a small-budget indie movie directed, scripted by Regina Crosby based on somewhat true events. I looked up background details on her and the lead cast but I’ve decided not to bore you with the details because well, my goodness, can I not wait to write about this movie already.
If you’re like me and not quick to discount a book, movie or any other form of media by simply its name or in this case, IMDB description then you’re in for a huge delight. Teenage Dirtbag is way more than what meets the eye in the first few minutes. I say this because I watched this movie thinking I knew exactly what I was in for. I’ve been doing that lately. I’ve been afraid to find triggers in movies and books that remind me of a life I had. A life I may no longer have any access to. It’s difficult to be that one person society is expecting you to be every single day. Unbearable when you’ve agreed to be that way and have no way of going back. And this is what Amber’s point of conflict is. Let’s start from scratch now, shall we?
Teenage Dirtbag is a non-linear film surrounding the high school prim and proper cheerleader, intelligent, pretty to a point of unnecessary perfection girl named Amber and the typical high school delinquent, Thayer. The movie starts off with a present day scenario where Amber is leading her days rather incoherently as she carries inside her a tiny human being. Flashback to high school. Think back to that one person you met in high school who was so thoroughly exhausting, annoying and downright difficult to avoid as much as you tried, especially if you tried. That one person of the opposite sex that tried their level hardest to get your attention and as exasperating as it was, you secretly enjoyed it. I know I did.
Thayer is a deeply troubled boy trying to put on a brave-enough-to-eat-absolutely-anything obnoxious front at school while he can barely stand up to his abusive father back at home. Amber, on the other hand, excels at all the tiny and big accomplishments a girl can perform well at in high school but is neglected by her family and yearns for their appreciation. It’s hard to say that this part, right here, isn’t already sounding like the usual good girl meets bad boy cliché. But believe me when I say it’s hardly like that.
So, Amber is obviously the only person indifferent and quite unamused by Thayer’s ridiculous, cringe-worthy shenanigans that usually squeeze out reactions from everyone else. Amber, in the first person narrative describes how in retrospect all of her actions and the lack thereof, affected Thayer deeply and led from one thing to the other. It’s hard to tell what Amber feels about everything that happened back when they were young and free, whether, in hindsight she wishes she had behaved differently. But that’s me getting ahead of myself. Anyway coming back, Amber decides early on that Thayer is unworthy of her attention. She makes this so apparent at times, you have to wonder whether that really helps anyone at all. What this does is builds an air of mystery around her and attracts Thayer towards her, mostly subconsciously at the start and later, quite intensely.
As much as Amber believes that her misfortune of always being in such close proximity with Thayer is only because of the alphabetical ordering of their surnames, they end up together in a Creative Writing class. Their interactions through poetry and prose and the underlying hints passed on through verse draws them together in ways otherwise unimaginable. You see them forging a bond that is strained from the very start. Amber plays along with this and chooses to communicate with Thayer of her own volition when people aren’t paying attention. So they start passing notes during study hour. As they start developing a half-decent relationship with each other, they start to realize that both of them have issues at home that have some degree of commonality. Here’s my bone to pick with the story, Thayer and Amber were attracted to each other regardless of this angle to the plot. Anyway, I’m not one to bicker about such things too much and let me take this sour spot to diverge into parallels I love drawing between the reel life and my real life.
High school where I grew up was nothing like the one Thayer and Amber studied at or like any other high schools depicted in Western cultures. Hell, we don’t even call it “high school” per se. However, people – as I’ve been picking up on so acutely over the past few months are more or less the same in all parts of the world. So, there was a person exactly like Thayer in my life. There were two whole years that I look back on and ponder about but never speak out loud. This boy had an interest in me that aggravated me very much at the start. Recovering from a terrible break-up at the time, the last thing I needed was excessive attention and a need to overshare and thereby get really intimate with another. Fortunately, this boy for me was just a simple “no” and all of his playful (I suppose?) advances were dismissed by me and termed “hopelessly cheesy”. Onlookers laughed at us pulling off the girl-boy best friend stance and to a great extent we nervously laughed with them, too. Knowing that we each had very different personal lives but were more or less stuck in the same classroom for hours on end, we grew comfortable to a point that any kind of lack of attention from the other, resulted in a huge fight and another fact that we never admitted – jealousy. Days caught up to weeks and months and years. Time changed. We moved on with our lives. I put my foot down, asked for a choice that had me or someone else and said hurtful things and when this boy demanded I say something, anything, just like Amber, I said nothing at all. And just like Amber, in present time, I have no way of knowing how he is. I have ruthlessly chopped all means of contact and all I can do now, is wonder.
Coming back, there are scenes in the movie that give me goosebumps and I can see how they have actually been drawn from the writer and director’s personal experiences. Teenage love can be made to look all too fine and perfect on the big screen and many of these moments between Thayer and Amber are handled very carefully to bring forth more than just what meets the eye. The Creative Writing class professor brings to his character such genuineness and clarity that it’s hard not to feel you’re actually in that class with everybody else. Even that character was not stereotyped completely or overplayed. Thayer and Amber’s back and forth with their prose and poetry do not go unnoticed by him. He does not intervene in matters that he clearly has a good grasp about but has no right to interfere.
As the movie comes to its last lap, I had to take a deep breath and the gooey corners of my heart held on tight hoping against hopes that things work out for Thayer and Amber in the past. Despite knowing present day Amber’s condition. I guess, I was hoping for some kind of redemption from her, that her reason for never giving Thayer the time of day had only to do with society’s created norms. Films like this are hidden gems, not looking to make grand statements, targeted towards an extremely narrow audience that can draw on and appreciate even the slightest of resemblance to their past or present life.
Found a rant in my drafts. Thought it would be appropriate since my blog’s been a little quiet lately.
I call myself a writer. But in privacy. I call myself a writer but I am afraid to say it out loud. I want to give an elaborate explanation to the world that the act of arranging words into sentences – often ambiguous, seldom meaningful – is a craft. I am a writer and saying that should be simple. It’s not something I get paid for. It’s not something I’m forced to do. It’s not a full time job. It’s not a part of some religion. It’s nothing but who I am. I write, therefore I am, right?
I find that all of my writing is ingrained in a deep sense of grief, inexplicable and a continuous sorrowful feeling, tragedy and insurmountable sadness. I don’t know how to be any other way. Having had my share of depression, having had my troubles with leaving my room for days, having had all of those things you don’t talk about once they’re in the past. I still feel like sorrow lingers long after the reasons for it are reconciled with. It lurks in the corners of the smile you fake when you get asked if you’re doing okay on a completely disorienting day. It scrambles and settles inside the pockets of a jacket you wore too much but couldn’t get rid of. It reappears in the late hours of a party when you’re too tired to keep up with people and all you wish for is to leave, to have simply not been there to begin with. But that’s something for everyone every once in a while and that doesn’t make me a writer.
The stories I love most and even the books I cherish to an obsessive level are all rooted in layers of tragedy and loss. I feel like grief is so goddamn beautiful and to find words fit to describe it is an art that few possess. But for some reason, every person between 20-35 years of age in the 21st century who has access to a keyboard and knows how to type is a writer. Being a writer is the simplest thing in the world from what I’m seeing. Nothing says it better than the words “Writer” in your Instagram bio. Followed by a link to your Tumblr. Tell me it gets any easier than that and I will cry.
So I shy away from the part where I ought to be describing myself as a writer because maybe I’m not. Maybe I have urges to pen down stuff and maybe it’s my safe place and maybe as Didion once wrote that I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking about and what I fear. I battle these thoughts and I feel that self-esteem as a writer is more difficult to attain than I hoped. I envy the people who confidently dish out the part where they freelance and are able to pay monthly rent for luxurious apartments and buy extra-large coffees with bagels and other side dishes every morning. I never question my writing. But I often question the label and what it entails. I don’t know how to separate one from the other. Is there a point where you suddenly go from not being a writer to being one? For the life of me, ever since I started reading I’ve wanted to write. Ever since I realized I could write sentences I wanted longer sentences and perfect sentences and I wanted many of them, lined up one after the other. Because when I sit down to write and when I talk about my blog with someone, it’s just so much easier saying I am my writing and honestly I couldn’t elaborate even if I wanted about there being any distinction between the two.
I don’t think you need to adjust so much to other people as you have to with yourself when you start living alone for the first time in your life. I feel like the last year has been just a series of repetitions in so many ways. I start. I hesitate. Come to a standstill. Stop. Now weep. Is that what it’s going to be again? Am I that hard to please? I might be jumping way too far.
So many things that I didn’t know about myself that I’ve only just discovered.
- I’m no good at boiling something in the microwave without having it spill over. I don’t know what it is about being watched when you’re trying to cook but it unnerves me. I creepily try to eat at the most odd hours now.
- I’m having a hard time not judging people only because I feel like I’ve constantly been under the radar over the past few days. Minutely scrutinized for inconsistencies. Been under watchful gazes. I’ve tried my best to be myself and I’ve done satisfactorily well, I believe. I’ve watched how I went from nervously touching my hair when talking to someone way older than me to resting my chin on my palm in rapt attention.
- I feel like I can see through some people and then again others are so difficult to read. People all over the world are mostly the same. It feels odd to say that as if I was going to move to another country and expect to meet a different breed of humans. We’re just all creatures of habit. It’s amusing the things one can get accustomed to.
- Somehow, I just can’t be sure if I have turned off the light when I leave the room. I’ve been going back and forth, upstairs, downstairs double the times to recheck. I don’t know what it means to care so much about these things. But I do know that being obsessive about them is certainly not a good sign.
- Living alone doesn’t bring so much freedom as it does responsibility. So easy to get confused with the two, even though they’re hardly the same.
- I must stop leaving the keys in the door.
- I’ve found that some people respect me far more than I deserve and I’m adjusting to that, too.
- I’ve found that I have a capacity to love far greater than the capacity to hate. Maybe when people continuously disappoint you, all that anger and distaste piles up like grime around the soft corners of your heart. I’m all cleaned up now. The rooms of my heart are open and I will accommodate as many as I can and keep them grounded in there.
- I can honestly say I’ve known money’s worth and always been wise about that knowledge. I’ve known all my life that I must spend reasonably and that money is important but not everything and definitely not more important than love, safety, genuine concern and graceful words. But only now do I feel that I could do so much more if I had that kind of money. The kind of money that doesn’t make you think twice before buying yourself a meal at the mall or debating about the size of your drink. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I needed to make money as much as I do now.
- This transition has also diverted my inherent pessimism into a structured, rational pessimism. I’m less bitter even when I have good reason to go all out and be furious and hateful. I see people and I think about what their story might be and for a second when my gaze lands upon them, in that moment, they are important to me. They give me a reason to think beyond myself. So often been told that I’m self-centered and I have never been able to rightfully deny it, either. If this isn’t a first step of rectification, I don’t know what else is.
- My energies are being split into so many directions and there are a hundred things that feel like they’re begging for my attention all day and night. My source of nourishment for this crass sapping away of energy is always the person I love.
- Some people label me as very brave. Others use sophisticated terms such as courageous but really I’m anything but. If anything I’m reckless and I’m a little selfish when it comes to what I want in the moment. I believe that even in my worst moments I’ve been fortunate to have had a few things that kept me going. I know some people who can’t describe the light at the end of their tunnel and my soul crushes in pain when I imagine what it was like. Oh trust me, I know.
- Someone I met today told me they wanted a tattoo that read, “Everything happens for a reason.” I said to this person whom I just met a few minutes ago, “You have no idea how many times I’ve repeated and just how much I believed in those words in the last few weeks.”
- I’m having no difficulty in staying true to my roots. However, unlike the others I’ve met I have no qualms about cutting off my roots and crawling out of the ground, either.
- I’ve realized over the last few weeks that people can overwhelm you in a way that you feel like you’ve merged into a singularity. That the rest of the world is just a swirling ambiguous motion of fractals around you and that when this person moves, you move instinctively and when this person wants to pull away you emerge and grow separately like the newly sprouting branches of a tree. Together or apart, you’re still blooming. That’s what matters.