The Menorah on Top
by Emilia Diamant
If you had told 15-year-old Emilia that she would be sitting next to her mother in an extremely crowded theater watching a movie about sex, dating, relationships, and ABORTIONS, she would have slapped you right in the face. But 28-year-old Emilia was thrilled that her Mom wanted to go, and despite some moments of generational translation and slight discomfort, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience.
I wasn’t a very nice teenager. I slammed doors, I yelled, I withheld important information, I was unpleasant. So it’s funny to think that now, when I saw the trailer for “Obvious Child”, my first thought was that I wanted to see it with my mother. So we went–to Coolidge Corner, where I saw no less than three people I knew (all from lefty Jewish worlds, naturally)–and saw it together.
The film first–fantastic. Spoke so truly to me, to my experience as a Jewish 20-something, as a woman, as someone who has been in and out of relationships, as someone who cares about my right to make decisions about my body. Jenny Slate has long been a favorite character actress of mine for a while now (see Parks and Rec or The Kroll Show), and seeing her featured in a film was hugely gratifying.
Beyond rooting for Jenny as a professional, watching her in the film felt like looking in the mirror. She may be shorter, skinnier, and have more of a “Jew-fro” than I, but she is me. She references Birthright (hilariously) and has had lots of awkward moments and has dating disasters. She is flawed, loves her parents and sometimes feels lost. And when she’s feeling vulnerable or sad, she turns to her mother. I suspect that Donna (Slate’s character) slammed doors and yelled at her mom as a kid, too. I could imagine the character and her mother having the same conversations that I’ve had with my mother. Finally, a movie that spoke to me.
Second–seeing it with my mother. This felt like a meaningful step in our process of figuring figure out what it means for me as be an adult to live in the same city. This was a movie about a 20-something woman making big decisions, something that I do daily. Id on’t seek advice or counsel from my parents everyday, but I do talk to my mother when I am trying to parse the tough stuff. And it seems that Donna found in her mother what I’ve discovered time and time again with mine— It’s good to have your Mom for a cuddle, a cry, and words of wisdom. It was nice to see our relationship reflected onscreen–they were kinda bitchy to each other for a bit there, but in a pinch mom came through. Which is how many of our mother-daughter relationships are–complicated and dynamic.
So, 15 year old Emilia would have been mortified. But I was thrilled. As a woman, a Jew, and a daughter.