Friday, April 5, 2013

Pass the Popcorn: Admission

Last Sunday morning, as per usual (okay, as per always), my teenage daughter went to the stable to ride her horse. (As is my chauffeurial way, I headed to Dunkin' Donuts for a decaf hazelnut coffee and their complimentary WiFi.) When she was finished, we drove to nearby Salem for a nice lunch with her dad. 

From there, we would go to a local cineplex to see a matinee of the new Tina Fey movie, Admission.

We had just sat down when my daughter announced that she had better not go to the movie after all, because she still had homework.

This was news to me.

It boggles my mind that, despite a seemingly endless series of "Have you done your homework?" "Do you need to study?" "Are you sure you don't have anything else due tomorrow?", all of which are met with shrugs and blank stares, my daughter suddenly remembers these things. But, she does. Suddenly. All the time.

So, I sat there staring at my caesar salad with poached salmon and considered my options. First of all, I was more than a little bit pissed. The riding was her thing. The movie was mine. This was supposed to be our nice mother-daughter afternoon together. We would split a large popcorn and sneak in some candy. Yes, I was a little pissed ... and a lot of disappointed.

But, of course, schoolwork has to come first! Isn't that what we're always preaching? Really, what kind of mother would I be if I let — nay, encouraged — my young scholar to neglect her studies for a romantic comedy? And, now that we're in high school (yes, that would be the collective we), every assignment carries an enormous burden. The grade you get on the homework will affect the grade you get in the course that affects the average you get for the year that affects the GPA you get after four years that directly affects the colleges you get into which affects the potential of living happily ever after FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!!!

How ironic if my daughter lost her chance to go to a Harvard or a Yale because we played hooky to watch a movie about getting into a Princeton. 

Meanwhile, I couldn't timeshift the trip to the movie theatre because I was scheduled to interview Admission's novelist for Women's Voices for Change the next day. So, the only option was to go by myself.

My irritation soon wore off. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon than being alone in a movie theatre. In fact, there are benefits. I like to sit in the second or third row, dead center. I'm happiest when the movie screen completely fills my field of vision. When I'm part of a group, I usually have to compromise and sit farther back.

The movie was really enjoyable. Tina Fey, always smart and funny, was ... well, smart and funny. Paul Rudd was immensely likable as her "will they or won't they?" love interest. And Lily Tomlin pretty much stole the show as her louder-than-life feminist mother. The script was clever with just enough twists and turns. I went in a big fan of the book, but there were some major changes to the story that kept me engaged.

Besides the girl-meets-boy and long-lost-child plot lines that are front and center in the trailer (no spoilers here, thank you very much), what really fascinated me was the insider's perspective on college admissions. Oy vey! If the adopted, minority, published author, champion chess player, third-generation legacy, flutist with the 4.9 GPA is only on the wait list, what hope is left for our mere mortal children? It was discouraging to say the least. But also, somehow, liberating. There's no way to compete. As the film encourages more than once ... "What's the secret? Be yourself."

My daughter is very very (very very) good at that!

So, at the end of the day, yes, I was glad that my daughter went home and did her work. And, I was glad I saw Admission. And, guess what?

I got a large popcorn anyway. And, I was glad.

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