Last night I went with my two closest friends from graduate school to see what definitely ranks as the best "chick flick" I’ve seen in a while. Maybe ever. The film is "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants". I’d read parts of the book while sitting on the floor in a bookshop (yeah, I do that a lot) and had been struck by how smart it seemed for a book aimed at teenaged girls… so often books aimed at that age group are dreck. Still, I was a little nervous. As a 30 something I’m pretty far removed from teen culture.
Anyway, the film was great. Each of the four women who make up "The Sisterhood" are interesting actresses and each is given her own storyline. I especially enjoyed watching Carmen’s (played by America Ferrera of "Real Women Have Curves") storyline, not just because it was a small teen issue (trying to reconnect with her divorced and absent father) but because her energy literally lights up the screen. My heart broke for her, over and over again as she tries to figure out why her divorced father seemed to have replaced her (and her mother) Puerto Rican selves with a blond, white family. The women of the new family (a mother and daughter) are blond, willowy and Southern.
The galvinizing moment for me was when Carmen turned on them in a bridal salon for discussing how her size makes the dress which had been made for her too small and how they’ll have to start from scratch on something new for her. They refer to Carmen as "the other one" relative to the blond daughter, Kristy. Carmen comes out of the dressing room barefoot, yelling and suggests that they tell people that they forgot to consider that her father’s daughter might be from another culture and have another body type. Or that they should just say there aren’t enough bolts of material to cover her "Puerto Rican ass." This struck me not just because I felt for her humiliation and isolation in that moment, but also because I wished for myself that at 17 I’d realized I wasn’t overweight, that I just had a different body type (curvier) than the lanky blonds I lived around in Southern California. Knowing that might have saved me a decade or so of fruitless dieting and frustration.
In the end, the film was about friendship and the importance of trying to find a way to stay together — to express love — across physical distance. This spoke to me and I found myself remembering being 17 and wishing for a magic pair of jeans to share with my best girlfriends.