20th Century Women vs. 21st Century Women

The constant itch we feel in isolation as we try not to sit idle in our homes. Thoughts of working out, daily walks, house cleaning and healthy snacks keep talking in our heads. Truthfully, what’s in your hand(s) right now? Are you taking more time to check Twitter or Facebook for tangents and retweets than you’re willing to admit? On an array of social media platforms, I have seen more tangents regarding personal aggravations due to COVID-19 than I have seen positive actions taken to combat this pandemic. Summer of 2020 is less than two months away and I hope “for the love of God” that at least half of us women can find the strength of a 20th century woman in all of us.

The 2016 comedy-drama film, 20th Century Women, written and directed by Mike Mills was based in part on his childhood. The film made me reflect on the women who played such vital roles in my childhood. The same women who have helped shape me into the woman I am today.

Annette Bening’s resilient, performance as 55-year old Dorothea exemplified attributes from both of my grandmother’s and my own mom. Dorothea like my Grandma Ruth (maternal grandmother) grew up during “The Great Depression”, had a 15-year old son when she was 55-years old and sported around Birkenstocks well into her old age. She had more natural beauty than Dorothea’s character is intended to portray but she had every bit of strength and work ethic as Dorothea. Grandma Ruth grew up in a greenhouse with an alcoholic, abusive father. In 1942, she lost her eldest brother in World War 2 and was voted best smile in her Senior yearbook. Below her yearbook picture reads, “when Ruth smiles, the whole world smiles back”.

She went on to have a beautiful marriage and seven children (my mom being number six). She spent 20 years as a missionary in Africa after her husband of 39 years passed away due to brain cancer. Dorothea and Grandma Ruth’s livelihoods don’t share all the same traits, but the resilience in Annette Bening’s performance is something I’ve been grateful to witness firsthand. 

My Nana (paternal grandmother) like Dorothea chain-smoked her whole life and didn’t start thinking twice about it until her early fifties. She was a Chicago native and one of three girls. Her father was Chief of Police of Riverside, Illinois. She battled with many of life’s guilty pleasures and did so unapologetically. She was badass, man. Looking back now I see how unfortunate circumstances followed from divulgent behaviors, but like the saying goes “You only live once so live it up”.

Her aesthetic permeated my clothes with Marlboro lights and Chanel number 5 and I adored it. She taught me to never apologize for what I think or how I feel. Her best piece of advice is when she sat me down looked me square in the eyes and told me, “If there is one thing you never stop doing, don’t YOU ever stop telling it like it is”. That my friends and fellow readers is better than any shitty fortune cookie you could’ve gotten at Panda Express.

A resilient mindset is something so many of us women growing up in the 21st century have forgotten. May we reflect and remind ourselves of a time more dignified than today. 

I encourage you to watch the film on Netflix. You won’t regret it! 

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