A few weeks ago I shared late night nachos at Sunset Grill in Hillsboro Village with two of my dearest friends, Ben and Elizabeth. We had just watched the movie Boyhood across the street at the Belcourt. Boyhood is the kind of movie that would show at the Belcourt –a non-profit movie theatre specializing in documentaries, artstic, and innovative films. The director, Richard Linklater, filmed the same cast over twelve years and, like the title suggests, it’s about childhood and growing up. Literally the boy actor grows into a man before your eyes. So, we were discussing the movie over nachos and Ben says, “I can’t help but think about what the movie would have been like if it were about girlhood.”
I laughingly said, “You would say that!” (Ben might be more of a feminist than I am because of his deep appreciation for Marylynne Robinson’s poetry, fiction, and prose…) and replied, “What would the movie womanhood look like?” I rambled on, “What if I filmed my best friends over the next ten years and see what happens?”
“I think I’d watch that,” Ben responded, “What would you call it?”
And without really thinking I replied, “Modern Day Flappers.”
We kept eating nachos and discussing various parts of the movie that we liked — but the idea didn’t leave my mind and the next day I typed in the domain name: moderndayflappers.com. It was available. Then I Googled “Modern Day Flappers” and found two interesting articles: Five Signs Your a Modern Day Flapper in the Huff Post and Modern-Day Flappers: Lena Dunham and Girls from Biographile. Both reference the same book published in January of this year Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell. I immediately searched for the book at Nashville public library and sent it to the branch near my house.
I love the parallel between Lena Dunham and Girls and flappers. I have seen every episode of Girls and I am intoxicated by the woman’s locker room conversation put on national television from a realistic perspective in an authentic and unapologetic tone. Yet, there is more than one conversation going on in a women’s locker room! Many of my friends have talked about how we resonate with Dunham’s characters, yet they do not allow for wisdom or wholistic health to influence their life choices and their context of NYC is very different than Nashville!
A few days later, I picked up the book from our branch and read in the introduction, “The young women of this era weren’t the first generation in history to seek a life beyond marriage and motherhood; they were, however, the first significant group to claim it as a right (pg. 5).” “Yes. This.” The voice in my gut said when I read those words…
A few pages later Mackrell’s words resonated again with this statement about the six women whom she presents to represent flappers, “Often they feel closest to us when they were struggling and uncertain. None of them had role models to follow as they grappled with the implications of their independence. Their mothers and grandmothers could not advise them how to combine sexual freedom with love, or how to combine their public image with personal happiness (pg. 10).”
I feel a lot of uncertainty when I try to articulate how to be a woman, in the south, in public and private settings, seeking my right to an identity outside of wife or mother, navigating singleness, love, sex, and independence, while also discovering and being found by God, and desperately trying to “be human in the most inhumane of ages (Thomas Merton).” All of this coupled with the fact that I am clergy and “should” know these things!
I, for sure, do not have all the answers — but I do have a ton of questions. Therefore, over the next year of my life — “30, flirty, and thriving” — I am going to ask as many questions as possible and ask them of those who are on the journey with me — my modern day flappers — my 20-80something friends who are also seeking their identities, wholeness, and love. I hope to discover parts of myself in the stories I unearth in them.