As I sat in a coffee shop yesterday, camped out with my laptop and a mission to actually get some writing done, I knew full well that I wouldn't really get anything accomplished. Not because I'd be distracted with the mundane cruising of Facebook for hours at a time like I am at home, but because the people-watching at this particular coffee shop was unparalleled.
I stared over my computer instead of at it, as a man in his early forties with a Calvin Johnson haircut and a too-tight Pixies T-shirt entered the public space, clearly determined to draw attention to himself. I listened as he told the barista how much he still "wished he had opened that 'Baja-style cantina' in Colorado back in the '90s, when he was in his twenties and had more energy." Then he skipped over to a table with his man purse and a latte and plopped down next to a fellow alt-looking bro, to whom he talked loudly about his cool belt buckle for fifteen agonizing minutes.
I looked at my tablemate, fellow Westword writer Robin, and said discreetly, "You guys up for some reggae tonight?" Because today, like most days, I live in a Ghost World.
See also: - Hey Girl!: Ghost World at the Sie FilmCenter - Meet the winners of our first annual Comics issue contest - Is it time to quit dismissing teenage girls and start appreciating Justin Bieber?
On the surface (or based on the movie's Wikipedia entry), Ghost World is a coming-of-age film about two teenagers crawling slowly into adulthood while learning about themselves and their friendship in a post-high school existence. But I've always thought of it as a snapshot of life as experienced by girls like me, girls who have long outsmarted their surroundings yet are still fascinated by their own mundane lives so much that they examine every interaction until it feels bizarre.
Main characters Enid and Rebecca aren't anti-heroes -- they're just intelligent girls with no real mission other than to get through whatever in the hell life after high school is supposed to be (which I'm still trying to figure out). Apartment-hunting, finding a job that makes you disaffectedly yawn the least, harassing your friends with actual jobs at their places of employment and completely misunderstanding what it means to date -- these are all things I, too, experienced in a post-mandated schooling life.
I've often tried to blame the cynicism that creeps under the surface of my personality on the residuals of being an alcoholic, but my attitude problem began long before that. It's probably, to some extent, cultural -- and I'm talking about my working-class, shopping-mall-enthused, middle-American cultural background. With my understanding of adulthood came a desire to examine the things in life that grownups are supposed to be, do and think -- something I'm still trying to wrap my head around.
Enid and Rebecca face these same tasks: the cliché celebration of graduating high school and "finally making it" (making it to where, I'm not sure), the notion that "growing up" means selling all of your outlandish clothes and childhood toys, and the idea of understanding who, exactly, the fake '50s diner you frequent is supposed to appeal to.
I met my first real boyfriend of semi-adulthood at a fake '50s diner. His name was "Domino" and he was my waiter. Underneath his short-sleeved, button-up shirt and paper hat, he was a raver. I don't think they sold ecstasy in the real '50s, but if they did, then this guy was authentic. I also still question what an eighteen-year-old me was doing at a fake '50s diner in the first place -- other than people-watching, which is an activity that still takes up more of my time than anything else.
Sometimes I wish Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff had made a sequel to Ghost World, so I could see if Rebecca and Enid and I are still on the same page. But since that's not in the cards, I will just continue to re-read the graphic-novel version of the film and commiserate with my weird friends in public, effectively Ghost World-ing normal people's experiences at coffee shops, grocery stores, shows and places of employment.
As a side note, I often wonder: Are girls who adore Ghost World as annoying as dudes who idolize Jack Kerouac, Bill Murray and Hunter S. Thompson? Probably. Whatever. This is America, dude. Learn the rules.
Ghost World screens this Thursday, June 6, at the Sie FilmCenter as part of the Hey Girl! film series. A comic swap opens the night at 6 p.m. in Henderson's Lounge inside the FilmCenter; the movie starts at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit the Sie's website.
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