Jul 02

“Am I OK?”: 30-Something Female Comes Out

There is something to be said for queer women managing a story about queer women. Elizabeth Weitzman, The Wrap, regarding Am I OK?

Am I OK?, a new movie to HBO Max, is about a 32-year-old woman, Lucy (Dakota Johnson), who has been noticing attractions to other women. As with other confused women in this not-uncommon situation, she’s harbored a considerable degree of anxiety, lack of self-confidence, and possibly depression for some period of time.

Lauren Pomerantz, the writer of Am I OK?, is an example of someone who came out in her thirties; the script is based on her reality. Also, one of the film’s two directors, Stephanie Allynne, who’s married to the other director, lesbian Tig Notaro, was a self-identified straight woman before she met and fell for Notaro. (Notaro, by the way, also has a brief but funny role in the film.)

Coming out in adulthood is a significant and interesting turning point, but for some reason one film critic, John Anderson, WSJ.com, had the need to say that Am I OK? “has no story to speak of.”

No story?!

Alissa Wilkinson, New York Times: “…(W)ith a late bloomer, the world’s possibilities have been shut down a little…Decisions about career, friendships and family have already been made; the stakes of change are higher.”

Valerie Complex, Deadline: “Coming out in your adult years is confusing and stressful…”

Angie Han, Hollywood Reporter: “Am I OK? is sensitive to the specific anxieties that come with the timeline. Lucy cries…that she should have figured it out by now…”

More about Lucy’s world from Wilkinson:

[She] has settled into a quiet, unchallenging Los Angeles life…She spends most of her free time with Jane (Sonoya Mizuno), her childhood best friend, and keeps her life ripple-free. She’s never been in love. At the end of dinners with Ben (Whitmer Thomas), the guy she’s ostensibly dating, she shakes his hand.

By her own admission, Lucy is nervous all the time, ‘scared of everything.’ Worse, she says, she’s not sure if she’s ever been happy, or what even makes her happy. She has built herself a comfortable box to live in, as long as nothing changes.

Things do change, though. (A few spoilers ahead.) Jane is given an opportunity by her boss (Sean Hayes) to relocate to London for work. Her supportive boyfriend will go with her. While Lucy grapples with what this loss means, she also finally admits her secret to Jane. Although surprised, Jane wants to be nothing but helpful. This includes encouraging Lucy to act on her budding interest in coworker Brittany (Kiersey Clemons).

Jocelyn Noveck, APNews: “Brittany is flirting like crazy with Lucy, who finally gets up the courage to respond. She brings Lucy out of her shell, but with ultimately disheartening results.” This, as Noveck acknowledges, is “one of the most moving passages in the film” and an example of Pomerantz’s insight into what’s felt “when a straight woman toys with [one’s] emotions (and more).”

Unfortunately, Lucy and Jane in the meantime have had a falling out, so Lucy now lacks her confidant. States Wilkinson (NY Times): “Really, ‘Am I OK?’ is the story of a friendship growing from one stage to another — of the moment when youthful naïveté about life and friendship, the idea that we’ll just go on together this way forever, has to grow up. It turns out both Lucy and Jane have hard lessons to learn about the selves they’ve grown into, and it’s in their longstanding trust and care that they can start to become more than who they are. Their friendship is blooming into a new era, a bond with a future, and the world is full of possibility.”

See the trailer below:

Mar 03

“Radical Honesty”: Humor By A.J. Jacobs, The Women of “SNL”

Lying is the major source of all human stress. It kills us. Brad Blanton, founder of Radical Honesty movement

Predicated on notions such as the one expressed above, the controversial Radical Honesty movement founded by therapist Brad Blanton has now been around for many years. Blanton has written a bunch of books about it, in fact, and continues to offer expensive workshops on the subject.

From his website, an introduction: “How about trying honesty? How about being honest, radically honest all the time, with everyone you know? What would happen to us and our friends and the world if we just stop being polite and political—especially with people we already know? How about sharing everything that goes through your mind, whether it is politically correct or not?”

How about that doesn’t really sound like good advice?

As part of a self-help mission that led to his book My Life As An Experiment (2009), writer A.J. Jacobs  actually participated in this brand of indiscriminate truth telling. It’s the part in his book he calls “I Think You’re Fat.” Taken from his site, here’s a description of what he turned to: “I became a temporary convert to the Radical Honesty movement, which teaches that you should never, ever lie. But more than that, you should say whatever’s on your mind. You should remove the filter between your brain and your mouth.”

In the following paragraph he explains his motivation and desire to try Radical Honesty even though his first impression was that it sounded ridiculous. From his related and humorous Esquire article:

I have a lying problem. Mine aren’t big lies. They aren’t lies like ‘I cannot recall that crucial meeting from two months ago, Senator.’ Mine are little lies. White lies. Half-truths. The kind we all tell. But I tell dozens of them every day. ‘Yes, let’s definitely get together soon.’ ‘I’d love to, but I have a touch of the stomach flu.’ ‘No, we can’t buy a toy today — the toy store is closed.’ It’s bad. Maybe a couple of weeks of truth-immersion therapy would do me good.

In a nutshell, though, after all is said and done Jacobs concludes it’s actually pretty problematic to be that honest. As he declares on his website, “This was the worst month of my life. I had to spend the following weeks apologizing to everyone I offended.” (On the other hand, he does commit to a decrease in future lying incidents.)

This past weekend the women of SNL, including guest host Dakota Johnson, also tested this kind of honesty—à la the “Brave” lyrics by Sara Bareilles (Say what you wanna say, etc.)—and it would appear that at least some practitioners of such assertiveness feel just great about it!

It was also the funniest bit of the night and can be found at this link.