The Force Awakening

Joe and I saw the new Star Wars film last night. I didn’t want to go, but I had given him tickets as a Christmas gift. I figured I couldn’t, in good conscience, bail out.

As a general rule I don’t like films with special effects. As a general rule I prefer documentaries about outsider artists or about old people learning to dance.

But ~ ohmygod! ~ as soon as the credits started rolling I was transported to my childhood. About one third of the way into the movie, I was sobbing.

Yep I was crying. Heavy, soaking drops. In Star Wars.


The first Star Wars film was released in 1977, over a year before I was born. I must have been around 8 years old when I first saw it on VHS at my neighbor’s house. I loved it. All the kids in the neighborhood did. We watched the original trilogy over and over and over and over.

We even role-played Star Wars in the large ravine behind our houses, fallen branches acting as our light sabers and guns.

On good days, I got to play Princess Lea.

On bad days, a girl who lived several blocks away would join us to play. She was a girl with far more sex appeal than me {have you noticed how that energy can begin so young?} and the boys always choose her to play Princess Lea. On those days I had to play R2-D2 or some other character that wasn’t actually a character from the movie, but rather some female role that we simply invented on the fly.

Playing with the boys like this gave me a sense of what options were available to me. If there were no other girls around, I could be the beautiful princess. If there were other girls around, I could be a droid or an inconsequential, made up sidekick.


Identity is a complicated notion, fluid and self-created yet constrained and constructed by culture.


When I was 16, a small gym opened five minutes from my house. I begged my mom to let me join. She agreed.

I loved that place. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and sometimes Saturdays, I took loud, fast-paced, highly choreographed  
step aerobics classes. On Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays I worked out in the weight room. I taught myself to lift by reading Shape and Men’s Health magazines.

Once while I was in the weight room performing a set of slow and controlled military presses, a man at least 30 years my senior approached me with unsolicited advice. “You’d better not do that,” he said. “It’ll make you big.”

Luckily there was a foil to this man’s voice. It came from the gym manager, a man at least 40 years my senior who took a liking to me in a fatherly way. “You’re a hard worker,” he would tell me. “I can see your focus. You’re gonna do good things in this world.”


When I was 25, two things happened. Number one, I got divorced. Number two, I made a conscious choice to stop referring to myself and my female friends with the word girl and decided instead to use the word woman.

I understood that there was a significant power differential between the two words, and I wanted to fully know and embody the strength that came with the latter.


I have never been the sort of woman who oozes sexiness. I don’t have a moralistic stance against overt sexuality, it’s just that the pursuit of sexiness in and of itself and the use of it as a skill to navigate the world has always seemed boring to me.


A few years after my divorce, one of my co-workers ~ a man I had considered a friend ~ decided to be mean to me. He took his voice up a few octaves and said, “I’m Amanda. I don’t like sex.” I was shocked. I felt deeply misunderstood and disrespected.

I didn’t say anything at the time. I was speechless. For months, whenever I remembered his comment, I felt rage. And I felt nauseous.

If I could go back in time to that moment ~ I so wish I could go back in time to that moment ~ I would tell him this: “Just because I don’t want to have sex with you, doesn’t mean I don’t like having sex.”


To be honest, I never identified with the character of Princess Lea. Sure she was cool in some ways, but mostly she seemed to serve as tool for sexual tension. But she was only female I had to choose from when played our Star Wars game, and I would rather be her than a droid. 

Rey, though. OHMYGOD! REY!

That’s why I cried so hard watching the movie last night. It sounded and looked and moved so much like those original films. It was like being ten years old, like playing with the boys in the back yard. Only this time I had an entirely new choice, a choice that felt exactly like me. Yes! I know her. That’s who I want to be. That’s who I am. It’s like I got that impossible opportunity to go back in time and change the course of history.

I tell you what, if Rey had existed back then, no matter how many other girls came to play with us, I would have been her every time. No fucking question.


The force is strong within you, dear ones. Now: go kick ass.