I hate the movie Juno.
I liked it when I first saw it in the theater. Or at least, I didn’t hate it. I found it quirky and charming, exactly what it was intended to be. I liked the sweet, simple soundtrack songs by Kimya Dawson. I liked Juno’s cheeseburger phone. I loved the retro-esque (and subtly subversive) window art at Bren’s nail shop. I had to blink back a tear when (spoiler alert, but not really, because if you’ve even seen a preview for the movie, you know that Juno does not get an abortion) Juno goes running out of the abortion clinic and Su-Chin calls after her, “God appreciates your miracle!” (And I’m pro-choice.)
But when I watched the movie a second and a third time, I noticed something that I hadn’t paid too much attention to when I saw it for the first time, and it really stuck under my craw. (Again, spoiler alert, but you know what, this movie is like, eight years old or something. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can’t hold me responsible for spoiling it for you.)
No one tells Paulie’s parents anything.
This kills me. I cannot stomach the way the movie is basically like, “Well, Paulie’s mom is fat and ugly and doesn’t like Juno, so it’s okay that no one tells her that her son knocked up his friend and now they’re giving the baby away and she will never know that she has a grandchild out there.”
Am I the only one who thinks that this is just terrible? I mean, I’m fat. I’m probably going to get fatter. I’m probably not going to like all of my kids’ friends. Does that mean I don’t deserve to be informed if (God forbid) my child has impregnated or has been impregnated? There’s this one scene where Juno comes over to Paulie’s house, is basically a rude little snot to Paulie’s mother–because remember, Paulie’s mother is fat and ugly and does not like Juno, although I can’t say that I blame her, given how completely entitled Juno acts when she comes over to visit Paulie. If you totally disregard what I say to you and then dart past me and run up the stairs in my home, damn straight I’m going to chase you, you little brat. Who the hell do you think you are? And quite frankly, I think Paulie’s mom was much too nice when she didn’t knock down the door to Paulie’s room after Juno slammed it in her face. I would have dragged that girl out of my house by the belt loops of her edgy army surplus cargo pants.
And then, after Juno slams the door in Paulie’s mother’s face, she sits down and actually tells Paulie that her parents have agreed not to “rat him out” to his parents! Because, you know, Juno’s parents are cool.
No, Juno’s parents are horrible. Horrible.
I mean, I’m all for privacy rights for teenagers. I don’t think that I am entitled to read everything teenage Lavender writes on her computer. I don’t think that I am entitled to scour teenage Lavender’s phone for evidence of transgression. People, including teenagers, are entitled to private thoughts, private communication, private feelings, and private lives.
But I do draw lines. Pending reproduction and trouble with the law are deal-breakers. I want to know about those things, especially when my children are teenagers. Yep, I am entitled to know about those things. Paulie’s mom was certainly entitled to know about those things–especially since Paulie was still living in her house, eating the Hot Pockets that she bought for him, and wearing the running shorts that she laundered in color-safe bleach for him.
But there’s this one line in the movie that redeems it for me. Just one. It’s when Juno says, “I never realize how much I like being home until I’ve been someplace really different for awhile.”
And when Juno says this, I just want to hug her and cry and say, “Oh, little Juno! I know how you feel, spirit sister!”
We’re back in Missouri for a few weeks, and it feels so great to be home. Because Riyadh is undoubtedly someplace really different that I’ve been for awhile. It’s not inherently better or worse. It’s just…well, really different.
It’s strange how some of the superficial things I always said I missed when I was back in Riyadh are the things that I don’t care so much about now that I’m here. But there are other things that I didn’t even realize I was living without.
Like fresh Ozarks morning air. No desert dust. No city traffic exhaust. Just air. Heavy with dew. Clean. It’s so weird how you can almost taste the air when you breathe it. And it’s even weirder how delicious it is.
As if the universe is trying to really hammer home how much I am missing when I am away, I have had almost no issues with allergies, asthma, or migraines while home on this trip. Generally, I’m so busy self-medicating here that a return to Riyadh is at least a relief on that front. But this time, it seems I won’t have that ease to cushion the blow of having to leave my home.
I’m so deeply conflicted.
When we landed in New York, I had an interesting little conversation with the passport control officer at the window where we got our passports stamped. He thumbed through our passports, looked at our border declaration form, and then looked up at us, confused by where I had written “USA” as our country of residence. Yes, I know that sounds nuts. Obviously, we live in Saudi Arabia. But identifying Saudi Arabia as my country of residence felt so…final. Like I was somehow permanently discarding my American identity (which, of course, is ridiculous).
“So…” the officer said. “Which of you live here?” He looked at Saleh and said, “Do you have a green card?”
“I’m a citizen. So is our daughter,” I said. I pointed to our (American) address on the form. “That’s our house. It belongs to us.”
“But…you’re not residents?”
I froze. I must have looked like a deer caught in the headlights, because the officer said to me gently, “It’s okay. You can say that your home is in Saudi Arabia.”
I let out a deep breath. “Yeah, I guess technically, we do live in Saudi Arabia.”
The officer crossed out “USA” and wrote “Saudi Arabia” in its place. Then he continued with the process of stamping our passports and said in a jovial voice, “I thought so! Because if he doesn’t have a green card, he can’t be a resident, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to live away from his girls. He would miss you too much!”
“That’s true!” Saleh agreed.
The officer finished stamping and handed the stack of passports back to me. Smiling, he said, “Welcome home!”
I wanted to hug him.
Yes, I am home. But on this visit home, my third since I moved to Riyadh, I feel more acutely than ever that Riyadh is home now, too. There are constantly little things that remind me of Riyadh, or make me think about how different Riyadh is. There are moments when I think about how much southern Missouri is a part of me and has shaped me in ways I never even noticed until I left. There are moments when I think about how I don’t know how I will be able to bear having to leave it. And then there are moments when I think about how I wouldn’t be able to bear never going back to Riyadh.
I don’t want to leave.
I don’t want to stay.
I don’t want to leave.
I don’t want to stay.
It’s so hard. But it’s okay. The transition to having two homes is never easy, and like it or not, I have two homes now. And no matter where I am, home is waiting for me. That’s a really nice feeling.