Can you love and hate a person at the same time? I think so. This is why I totally feel for Lady Bird. And just like her, it also took me a while embrace this side of love.
As a child raised in a world where things usually come in binary oppositions (bad vs. evil, love vs. hate, etc.), I used to think that I always have to decide whether I love someone or something, or I just hate them. Nothing in between, because it would be against the rules. Somehow, I also thought of the same thing about people’s traits, so I get Lady Bird’s confusion about how a person could be warm and scary at the same time.
However, as I grew older, I realized that things in this world were just too complex to be categorized.
I had a better grasp of the idea as I pondered on my relationships with the people around me. I felt that my relationship with my mother, siblings, close friends, and lovers, all had something in common: they were not defined by love alone. I loved them all, yet there were also things in them that I found repulsive.
In fact, I could hate them as much as I loved them. It was the same way I felt for the city I grew up in. Although I was sure I would forever love it for having helped me become who I was, I also detested it for many reasons.
It was, perhaps, due to the fact that I was paying a lot of attention to them. This realization struck me upon watching the scene where a nun talks to Lady Bird about how she writes about Sacramento, and how her love for the place becomes apparent in her descriptions. This comes to her as a big surprise, since she’s been clear from the very beginning that she detests the place. In the end of the scene, the nun asks, “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”
It makes a lot of sense.
Logically speaking, when you love a person or a place, you give them more attention. Then, you are most likely to notice more things in them, both good and bad.
It is also no wonder that strangers and new places sometimes have a certain appeal to us. It is easier for them to appear perfect before our eyes. That’s because we haven’t seen much of them yet, so we are still unaware of their flaws. But as we become more familiar with them, we start to see who or what they really are. We are exposed to their unlovable sides, to the point of annoyance and/or hatred.
It’s sad, I know, but maybe that’s what makes love real. Perhaps it’s just part of the package.
This does not mean, however, that people should always use love as an excuse to remain assholes forever. While it is true that love involves accepting another person’s imperfections and still caring for them despite these not-so-good things, it also involves wanting to be a better person not only for oneself but also for their beloved.
I think I was able to see that in Lady Bird, especially as her character shows willingness to change for the better toward the end of the film. No matter how self-centered and immature she is, she learns to admit her mistakes and actually apologizes for them. She also embraces her name, Christine, and tells her mother she loves her.
And I guess she’s trying to become a better version of herself, despite having told her mother, “What if this is the best version?”
Oh, love. How it changes us is both amazing and frightening.