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Last night I celebrated my 31st birthday with a box of Raisinettes and a Diet Coke in the movie theater. Please don’t feel bad for me. First, I have fun birthday plans with friends tomorrow night! And second, I absolutely adore trips to the movie theater alone. It’s an old pastime of mine, and I highly recommend you try it!

It turns out that the film made me cry… but in a good way! (Disclaimer: I cry quite easily, be it at Sleepless in Seattle, The Lion King or Match.com commercials. It could be linked to early onset menopause. Waiting for the test results to come in.)

Let’s talk about The Help, shall we?

Set in 1960s Mississippi, Skeeter (played fabulously by Emma Stone) is a southern girl who returns from Ole Miss determined to become a writer. As it turns out, she’s not the squeaky-clean society girl she’s supposed to be. While her friends at Bridge Club are trying to convince their husbands to build separate, outdoor bathroom facilities for their black maids, Skeeter befriends the black women of Jackson—the same women who raised her and every little while girl for miles.

Skeeter spends her days and nights sneaking around to interview women like Aibilene and Minny—putting herself in their shoes and learning what it’s like to be them. What starts out as a book project to tell a story from the maids’ perspective turns into a civil rights movement that changes a community—and the lives of many people, both black and white. (And even one Ukrainian girl in a Virginia movie theater, with a crumbling tissue in one hand and a few melting Raisinettes in the other.)

Underneath the powerful theme of race relations that leads the film (and the preceding book by Kathryn Stockett), there is another story that deeply resonates with me. It’s the story of Skeeter—a single girl with weird hair, a spunky attitude and big dreams. She reminded me a lot of myself, actually.

In the film, her high society friends—all of whom are married—constantly remind career-driven Skeeter that she needs to date and to find a husband. And when they finally set her up on a date, the guy ends up being a complete chauvinist, accusing Skeeter of being a “husband hunter” like the rest of them. Before abruptly leaving the restaurant, she asks him if he’s always been stupid, or if he was just dropped on his head as a child! (You go, girl!)

I learned a lot from Skeeter in this film—so much so that I haven’t been able to get her out of my mind today.

  1. True courage requires action. Skeeter didn’t just believe that it was wrong to discriminate against blacks—she did something about it. She wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she believed in, even if it meant losing her so-called friends, her reputation and any chance she had at finding a husband. My life is more 2011 D.C. than 1960 Mississippi—but I see things that need changing. I see areas where I can make a positive influence. I need to find the courage to take action and make a difference in the world around me.
  2. If you have a dream, you have to go for it. Even though it meant writing a cleaning column for the Jackson Journal for $8.00 a week, Skeeter knew she had to do something to get her on the road to becoming a real author. Funny, that’s kinda like this blog is for me, I suppose. Not too many people read it and I don’t always have the greatest things to say, but I’m going for it. I have to believe I’m taking the right steps to fulfill my dream.
  3. There is more to life than finding a husband. After her date from hell, Skeeter reconnected with that boy and dated for a while. But as soon as he found out she published a scandalous book, he left her. He couldn’t deal with her speaking her mind—even though it was the right thing to do. Although her heart was broken, I think she saw the bigger picture. She made a difference in a world that needed changing. And if her boyfriend couldn’t support that, he wasn’t meant to be in her life.

For a girl like me who spends her days blogging about modern day dating, it’s hard not to focus on the idea of marriage. But, as much as I’d love a relationship, I know that deep down there is more to life than just finding a husband. If I can’t be happy with the person I am and with what I’m doing in my life, then I will never be truly happy with another person.

Thanks, Skeeter, for reminding me. You made my birthday really special.