One of the reasons Lady Bird was so successful and nominated for five Academy Awards was because of its ability to relate to the audience. A lot of women saw themselves in the Greta Gerwig film and were able to connect with it on a personal level, specifically when it came to the mother-daughter relationship between Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and Marion (Laurie Metcalf).
Another thing Lady Bird gets right, is it’s portrayal of Catholic school. Rather than relying on overblown stereotypes, Gerwig is able to show Lady Bird (aka Christine) go through her senior year at Immaculate Heart as a normal and universal experience. While every high school is more or less the same, there’s something only Catholic high school students experience and this movie nailed it.
15. Attending Mass
Depending on the school you went to, you usually attended mass twice a month or weekly. And it was a requirement for everyone to attend. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Students were also typically required to assist with and participate in the mass. That meant planning the music, singing in the choir, being a reader, greeting people as they enter the church, or being a cross bearer. No one was ever super thrilled about this but, it was to be expected given that it’s a Catholic school and all.
14. Not paying attention in mass
Paying attention during mass was HARD. You would listen for about two seconds and then start daydreaming about what the cafeteria was serving for lunch (hopefully chicken fingers). You could say the prayers, but often times you weren’t really putting much effort or thought into it. It didn’t help that the chapel was in school either. Paying attention in school was already difficult, but now you had to pay attention in mass at school. Our teenage brains just couldn’t handle it, we were so easily distracted.
13. Leaving room for the Holy Spirit
If you haven’t heard this at least once in your life, did you even go to Catholic school? In attempts to keep school dance functions “clean” (this is how my teacher once put it), students were often told to leave room for the Holy Spirit. In extreme cases, to really drive the point home, couples would have to dance with an inflated balloon between them to remind them to keep some space in there. As if dancing with your crush wasn’t already awkward, now there’s the added discomfort of dancing like there’s another person in between you. As incredibly annoying and frustrating as this rule was, we couldn’t help but laugh any time when we heard it.
12. The uniforms
Uniforms were both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you never had to obsess over what to wear every day. The downside? The uniforms were pretty ugly. And frumpy. Halloween costumes and shows like Gossip Girl often depict private school uniforms as super cute, sexy even. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter how hard you tried, there was just no way to make these ill-fitting uniforms look good. The sweater vests were often a color that looked good on virtually no one; the shirt sleeves always went past your elbows, forcing you to roll them up; and then, there were the skirts — why were they SO long?! You’d have to roll them up at least 5 times for them to be a normal length.
11. Strict dress codes
The struggle was real when it came to the dress code. Constant uniform violations typically resulted in disciplinary action and teachers would often do surprise hem checks where they would measure your skirt to make sure you were following the rules. In rare cases, you would be sent home or your parents would have to come to school and bring you “appropriate” clothing.
In an effort to make the best of a bad situation (aka the ugly uniforms), you’d occasionally deviate from the dress code. But only slightly. This meant a little bit of eyeshadow or some cute drop earrings. But wearing Uggs with your uniform? Patterned scarves and J.Crew cardigans instead of the uniform sweater? You were just asking for trouble. We still don’t know how Lady Bird was able to get away with pink hair. That goes in direct opposition to the “natural-colored hair only” rule.
10. Having a crush on your male teacher
Okay, this is probably at every high school – Catholic or not. There was always that one male teacher everyone was in love with. There was something about him that was just SO dreamy. He was usually on the younger side, late 20s or early 30s, and was also the only male teacher in the entire school (sometimes one of two!). Even if he wasn’t actually hot, the fact that he was a man was honestly all that mattered. If he was just somewhat close to above-average, he was officially in-school eye-candy.
Contrary to mass media stereotypes, the nuns in schools were typically really sweet (just don’t get caught violating the dress code). Everyone always had their favorite nun; she was compassionate, funny, empathetic and thoughtful. Lady Bird shows us that nuns aren’t these tyrannical people who hit students with rulers — they’re real people just like us. The nuns in school helped us build morals and character, consider life beyond the classroom, and reminded us to always keep our shirts tucked in no matter what.
8. Going to the dance with your bestie instead of bringing a date
Going through the trouble of having your friend set you up with someone was always a struggle. In fact, it was usually just really awkward. Going to any date-like event with a friend was the only guaranteed way to have a good time. No worrying about whether you’ll end the night with a kiss or if they’ll want to dance, you get to do your thing. That’s why we loved when Lady Bird and Julie went to prom together. There really is no better date than your BFF.
7. The abortion talk
There’s a scene in the film where a woman tells a gym full of Lady Bird’s classmates that her own mother was going to get an abortion. Lady Bird interrupts: “Just because something looks ugly doesn’t make it wrong,” she says. “…If your mother had had that abortion, we wouldn’t have to sit through this stupid assembly.” The abortion talk we had definitely wasn’t as dramatic as this, but it still happened at some point. The topic of pro-life vs. pro-choice typically came up at least once during the required religion class.
6. Your knee socks losing their elasticity
Socks and tights were notorious for causing wardrobe malfunctions at school. They either fell straight to your ankles at the most inopportune time or they ripped early on in the day. Lady Bird is often seen with her socks bunched up at the bottom of her feet and we can totally relate because – same. And if you didn’t shave your legs that day, well… it was just not a good look. Every few seconds you’d have to pull them up. The socks might have been the worst part of the uniform (well, besides the skirts).
5. Trying to fit in
Ok, so this one isn’t just specific to just Catholic high schoolers. No matter who the cool kids were or how they gained their status, fitting in felt like the most important thing back in the day. Watching Lady Bird go through the same exact struggles as she attempts to become several different people over the course of the film was relatable AF. She changes her name, takes up acting, and ditches her best friend for the popular crowd. You’re lying if you said you didn’t make some of the same bad judgment calls in an effort to seem cooler back in Catholic school.
4. Sex education
I guess saying lack of sex education would be much more appropriate. As a Catholic, it’s just expected that everyone will abstain until marriage. But, let’s be realistic here… We all know that not everyone does, so what is the point in withholding important info from teenagers who won’t all remain chaste until marriage? That’s a debate for another day. The point is that Catholic schools promoted abstinence-only education which meant no sex-ed classes. No putting a condom on a banana or charts of birth control options. And no sex-ed meant learning everything you know about doin’ it from the first girl in your year to swipe her v-card Or movies. Or Google.
3. Knowing everyone (or of everyone)
The students you went to high school with were most likely the same exact people from your elementary/middle school. So everyone knew (or knew of) everyone. At times, it was kind of nice. Other times, it felt like you could never get away from the person you used to be. This dynamic created an intimacy between classmates that most high schools probably didn’t have. When you are in the same class with the same people for countless years a bond is formed. The downside? Everyone knows everyone’s business. Gossip often traveled like wildfire, so the second you walked in the halls on Monday morning the entire school already knew who did what that weekend (and with whom).
2. Not following the rules
Maybe it was the uniform getting to you or the constant rules, but there was always a tiny part of you that just wanted to rebel (and sometimes you did). Maybe you wore extra heavy eye-makeup one day to class knowing you would get called out, maybe you rolled up your skirt to an absurd length and just didn’t care, or maybe you were in a bit of a mood and spoke back to your teacher. Unsurprisingly, Lady Bird pushes the boundaries quite a bit in the movie: There’s the time when she insults a teacher during the abortion assembly and then another time she decorates a nun’s car as revenge. We can’t say we blame her though, being a Catholic school girl (or a teen in general) just made you want to defy the rules sometimes.
Friendship is one of the most important things you got out of your high school experience, and the ones you made in Catholic school were honestly the best. They know all of your embarrassing stories and have witnessed your incredibly awkward phases. They know you better than anyone. Your Catholic school friends offer you a place to return to no matter how much time or distance separates you. You’ll grow up. You’ll grow older. But in some ways, your friendships won’t change at all.