When I first saw the movie Steel Magnolias, I was 13 years old and I fell immediately in love with the cast and the story. And, I mean, what’s not to love? Wise-cracking Southern women bonded together by friendship and mutual love of sweet tea navigating life’s hardship with grace and a hefty dose of Lycra on their thighs.
Each character brings her own version of Southern charm to the movie and let’s face it: a good ugly cry at the end made for a timeless rom-com to be enjoyed at any age.
I instantly connected with Julia Robert’s character, Shelby Eatenton. As a teenager, I was enamored by Shelby’s fairy tale romance and her big, ostentatious wedding to dashing AF Jackson Latcherie, Jr. The wedding scene, where the church is bedecked in Shelby’s favorite colors, “blush” and “bashful” made me swoon. Pink immediately became my signature color, too.
Through the years, Steel Magnolias has been my go-to chick flick and I never get tired of watching Ouiser and Clairee bicker like children. I’ve been known to tell my friends to “Do your roots,” and have often reminded them that I love them “more than my luggage” because I’ve pretty much memorized the entire movie.
Frankly, I judge my friends based on their ability to quote the movie word-for-word with me. “You know, he hasn’t lived in Chiquipin Parish since God was a boy.” You are either #TeamOwenJenkins or you aren’t a friend of mine.
And, 30 years later (God, has it been that long?), quoting Steel Magnolias never gets old.
Recently, though, I watched the movie with my 12-year-old daughter and was astonished to realize that Steel Magnolias has taken on a whole new level of poignant for me now that I have a daughter.
In the scene where M’Lynn Eatonton, played by Sally Field, is rushing down the hospital hall in warrior mode to be by Shelby’s side after her collapse gave me chills. As I looked at my daughter sitting next to me, I realized M’Lynn is all of us when it comes to doing what it takes to be there for our kids. The determined sound of her shoes in that hallway reverberated in my head as I said a silent prayer that I’d never have to watch my daughter pass away unexpectedly.
Moms are made of steel and the lines in Steel Magnolias remind us that we are strong AF, even in our worst moments.
“Don’t you decorate your sister’s car with condoms — it’s tacky!”
M’lynn’s exasperated cry as she looks out the window and sees that her sons have decorated Shelby’s honeymoon car with condoms is even funnier for me now that I’m a mom. Because I know my son would do the same thing to his sister. And I’d be equally as horrified.
“Time marches on and, soon, you’ll realize it’s marching all over your face.”
Truvy Jones, played by Dolly Parton, drops a truth bomb that we moms know all too well. As I slather on $200 worth of skin creams on my face at night to hide the early signs of crow’s feet, I identify with the women in Steel Magnolias as they gather in Truvy’s salon to fight the signs of aging. Because, as Annelle learns early on, “There’s no such thing as natural beauty.” The salon scenes are my favorites, particularly because Ouiser reminds us that moms have all been in a very bad mood for, well, 40 years.
“Spoken like a true smart ass. There’s hope for you, yet.”
Every mother has a moment where you realize your kid is in on the joke and that they’ve learned to lighten up. Now that I have kids, when Clairee cracks this line to Annelle after Shelby’s funeral, I smile when I think of my kids and their smart ass retorts.
“If you can’t say anything nice, come sit by me.”
My friends are the reason I have survived motherhood because they never judge a single word that comes out of my mouth. My “can’t say anything nice” friends have made PTA meetings and dealing with sanctimommies manageable. You need friends who will tell you that your ass looks like two pigs fighting under a blanket in a fancy dress, I tell you.
“Ouiser, I’d recognize this penmanship anywhere. You have the handwriting of a serial killer.”
We all have that friend who knows us inside and out, and who reminds us that they know our faults and love us anyway. Ouiser and Clairee may fight like cats and dogs throughout the movie but their connection is #friendshipgoals for all of us. And our real BFFs friends will forgive us for offering their faces to be slapped in the heat of a tense moment, right?
“As a woman, I realize how lucky I am. I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out.”
Cue ugly cry sobbing. When M’lynn quietly takes in Shelby’s casket, covered in pink roses, her an epic meltdown in the throes of her grief quite literally takes your breath away. As she screams about being able to jog to Texas while her daughter is gone, Sally Field is at her acting finest. Field accurately captures the agonizing reality of losing a child and now that I’m a mother, that scene takes on a whole new level of ugly crying for me.
Even though I can recite every word of the movie, I cancel all the things when Steel Magnolias is on TV because laughing through tears really is the best medicine for, well, everything.