On one of my first nights back in my parent’s house after finishing my summer internship, I decided to kick back, eat a burger, and watch one of the best movies ever created. When I hit ‘play’ my dad, who was eating dinner with me, muttered, “Are we watching a chic flic?” to which I responded, “No we’re watching a cinematic masterpiece.”
The cinematic masterpiece in question? The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
I only thought of watching the movie because it’s been all over my Tik Tok FYP recently. There’s a mini-trend of people saying they’re going to have a Bridget Vreeland summer – going for runs with their hair down, shamelessly flirting with boys, and being more impulsive and spontaneous. When I first watched the movie my junior year of high school, Bridget was the girl I instantly idealized as well, but watching it back I didn’t feel the same way towards her. She’s constantly riding a wave of adrenaline to forget about the loss of her mother at such a young age. I’ve lived a couple years of my life being fueled by something similar – being impulsive and spontaneous and always going because you’re trying to forget something that’s happening to you. But now, it doesn’t seem that appealing to me. I’d love to see what Bridget’s character would be like without the effects of the loss of her mom, but since that’s not possible we’re going to talk about a different girl. My new favorite character.
To be honest, Lena’s storyline initially drew me in because of my rapidly upcoming move to Europe as she was spending the summer in Greece with her grandparents. I’ve had a lot of friends tell me they want to travel to Greece to have their “Young Donna Summer”. While I love the Mamma Mia movies and seeing Donna take on all the obstacles that come her way so effortlessly, I’m not the kind of person that can do that.
Just like Lena, I’m not one for recklessness. I don’t want to lay down in bed at the end of the day and feel sick to my stomach regretting things I did when I was acting before thinking. I surely could not have a child so young in the gracious manner that Donna did. However, the Lena Kaligaris Summer, that’s something I can definitely achieve.
She spent her days alone in beautiful places, reading all summer, doing art on the coast, sitting around in busy street markets just observing and documenting, partaking in ancient family feuds, and simply just being present in the beautiful sights and experiences every day.
Lena’s personality is a lot like mine as well. She describes herself as “stubborn and quiet and afraid of feeling too much” even though she hasn’t experienced a lot of loss in her life yet. But throughout the summer of rest and relaxation in Greece, she also does a lot of hard internal work. Lena realizes that she needs to relax a bit, and maybe take a few notes from Young Donna on the correct way to do Greece, but she does it by taking calculated risks.
Spending time with a boy after she has realized he’s a good person, swimming in a bikini instead of constantly covering herself up, and generally letting herself become freer while still being Lena Kaligaris.
The best part about The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants though is that it’s so real. By the end of the summer, none of the girls have perfect solutions to their problems. They do have some bandaids though, and they have each other. Which is way more realistic than Lena completely discovering herself in Greece and being content from that moment on.
Lena confesses that “all [her] life people have seen [her] a certain way”. Having someone constantly tell you who you are instead of letting you prove it yourself provides some real good identity crises. Lena may still not know who she is exactly, but after her summer she has a better idea of who she wants to be.
I was put into a singular box for the majority of my life, and college was finally my ‘Greece moment’ when I was able to start figuring out who I want to be, instead of who I always was told I was. Just like in Lena’s story, this involved some calculated risks.
By the end of the movie, you could plausibly see the difference in Lena’s character. The mule she fell off of upon her arrival to Greece was easily mounted and ridden back out during her departure. She started and rode a manual motorcycle to confess her love for Kostos. When her three best friends picked her up from the airport, they all commented how she looked different, was wearing her hair down, and in more fitting clothes. They could physically see she was changing, and praised her for it, instead of embarrassing her – which is a trait we all need in our closest friends.
Lena is one of the first characters I’ve noticed who has loosened up, but not to the point of reckless abandon, while keeping her principles and morals along the way. No matter how hard others pushed her, she stayed true to herself and grew at her own pace.
Lena isn’t supposed to be the character in the group that stands out above the others, but I’m proud to say that if we’re naming ourselves as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants characters — I’m Lena Kaligaris all the way.
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