This may come as a shock to those of you unfamiliar with me, or with this column, or anyone unfamiliar with the minds of writers in their twenties, but I’m kind of fucked up in the head.
Now when I say that, I am of course exhibiting that kind of blunt hyperbolic exaggeration people have come to expect from me, this column and from writers in their twenties. But I’m not being wholly inaccurate. There’s something wrong with my brain. And I blame Hollywood.
They say we learn about relationships and love from our parents, our families, those around us who raise us and teach us the ways of the world. But I don’t think that’s true. Because I grew up thinking my parents’ relationship was totally unrealistic. Why did I think this? Because it was completely different from the fictitious couplings I knew from movies and TV. My parents didn’t spend the whole day smiling, holding hands, then sneaking kisses when our backs were turned. They didn’t seem madly crazy in love. I’m not sure to this day I’ve ever heard them say “I love you” to one another. They’re casual. Like best friends who sleep in the same room. I didn’t realize until I was older that this was normal. In fact I was pretty convinced for years that my parents were trapped in a loveless marriage. But this of course was not the case. My parents relationship is normal and real. And they do love each other. But not “movie love.” And unfortunately, it is movie love that’s ruined so many people my age.
Top Five Movie Moments to Ruin People in Their Twenties (The Notebook not included because, let’s face it, we were already done for when that movie came out):
5. Andie and Blaine Reuniting at the Prom:
Molly Ringwald, every “normal” girl’s patron saint. She wasn’t beautiful, she was unique and that made her better, superior. And therefore every girl who identified with her subsequently believed that she too was better, superior, to every perfect skinny blonde with big tits. Because we had better taste in music, because we had better taste in clothes, because this, because that, and that possibly messed us up far more than anything else mentioned in this article, but that deserves its own whole thing, and if I get into it, I might weep. Best kept between me and my therapist, kthnx. Anyway. Popular hottie goes for cool different girl. He’s pressured into dumping her, but love conquers all. He just, to para-quote, didn’t believe in himself.
Whatever. Sit down, Andrew McCarthy, you with your neat hair and baby face. In life, none of us are ever Andie. We are all Duckie. That’s what superior cool uniqueness gets you. Duckie. Fuck.
4. Jake Ryan and Samantha Baker and that Goddamn Cake:
Okay, they’ve never spoken, don’t actually know each other, but the most popular senior in school is going to go for a sophomore that just stares at him all the time because she’s different from his perfect pretty popular girlfriend? How can that NOT destroy your soul? How are we supposed to watch that and then go on with our daily lives? How am I supposed to leave the house without makeup knowing that any given time, Jake Ryan might just be staring at me, deep in the thoughtful decision to pick me up at a church and buy me cake? That’s a lot of pressure, and frankly, I don’t think I can handle that.
3. This isn’t a moment per se, but the very existance of Ewan McGregor, David Tennant and Robert Downey, Jr. has caused more damage than is truly necessary. I mean, how are we supposed to be happy with our respective other halves knowing there’s men like that out there? Hardly playing fair.
2. Lloyd Fucking Dobler and Everything He Fucking Does:
This one is personal. Damn you Cusack. You more than any one person are responsible for these issues. I’m getting dangerously close to Klosterman territory here, and he put it better than me, so I’ll be brief, but how are we ever supposed to be happy with our average everyday men when you defined our notion of what the average everyday man is supposed to be? Because you embodied this perfect averageness, everyone else somehow fades to gray. No one can ever measure up. Even Cusack himself, if various “I met him” stories I’ve heard around Chicago are to be believed. And that’s not goddamn fair.
1. Meg Ryan Leaving Bill Pullman to Go Meet Tom Hanks at the Empire State Building:
This one kills me the most. Partly because of my sizable lifelong crush on Pullman, but mostly because of this: he was a good guy. So sweet and decent, and he loved her. And she left him for the idea of something better, something magical. And who can’t relate. Who among us hasn’t found a relationship, a love even, and been happy with another person, and been able to picture eternity, until that one little switch in the back of your head wonders if maybe there’s something else out there. Something magic. Someone who’s dropping everything to look for us, that special other piece that will make them complete. And Meg left her good decent man and went and found the magic. What are we supposed to do? What if there’s no one waiting for us on top of the Empire State Building? In the movie, it’s touching and glorious. In real life, we’d be fucking assholes to even go check.
Movie love. So perfect. Stars align, fireworks explode, music plays (depending on the genre or time period, the type of music can vary, of course). Two people come together and know that they’re right for one another. Maybe they’ve known each other for years, and only finally realized it after almost losing each other. Maybe one of them pined after the other for years, unnoticed. Maybe they found each other after being in their own miserable situations (miserable here meaning at worst “slightly bored”). Whatever the premise, the outcome is always the same. Happily ever after.
Look, I’m not saying that we simple “real” people can’t find happily ever after. I’m not saying we can’t come together with the one person meant for us and find that sweet forever. I’m not saying that because I don’t know. I think so. It’s what I’d like to believe. But I also see with the slightly cynical eyes of someone who sees the “real world.” The real world here of course meaning the darker sadder side of love. Sometimes with my own relationships, sometimes with those around me and yes, sometimes in movies, I’ve seen heartbreak, divorce, cheating and I’ve seen people who will live their lives forever alone. Per usual, there’s a war on in my brain. Because I can’t seem to find the happy medium. It’s hard to settle for anything but perfect fairydust magic love, but when we’re taught to never settle, how the hell are we supposed to know what constitutes “settling” in the first place?
This all seems very complicated. And it really seems like something I’m not equipped to figure out. So Dobler, I’ll be expecting you outside my window with the boombox soon, ‘kay?
Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.