I’ve been mulling this over for a while, but decided something needed to be said (ok, fine, written, argue semantics with me, why don’t you) when Kevin Marshall (yes, he gets two links, he merits them, and if you’re not reading him, you’re missing out, so click up there, already – and no, I’m not just saying that because he reads my blog. I’m not bought that cheaply. Although no one has really offered, so I’m not 100% sure what the going rate would be. Get back to me with a price, we’ll haggle, and let’s see what happens) linked to one of my posts last week, saying it reminded him of something he’d posted on his blog (and in this way, if we keep linking to one another, we become like a ouroboros, without a beginning or end, and will possibly break the Internet.) In particular, my description of the sensitive poetry guy, who was not really sensitive, but really just out to get laid, reminded him of his post about Nice Guy Syndrome.
In reading Kevin’s post (in case you’re too lazy, or confused by technology, or just a complete loyalist to my blog, in which case, aw!, to click on the link above, the main point of the post is that some self-proclaimed “nice guys” are not, really, and get very up-in-arms and huffy when women don’t fall for them; it’s obviously the woman’s fault – they only want “bad boys”, not “nice ones,” and not theirs; and the men seem to have a sense of entitlement about the whole thing. I apologize for boiling this down to one or two salient points. It would be a lot more effective if you just read the article, research-phobes), and then reading a multitude of other posts that this led me to over the past few days, I realized two things: I can’t stay on task, because I start reading about one thing, and I go in a completely different direction, and is it possible to contract ADD this late in life? And, also, along those lines, who is to blame for this whole nice-guy scenario.
Hollywood. In particular: 80s movies.
Movies make things seem like they could happen, right? I mean, who hasn’t watched a movie and come home fired up about something? I mean, I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and wanted that goddamn procedure done immediately. You watch something like Poltergeist and you look at your clown doll a little more suspiciously. (Along those lines, if you have a clown doll at all, I’m looking at you a little suspiciously. Why would you even have one? Do you want your face chewed off as you sleep?) Movies make you think the impossible could happen. And when Hollywood started pumping out movies about lovable losers getting the girl, or best friends falling in love, this gave sad, lonely people, who had always thought, “My best friend – if only he/she looked at me, really looked at me! – he/she would realize we were meant to be!”, the validation they’d been looking for.
What could be better than this? You don’t have to go through the awkward “getting to know you” nonsense. This person already knows you. This person knows you’re a neurotic mess who threw up in your desk in the second grade. They like you anyway! There are no secrets that will come out of the closet and strangle your relationship! It is already comfortable; now it can be comfortable, but with sex! This is perfect!
This seems to be a woman’s thing, more than a man’s, as shown by the examples below, and also in my own experience. I’m not lumping all women into one neat little category, and I’m sure there are men who have crushed on their best friends as well – it just seems more of a female thing to me. And that having been said, I hate when people say “it’s a female thing,” because it usually means they’re referring to PMS or bad navigational skills or inability to make decisions and stick to them. When someone says this, the only decision I want to make and stick to is whether to punch them in the neck or face.
Starring: Eric Stoltz (I always had a crush on Eric Stoltz, so I watched this way too many times as a teenager; I do love ginger boys); Lea Thompson (Marty’s mom!); Mary Stuart Masterson; Craig Sheffer; and Elias Koteas (and obviously some other people who don’t matter to me that much)
Plot: a boy from the wrong side of the tracks (no, literally, he has to cross railroad tracks to get home, this movie isn’t really subtle about symbolism) falls for a girl who, although popular, is also poor. With the help of his scrappy best friend and a motorcycle gang, he takes the popular girl on a date. (Um, ok, in looking this over – and yes, this is pretty much the plot – is it just me, or did not as much happen in 80s movies than happens in movies today? This seems like something that no one would watch today. Not enough transforming robots or sparkly whiny-ass vampires.)
In this movie, Eric Stoltz, who is broody and artistic (but also very polite – it’s sweet NO SHUT UP IT IS I LOVE HIM) is best friends with Mary Stuart Masterson. Who seems to possibly be a lesbian for about half of the film, until you realize she’s just a major badass who will not conform and is secretly in love with Eric. The movie gets kind of heartbreaking, because he calls on Mary to help him plan, set up, and execute his date with Lea Thompson, and then chauffeur them around all night, watching from the sidelines.
But don’t worry! Because it is the 80s! And all that pining, and the one kiss Eric and Mary shared (she tricked him by saying, “Oh, you probably won’t know how to kiss on your date! Here, let me show you!” Then they kissed, and it was actually pretty hot. I TOLD YOU I CANNOT RESIST A GINGER), and her longing looks – they pay off! Because just when Mary thinks Eric is going to walk off into the sunset with Lea, and Mary walks home, crying, all alone in the dark in her sad little chauffeur’s outfit, Eric pulls up beside Mary and tells her he’s loved her all along!
OK, yes, I cry every time I watch it. THAT IS NOT THE POINT.
The point is, this would not happen in real life. In real life, everyone would have gone off to college and forgotten about each other, probably. Eric Stoltz’s character, other than in the one scene where Mary kisses him, doesn’t show anything but congenial friendship for her character. But suddenly, he has an epiphany! He realizes, hey! My best friend, that is where it’s at! She gets me! I don’t have to work hard to have her! I already have her!
No. No, no no. This movie ruined countless 80s women. We all started waiting for our awesome best friends to realize we were the ones. When it didn’t happen, well, this wasn’t quite fair. I mean, the movies made it seem so plausible! So likely! If it worked for Eric and Mary, why not me?
Case Study 1b: When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Starring: (Really? Do I have to tell you? Is there anyone in the world who hasn’t seen this a million times?) Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan (pre-duck lips, pre-weird-leaving her husband, possibly for Russell Crowe, back when she was still America’s sweetheart), Princess Leia, and Bruno Kirby. (And the old woman who wanted what she was having.)
Alright, before you kick me out of my country for being un-American, I love this movie. I’m saying that up front. Love it. Love it to pieces. It ruined me, and a lot of people like me, but I love it. I own it. I still watch it, and on a regular basis.
I’m not going to recap the plot here. You’ve seen it. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it, because for all of the bitching I’m doing, it’s a fine movie.
But Harry and Sally shouldn’t have ended up together.
Listen, I’m happy they do. Yes, I cry over it. But if this was real life? Harry and Sally would not have ended up together. Or they might have, but it wouldn’t have ended well. They knew each other too well. There was no spark there. There was a good, solid friendship. I feel like they were settling because were afraid of being alone, and because Princess Leia and Bruno Kirby were so sure they should get together, and not because they were in love. (And seriously, that’s Princess Leia. You kind of are duty-bound to do what a royal tells you, right? Code of the galaxy or something?)
This movie, even more so than the last, was damaging, because it gave long-term hope. Harry and Sally were friends for over a decade. “If I just hang in there, just a little longer,” people thought, “then it’ll happen. It happened for Harry and Sally! It can happen for me!” No. It can’t. It really, really can’t.
I am majorly guilty of this one, folks. I’m a graduate of falling-for-your-best-friend rehab. It’s a work in process. Every once and a while, I relapse, and need to work the steps again. Do I blame 80s movies? To the same extent that I blame my own screwed-up psyche, sure. They made it look so goddamn easy. It isn’t. It doesn’t happen. And I’ve lost good friends over it. To them, I apologize. I went kind of crazy psycho-stalker there, for a while. I know. Go find Eric Stoltz and yell at him about it, if it helps at all.
Again, this seems like a male thing (again with that, and I hate it) as shown in the examples below. I’m sure, again, there are lovable loser ladies who are crushing on the quarterback, or something. I don’t know any, but I’m sure they exist.
Starring: John Cusack (in the most iconic role of his career), Ione Skye (who never really amounted to much, acting-wise), Frasier’s dad; Lili Taylor (seriously, if you haven’t seen this, it’s worth it for her song “Joe lies when he cries” – trust me on this); Jeremy Piven; Eric Stoltz (I know! Again! GINGER!); Joan Cusack; and a lot of other people
Plot: Cusack, who is a bit of a slacker, falls in love with Skye, a huge overachiever. Skye loves him back for a while, then family issues cause her to pull away. He then holds a boom box up to her bedroom window (playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” the song most women of my age are most likely to want as their first-dance song at their weddings,) and women across the world vowed they would love John Cusack forever. (Also, duh, he gets the girl. He’s Lloyd Dobler.)
It pains me to include this movie here. It really does. Because I am one of the people who love this movie beyond belief (well, except for the boring shit with Frasier’s dad and Skye – I don’t care about her family issues, back to Cusack!) But it deserves to be here for a few reasons:
1. Cusack is a lovable loser who gets the queen bee. She’s not the most popular girl in school in this one, she’s the most intelligent (and quite beautiful, of course), but he wins her over with his irreverent charm and singleminded dedication to loving her.
2. Once they break up, Cusack becomes a bit of a stalker. Now, she breaks up with him for a false reason – she says something along the lines of “I need more time to study and you’re too much of a distraction” but really it’s because of her issues with her father going to jail for embezzlement (I am a little murky on this because although I’ve rewatched this a million times, I zone out during these scenes, which could honestly use a little more of Frasier’s dog to punch them up) but Cusack does not take this lying down. No, not our boy. There’s the boom box in the window thing. There’s a letter he writes her. He kind of stalks her, a little, because that’s what true love does, right? True love, it doesn’t give up?
Well, here’s the thing. It’s Cusack, so I’d like to give that a pass. I mean, if Cusack was under my window in that trenchcoat with that look in his eyes, I’m fairly sure he wouldn’t be waiting out there in the dark for long. But the girl told him no. And he still kept coming back. That’s not acceptable. Yes, yes, it all turns out for the best. But that’s not the point. She says goodbye; he says (with his actions), “But I know you didn’t mean that.” Again, there’s a name for that, and it’s stalking and harassment; there’s an end result for that, and that end result is a restraining order (if you’re lucky) and sometimes things more serious (if you’re not.)
These movies led to others with similar themes, of course – Reality Bites (they were both kind of crushing on each other there, I think), Zach and Miri Make a Porno (sex on camera leads best friends to fall in love – I’m not going to touch this, Kevin Smith is like unto a God to me, most of the time, sorry to disappoint you), 13 Going on 30 (going forward in time makes the girl realize she loved her best friend all along; probably the only time unrequited love will come to fruition), You’ve Got Mail (although Tom Hanks kind of only became friends with Meg Ryan in order to make her fall in love with him), along with many others that I’m sure are out there that I’m not thinking of or I haven’t seen. There are a few – Pretty in Pink stands out – where the stereotype didn’t hold true (although, listen, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m convinced that Duckie was gay. Molly Ringwald even said as much in an interview. He was also quite a stalker. How many times did Andie tell him no? And he did not take it well. At all.)
Klosterman’s quote, which I came across years ago when reading his book (I highly recommend it, by the way – funny and intelligent – and if you’re more a fiction person, his novel Downtown Owl is brilliant and heart-wrenching) said for me, more succinctly than I could ever hope to, things I’d been wanting to for years. I wrote it down and hoarded it away, like a squirrel with a nut for the winter. Well, now is the winter of my discontent, 80s movies.
Let’s talk about power for a minute, ok? Not the kind that comes out of sockets, either. The theory of power in a relationship is a solid one. Sara at Tomato Nation has been talking about it in her Vine column for years. Once you get a crush on someone, your friendship with them is over, or at least the friendship that was. It’s morphed into something else. In this new incarnation, the crushee has the power. You’ve given them that power over you by developing non-friendship feelings for them. They hold the cards; they can do to you what they will, reciprocate, not reciprocate, it’s in their hands. An imbalance of power leads to crazy behavior, sometimes. The crushee amps up their wooing, perhaps, or, realizing the object of their affection isn’t returning the feelings (and how dare they!) they get very hurt, very quickly, leading to sometimes dangerous retaliatory behavior.
Here’s the thing. Your best friend is not going to fall in love with you. “But-” No. I know, I know, it happened to a friend of a friend’s cousin. So did a lot of urban legends. Your romantic life should not hinge on something that’s hearsay, like the woman who dried her poodle in the microwave or the handicapped kid who trapped a little person in a closet because he thought he was a troll. (No! Seriously! Those happened to my sister’s best friend’s second cousin’s husband – just stop it. They didn’t. Snopes is your friend; please use it wisely.) Most relationships are between people who didn’t become friends first. Friendly, sure. Not enemies first. That’s stupid, too. Once you get into a relationship, you can become best friends (but if you become one of those “we” couples, like, when the other one isn’t even around, “We think,” “We like,” – I’m unfriending you on Facebook. Get some friends and interests of your own. You don’t become Siamese twins once you couple up.) But if you sit around waiting for your best friend to suddenly look up and see you in a different light – that’s not going to happen. Because they’re your best friend. They already know you, in any light. If it were going to happen, it would have already. Meet new people. Be friendly with them. And if one of them is the one? Great. But if they aren’t interested? Again, note above where I say back the hell off. (Fine, I didn’t say it as plainly above. I’m saying it now.)
Just honor and value yourself a little more than that, alright? Someone rejecting you or someone not like-liking you – they are not worth expending your romantic time and energy on. I’m speaking from experience, here.
And for the love of all that’s holy, watch something like Chasing Amy once and a while. Fairytale endings are all well and good, in limited doses, like cookies, but realism has its place, as well. And just as too many cookies bring on Type 2 Diabetes, a steady diet of unrealistic expectations via 80s movies brings on depression, mood swings, shattered dreams, and a lot of time spent alone, wondering, “Why doesn’t anyone ever want to date the nice guys/girls of the world?” Nice does not equal intelligent, and intelligent is so much sexier than nice. Trust me on this one.