How Romcoms Made Me a Hopeless Romantic (Emphasis on Hopeless)

The other day, my friend sent me a TikTok with a text saying, “this reminded me of you”. It was a girl reacting to screenshots of messages from her friend describing a laughably short-spanned whirlwind fling, starting with, “so I think I’m in love” and ending with, “I blocked him”. I laughed out loud because she knows me a little too well. I often joke that I fall in and out of love with someone new every day, all the while remaining acutely aware that it is not really love, but in fact some irrational hybrid of lucid daydreaming and lust. And while I’m sure a psychologist could very well trace this back to some deeper root, like an overactive childhood imagination, I prefer to blame Hollywood.

See, when I was a kid, weekend movie nights would consist of popping in one of our VHS tape movies (and later DVDs when things got really fancy and modernized) and watching the cheesiest romantic comedies under the sun. My mom and I were the Hollywood romcom power duo – Sleepless in Seattle, Sixteen Candles, You’ve Got Mail…you name it, we watched it. And the more I watched, the more I envisioned myself as Meg Ryan atop the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day, or Molly Ringwald walking out of the church to find Jake leaning against his car waiting for her. Later, for sleepovers I would already have the classics lined up, and the aforementioned friend would unquestioningly be forced to watch them with me. When I discovered new 2000s romcoms (à la Confessions of a Shopaholic era), my stomach would jump at the idea of a brand-new meet-cute and beautiful couple, along with a storyline that held a  satisfyingly happy classic Hollywood ending. Nothing could go wrong in a romcom – that’s Hollywood, baby!

Every happily-ever-after made me feel elated, impatiently waiting to grow up so that I too could experience a Nicholas Sparks-worthy romance. Then, when my long-time seventh grade crush, who I was convinced was my soulmate, told me, he didn’t like me back, the excitement waned a little. In tenth grade when the cute boy from music class found a new girl to talk to, replacing me at the drop of a hat, it waned a little more. After a myriad of more letdowns and crushed expectations accompanied by some truly horrid dates, a few seeds of doubt were planted, making me wonder what it was that I was really waiting for. Slowly but surely, the realization came – John Hughes was a big, fat liar.

 There was no Jake and his Porsche, no Patrick and his big musical number in the bleachers professing his feelings in front of the soccer team, not even a jock dating me on a bet, accidentally falling head over heels in love with me in the process. Were all the love stories that I myself had fallen in love with over the years, a scam? No, it couldn’t be.

 Yet there I was, with the (some may say) quite useless ability to quote famous romcom scenes from memory, no closer to an epic love story of my own. Remember in Easy A, when Emma Stone said – “I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey”, in an outcry for the chivalry missing from our current generation? I related to her qualms about modern love with everything in me.

 The problem is, in life there’s no grand kiss and stroll into the sunset before the screen cuts to black and the credits roll over some peppy pop song, convincing you the past hour and a half was time well spent. In life, there’s no script to read from, as much as we all could use one sometimes. Boys are only human, as am I. Life is just life, with its topsy-turvy ups and downs and navigations of the dating world in all its awkwardness and quandaries, sometimes surprisingly wonderful. In life, nothing is planned, and maybe that’s the story.

 To go back to my text conversation with my friend, I do and will continue to immediately fall for cute boys meandering the aisles of grocery stores and skateboarders who send cheeky smiles in the park, imagining a whole future with them in the blink of an eye, and that’s ok. Romanticize your life until your reveries become realities because they are nothing short of what you deserve. Sure, Jake might come in a different package with more updated slang terms than the ’80s romcoms, but the important thing is that he will eventually come and sweep you off your feet, and then all the musings and mental ambles amongst the clouds will have been worth it.