Before we get started on Not A Rom-Com month, let’s just put this out there: I’m a big fan of Romantic Comedies. David (who otherwise has excellent taste) is not, so when he’s gone I’ll watch any Romantic Comedy I can get my hands on. In fact, today’s second post references The Holiday, which is a perfect example of the form if you ask me. Plus, Kate Winslet.
That said, the trouble with Romantic Comedies is glaringly obvious. Rom-Coms are our new fairytales, our cultural mythmakers, and they spin a web of narrative that is hard for us to escape. The myths hide so deeply in our psyches that we don’t know they are there until they’ve leapt out to bite us in the (totally unrealistic) ass. For me, the most damaging Romantic Comedy myth was not, of course, margaritas with the gay best friend (reality?). What really messed with my head was the Romantic Comedy life timeline. I really thought that you graduated college, found and interesting job at a magazine or art gallery, got a nice urban apartment, and were starting down the road to serious success by twenty-two, preparing you for happily married with a baby and owning the art gallery by twenty-seven. And I know this myth has its hold on more people than me, since the APW comments are filled with laments of not being anywhere near as successful at, say, twenty-three, as expected.
Newsflash: You know who was wildly successful by twenty-three? Lindsay Lohan. Brittany Spears. Fiona Apple. Drew Barrymore. And that clearly worked out flawlessly for everyone concerned. Wild success and relative youth has a way of doing damage, and sometimes destroying talent before it even begins. I, however, was not a recipient of that newsflash, and at twenty-three, was trudging through the snow in boots I’d bought to wear to my temp reception job that were now leaking. Brilliant. Now I had freezing wet feet to go with my constant mental tape loop of despair. (If I don’t own an art gallery and a collection of wildly cute shoes at twenty-three, it’s clear the ship has sailed.) Then, to make things worse, by twenty-six I had my perfect Rom-Com theatre production job… and the same goddamn leaky shoes. Because why? Working at an art gallery/theatre/floral studio will leave you flat broke and not at all in the possession of a stylish and well-appointed apartment. (You want the reality of my twenties? Watch Girls—less the horrific sex scenes, thanks.)
I found out that the danger of Romantic Comedies is they contain a shred of truth. It is totally possible to be happy, with a job you like, an exceptional collection of shoes/handbags/records/whatever your thing is, a nicely decorated home, and a cute dog and/or baby. It’s just that, for most of us, that happens five to twenty years after the Romantic Comedy timeline says it should. And thank God. Because as Elizabeth Gilbert said, in one of my favorite (paraphrased) quotes from her ever, “I’m glad I became successful when I was old enough to know that I was neither as great as my most fervent fans thought I was, nor as terrible as my most dedicated critics.” Which is to say: know yourself first. Then get the shoe collection.*
Which pretty much applies to weddings exactly. Know thyself and be thyself. And then figure out what the eff kind of shoes to wear.
So this month we’ll be deconstructing the Romantic Comedy narrative and try to strip it of some of its (damaging) power: the grand romantic gesture, love conquers all, weddings as the end of the story. And of course, we’ll be doing it with a splash of love for the form. Because being spunky and brave like your classic Rom-Com leading lady usually does not go amiss.
Next up: What watching The Holiday (and sobbing) can teach you.
*Sidenote: I wish. I’m always the person with about five shoes in rotation. Flats, boots, sandals, gym shoes, heels. Maybe I’ll tackle that issue in the next decade.
P.S. Next month’s theme is “Decided.” Rather than the often-discussed process of making a decision, we’re talking about what happens once you’ve decided. Made a choice. Gone for it. What happens then? What happens next? (Hint: This is what a wedding is. What happens when you’ve decided.) If you want to join in the fray, submit your stories, weddings, and more here. Of course, posts not related to the theme are delightedly accepted as well.