Love can be hard, complicated, and yet immensely satisfying. Love finds the joys in little things, like pantsless Sunday mornings on the couch and 11:30 p.m. wine, ice cream, and bad movie sessions. Love is intricate, but also grand and beautiful.
Romantic Comedy Love, on the other hand, flies through your partner's roof screaming "ISN'T THIS JUST CUTE?" And despite the best efforts of the genre, most romantic comedies don't even come close to replicating the feelings of real love. In fact, most things shown in movies would absolutely suck in the actual world. For example ...
Rom-coms are obsessed with the obligatory "Terrifyingly Detailed Listicle" scene. In it, a guy who has only been a friend until this point runs down all of the little things he loves about the girl in a way that absolutely no one asked for. "I love the way your nose wrinkles when you laugh. I love the way you dance, I love the way flowers wither and die when you walk by them. I love when you summon the Four Horsemen. Etc." A good example of this is in Topher Grace's speech in Win A Date With Tad Hamilton, about Rosalee's six smiles. It seems really sweet because he's devoted so much time to thinking about her. Look at Lil' Topher. You can tell he means it.
And this does not just show up in the forgotten movies that you took a failed date to in 2004 before you had a mostly silent lunch with them at Ruby Tuesday. One of the most revered rom-coms of all time, When Harry Met Sally, ends with Billy Crystal bursting at the seams with Meg Ryan factoids. He publicly launches headfirst into a solo Meg Ryan trivia competition, and Meg Ryan kisses him out of passion, but also out of the desire to shut him up before he gets to "I love that your Social Security number starts with eight 2's."
Unfortunately, in real life, that kind of loving attention day in and day out can make you learn things about yourself you didn't need to know. For instance, I stare at my food a lot when I eat. How do I know? My kind husband informed me. It wasn't meant as an insult or a compliment -- just a thing he noticed. But now that he has pointed this out, I think about it all the time. Imagine being told by a ranting man "I love the way your face becomes prunish when you try to smile." For the rest of your life, whenever something good happens, you will have to battle your own face because the prune is lurking.
Now, when I'm having a conversation with my friends over lunch, all I can think is "Don't look at the sandwich, don't look at the sandwich," which really hampers my enjoyments of the sandwich. It also causes me to make really weird direct eye contact with people while I chew. Another thing I learned because my husband told me. So now I can't look at the sandwich, I can't look at the person I'm dining with, and I eat all of my meals with my eyes closed. Love is amazing, you guys.
My relationship talk with my friends goes like this:
Me: How's Eric?
Me: Cool. Does your belly button smell like cheese sometimes? I'm worried I might have belly button cancer.
Any relationship talk beyond that is entering the danger zone. In rom-coms, though, everyone's world is centered on a relationship that they aren't even a part of, but are somehow always into talking about. And they love it. It makes the main characters seem special and gives higher stakes to the developing relationship. For examples of this, watch any movie that has a poster with a bunch of white people looking at each other weirdly. You just know they're all thinking "Girl, this is a great conversation about potential charity work in impoverished countries. But really, HOW is Tyler's ab game?"
For the most egregious example, look at the ending of Failure To Launch, in which Matthew McConaughey is literally kidnapped and tied to a chair by his friends and family. Why? To force him to listen to his girlfriend confess her love for him, of course. Along with generally being the worst way to possibly do anything, it also sends the message that kidnapping is okay as long as it's the adorable kind.
Since I've been in a relationship for almost a decade, people tend to treat me like a mystical relationship Sherpa who will guide them up Commitment Issues Mountain and across Weird Sexual Expectations River. The truth is that relationships are super specific to who you're with, so when someone asks me "Do you think he really likes me?" I'm like, "I don't know, does he suplex you onto the bed every morning while you're trying to get ready?" Mid-dressing suplexes are a bad measure for love in most relationships, but in one that has ten years' worth of history and details and quirks, it's the standard. If my husband ever stops interrupting my morning routine by suplexing me, I'll know we're in trouble.
Being in a relationship does not qualify me to comment on someone else's, and I don't want to. I also don't want anyone else to comment on my relationship with my husband. There are literally a million other things I could talk about with my friends that don't end up killing our friendship forever because I told her to break up with a guy who isn't giving enough in the suplex department.
When the main character in a rom-com breaks up with someone, that person either A) suddenly reveals they were secretly terrible the entire time, which the audience always knew, like in The Wedding Singer, or B) they are just like, "OK, I guess we weren't meant to be. Welp, no hard feelings," like in Sweet Home Alabama. Rom-coms treat breaking up like it's a magical portal you have to jump through to transport yourself to your actual happy life. It completely ignores the person left standing on the not-fun side of portal.
If you can dump someone and then run across town and rub tongues with someone else like five minuets later, I personally think you're kind of a sociopath. Even if you know the person you're with isn't right for you, "I love you" is generally a no-takesies-backsies situation. And if you do have to take it back, you can't just immediately run into the sunset with the conveniently placed person to your left. Sure, sometimes that person is actually an asshole, and in that case, no big deal. Dump them and move on right away. That's a totally different thing.
What I'm talking about is in the finale of Playing It Cool, when we watch Michelle Monaghan make out with Chris Evans in a wedding dress from her wedding to another man THAT SHE JUST WALKED OUT OF. Her fiance wasn't an asshole, he just wasn't the right guy for her, but she couldn't even put on some damn sweatpants before tonguing down with Chris Evans? Ouch.
Or when Kirsten Dunst flees in slow motion from her wedding in Spider-Man 2 to show up in Peter Parker's doorway. Her fiance wasn't a bad dude, like, at all. There is no indication that he's done anything wrong in his entire life except try to cherish and care for Mary Jane until he's dead. But Kirsten still abandons him to immediately find the apartment of the guy who ended the last movie by telling her that they couldn't be together. And then he flies out the window to go Spider-Manning. That's good, I guess, because if he hadn't, Spider-Man 2 would've ended with four straight minutes of clumsy Tobey Maguire-on-unprepared-redhead kissing montage.
Romantic comedies fucking adore the idea that a lot of good can come out of hooking up with your mortal enemies. I see it over and over again, and it makes me angry every damn time. The concept seems to be that two passionate people will butt heads and genitals, no matter what. OK, hate is A passion, but it's completely different from romantic passion, and if you don't realize that, you're in for a lot of rough relationships and a lot of awkward, sweaty ends to arguments.
Somehow, movies make these relationships look like fun, like 27 Dresses or The Ugly Truth. Apparently, hate-love is an oddly specific Katherine Heigl genre. And while it's fun to watch Heigl and James Marsden yell at each other about how they are doing love wrong, that shit would get old so fast in real life.
How many times have you watched a couple bicker at each other constantly in public and said, "God why can't I have some more of that in my life"? Because according to rom-coms, those people are going home right after the squabble is done and then throw each other all over the house with awesome fight sex movies. Also, according to rom-coms, actively fighting someone while having sex with them is a thing. And I'm sorry to break it to you, person who decided Mr. And Mrs. Smith was their romantic ideal, but ...
It's not a thing. Not even a little bit.
If I were going to attempt some dating advice, I would say that dating someone you actually like is the super secret first step to a fulfilling relationship. I know. I know. Take a second and process.
When you take a long view of making out, it's super weird. Who was the first person who said, "I'm going to lick your mouth and you're going to love it?" But we do love it. It's good old-fashioned fun. However it's less fun, and remarkably less appropriate, when you're in a crowded room full of people.
To me, this is one of the most confusing rom-com tropes. Making out in public when you aren't 14 is not okay. Also, it's not okay when you are 14, but 14-year-olds would make out with a ceramic tile if someone told them that the tile had a secret crush. You're a grown-up with a job and stuff to do. You have goals and a schedule and opportunities, and yet you're spit washing your partner's palate on the bus.
If you want to see why it's so uncomfortable, watch this amazing clip from an alternative ending to The Ugly Truth. It shows Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, the physical embodiment of Drakkar Noir cologne, making out without any music over it. It's just mouth sounds and sighing. (Side note: I could write an entire article dissecting this clip. At one point during the wedding speech, you hear a child scream in the distance and it's the most natural thing that happens in the entire clip.)
The point is, if there isn't an orchestra playing over your very public makeout, it's not pretty and you should not be proud of it. This is common knowledge amongst adult people. Yet 99 percent of rom-coms end with a makeout scene in a room full of other people. In The Proposal, they're literally at an office where they both work, viciously smooshing their faces together while all of their coworkers applaud. In real life, everyone looks away and thinks of baseball. Those gross sloppy kisses should be saved for the privacy of the home, during Project Runway commercials.
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