It's been a few weeks since the Not Boyfriend has made his home in my city. Slowly, we are unwinding the tensions and excitement and surreality of the whole situation to figure out how to make this thing I believe we both have doubted would ever happen into something easy, soothing and maybe even normal.
For nearly three years, I longed for Friday nights with him - no fine dining and whore heels, no big plans or expectations, just pizza, a few beers and cuddling on the couch, laughing along to "The Soup" or similar. Last night, we had that opportunity and he texted me in the middle of the craziest part of my day to plan it. I wigged out in a manner that is illustrated by photos of women with their hair on fire and demonic red eyes.
"CAN I GET A MOMENT TO BREATHE BEFORE I ORDER A FREAKING PIZZA?!" I screamed in my head while I smiled, packing my son's backpack and overnight bag for his dad's house and hanging fake Halloween cobwebs and answering work emails all at once. What I'd wanted for years - serenity, simplicity - was completely wigging me out.
It wasn't the first time. Last week, during a sweet conversation about schedules and how to work in seeing each other amidst jobs (mine) and school (his) and kid (mine) and Tae Kwon Do (kid's) and friends (everyone's) and family (more of mine) and needing to space (all around), the Not Boyfriend suggested some ritual get-togethers. Maybe Wednesday night dinners in? Sunday afternoon bike rides? Friday nights to try new restaurants? The sentiment was lovely. My brain flipped.
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"OHMAHGAW! THE PLANS! THE PRESSURE! THE STRUCTURE!" I bellowed in my head.
"OHMAHGAW! ARE WE ROB LOWE AND DEMI MOORE IN 'ABOUT LAST NIGHT' NOW?," I scoffed out loud. "WHAT?! Are you going to yell at me for leaving a tampon wrapper on the bathroom floor next?"
The Not Boyfriend was stunned. Maybe even paralyzed. I didn't check his vitals, didn't stop long enough to let him try to communicate with me.
Instead, I launched into the scene in the bar in the movie when Elizabeth Perkins is asking Demi Moore how her relationship with Rob Lowe is going (yes, I know these are the actors and the characters have names in the film, but who in the hell can remember those?).
Demi launches into how great it is and offers the example of how they've worked out dinner, something like: "It's perfect! We have spaghetti every Monday, he makes steaks on Tuesday, I prep a lasagna for Wednesday, Thursdays we grill and Fridays are Sandwich Night."
(Note that I am approximating here as my well-worn VHS copy of this movie was lost in the Gulf of Divorce, sadly, for all parties involved.)
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Elizabeth snaps back saracastically, "Wowwww. I bet your sex life is scintillating."
I wasn't just waxing '80′s poetic in that reactionary moment, I was tapping into all the ideas I formulated a hundred years ago about love and relationships and men and sex. I was seeing the situation through the lens of grainy Brat Pack rom coms and shaker-knit striped legwarmers.
In the days since my relationship has gone from long-distance to local, I've taken note of lots of feelings and anxieties and "what ifs". But these two freak-outs have turned on "About Last Night" in my mind and I can't seem to stop the film. The weird thing is, I just always imagined I'd be the Demi Moore character and my commitment-phobia and ritual-resistance seems to make me far more Rob Lowe (or God forbid, Jim Belushi.)
I don't have the answers. And I refuse for this real relationship and the amazing thing I have going on with the Not Boyfriend to play out like the final half-hour of "About Last Night."
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But what I do have is the opportunity to look back on where some of those ancient ideas about relationships were newly formed to the tune of a synth-heavy soundtrack , lace gloves and 17 aerosol bottles of White Rain. I also have the right to refuse Sandwich Night. And that, friends, is where I think Demi would want me to start.
Here are the five (mostly) '80′s movies that totally messed with my ideas about romance, boyfriends and losing yourself in love (and the couch).
About Last Night (1986)
This movie has so many elements of Chicago in it, I felt like it really was possible to find a Rob Lowe-level guy at a bar in Wrigleyville after a Cubs game. For those of us who actually went out trying, we know this is myth. See also: very few relationships started with jello shots at a place called Mothers last into the next decade.
Pretty in Pink (1986)
The thing this movie gets right is that high school is mostly about being madly in love with your platonic friends while they are madly in love with someone who is a real unattainable jackass. The thing it gets wrong is that very few of us actually recognize the friend is a good match for us after all until we are well out of college and sobered up enough to see past the frat guys back to our friends. Also, and perhaps most importantly, this movie did a great disservice to those of us who got dumped on, barfed on, cheated on or busted by our parents on prom night: If prom starts off bad, it's probably going to end up worse. Sorry, Molly, that's just truth.
The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
I am STILL waiting for the perfect moment to slide my whole body across a baby grand and sing breathily into a mic, only to have a hot, handsy musician slide me out of my dress right there on the piano. As I do not have Michelle Pfeiffer voice nor bod, I think my chances of this coming true are dwindling.
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Say Anything (1989)
Even as I approached 40, I still had not reconciled that hot guys do not necessarily listen to the best music. In fact, my own dating experiences have informed me that one indicator that I should leave a man immediately is that he listens to music I love. However, if he's hoisting up a boombox toward my bedroom window and it is blaring obscure jazz or irritatingly twangy country music, well then…he's probably a perfect match for me in all other areas. Lloyd, funny and strangely wise and awkwardly gentlemanly and super-supportive of his goddess-like geeky on-and-off-again girlfriend, was a man who can only live on-screen, as evidenced by the fabulous Peter Gabriel classic tune set to a volume of 11 on his tape deck. Sob.
"Grease" is at the top of my list of favorite movies of all time, and I have no shame in saying that out loud, nor in reciting dialogue when Rizzo shimmies down the drain pipe and feels like a broken typewriter (missing a period). In some ways, this movie speaks right to the cheerleader/hot-girl conflict I have always struggled with (I'm happy to provide 8 or 12 graduate school women's studies papers on the matter). The final scenes, when Sandy emerges, fully made over from goody-goody to greaser? I recall seeing this in the theater and thinking, "THAT is who I want to be!" And many pairs of tight Spandex pants and red high heels and big perms later, I think I am still trying to embody Sexy Sandy. There's even more theses to write on that whole emergence, cognizance and development of a girl's sexual identity through transference of cinematic characters on carnival rides with dumb guys. However, the truth is (at least for my version of Sandy) is that you can be both cheerleader and sexpot, circle skirt and stubbed out cigarette. You should be those for yourself, though, not for Danny Zuko, for God's sake, who we all know ended up with Marty Maraschino when Sandy got a full ride to Sarah Lawrence anyway. The freedom to be complex, two-sided (or more) and to embrace my inner Pinky Lady and my outer prim and proper for myself? That took many years, lots of therapy and too many greasers.
What movies screwed up your definition of romance?
-By Jessica Ashley
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Jessica Ashley is author of the single-mom-in-the-city blog, Sassafrass. She is a parenting and healthy living expert, a former senior editor at Yahoo! Shine, and has contributed to AOL, ParentsConnect, CarePages, GalTime and Huffington Post. Jessica wears inappropriately high heels to the playground and is the mother of one boy, and the proof is in the pile of Star Wars Lego guys at the bottom of her purse.
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