Five Ways Something Ruined My Life

Five Ways ‘When Harry Met Sally…' Ruined My Life

There were a handful of movies my family had on VHS growing up that I would watch when I was home sick from school: whatever Disney movie I acquired most recently, The Witches, Parenthood and When Harry Met Sally…

This is a movie that I know inside and out and incorporate into my life constantly. (It doesn’t hurt that I live in New York and can walk through places where the movie was shot on a daily basis). The only reason I know any part of the song “The Surrey With the Fringe On Top” is because of this movie – literally. I also really like saying, “Is one of us supposed to be a DOG in this scenario?” or, the ever popular “Baby fish mouth!” I think I checked and can get pretty far through the movie just saying the lines along with them and for some reason every time I watch it I calculate Sally’s age each time they give us the year again. It’s a compulsion. I’ve also probably used “You see, you say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you” on more people than I’d care to admit. (That’s probably also a compulsion).

I’m actually finding it extremely difficult to not quote the entire movie right now. So, apologies, if I end up just quoting the entire movie right now.

Here are some of my many reasons When Harry Met Sally… ruined my life.

1. Intense Desire to Disprove the Idea That Men and Women Can’t Be Friends

Certainly this movie didn’t originate this idea. But it’s an idea I completely latched onto and became obsessed with disproving. And I definitely had this exchange in my AIM profile at one point or another:

Harry Burns: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally Albright: Why not?
Harry Burns: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally Albright: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: You only think you do.
Sally Albright: You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry Burns: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: How do you know?
Harry Burns: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally Albright: So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry Burns: No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.
Sally Albright: What if THEY don’t want to have sex with YOU?
Harry Burns: Doesn’t matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally Albright: Well, I guess we’re not going to be friends then.
Harry Burns: I guess not.
Sally Albright: That’s too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York.

Just like most girls (or maybe people in general though I’ve only discussed this with other girls) I’ve said MANY times “no, we’re just good friends” emphatically and truly believed it . . . until the guy friend in question tries to kiss me. (Whoops.)

I don’t know if I’ve just grown up with this idea in my head and so I notice it everywhere (since I DO have male friends who have never tried to kiss me) or if I just get into these situations for some other reason (which I, of course, choose to believe is because I’m just too nice). But either way, this movie completely made me on the look out for this and determined to have male friends where the “sex part” doesn’t get in the way.

2. Impossible to Be in NYC Without Thinking Of When Harry Met Sally . . .

As a New Yorker (I think I’m legally allowed to say that as I’m in my 10th year of living here), I absolutely adore any movie or TV that gets New York RIGHT. You know? I love when I watch something and feel like, yes, you understand my city and you filmed here and I’m so happy about that.

So When Harry Met Sally . . . is heaven for me.

They’re in Central Park, they’re in the Village, they’re awkwardly dragging a Christmas tree across the sidewalk because, like all of us, they want the tree but can’t quite ever plan a sensible way to get it home.

When I started entertaining the idea of NYU for college, I remember being completely ecstatic about the idea of getting to be near Washington Square Park and the arch where Harry and Sally part ways after they finishing driving to New York from Chicago.

Of course, I eventually realized that directly under the arch is a really weird place to drop someone off but it was still very exciting for me.

I recently took my friend to The Met (well, I suggested we go to The Met since he’d never been and come on, you have to go) and my major selling point was “they have GIANT stuff there! Let’s go!”

But my secret desire was to go to the Temple of Dendur and just enact their “pepper” / “paprikash” scene in the location where it occurred which I hadn’t done since the beginning of college. Unfortunately, my traveling companion wasn’t familiar with WHMS (he’s British – and a guy – so I never know what references of mine he’ll actually understand) so my hilarious reenactment was lost on him.

3. Enhanced My Obsessive-Compulsive Tendencies

I just want to get one thing clear here. I LOVE Sally Albright.

I mean, I totally love Meg Ryan but I desperately love everything about her character in this movie. I love her outfits, I love her hair and I love her weird obsessive relationship with ordering and food.

And I loved that she has all her movies alphabetized and on index cards. I, myself, had every book I had read alphabetized and on index cards when I was a child. And I still organize my movies alphabetically on the rack.

Now, I don’t order food obsessively like she does but I do ORGANIZE my food obsessively. Here’s my deal, if food comes all together (a stew, pasta, a salad, eggs Benedict, a sandwich) I’m fine with all the items touching. But like, if I’m eating eggs Benedict on a plate where there are also home fries then there better not be any egg or Hollandaise sauce touching my home fries.

For real.

Thanksgiving dinner is a nightmare of emotions for me. I love all the food but it’s so hard to keep it apart that my plate ends up looking like this:

That’s a real photo of my food.

For me, Sally Albright is a Manic OCD Dream Girl. She is what I aspire to be, for better or for worse and I’m sure I’ve been described as “high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance” behind my back. . . probably more than once.

4. Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby. Perfect Couple.

I really think Jess and Marie get over-looked in this movie because they’re actually an amazing couple and don’t we all dream of just meeting someone and having that instant connection?

They’re Harry and Sally’s best friends, respectively, and are supposed to be Harry and Sally’s dates on this weird double date but actually end up hitting it off with each other. Amazing. One of my favorite parts (here I go again) is when Harry starts yelling when they’re helping Jess and Marie move in together and says, “This stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale COFFEE TABLE!”

It doesn’t hurt that I’ve always been obsessed with Carrie Fisher (duh, Princess Leia) but I also find Bruno Kirby intensely amusing in this movie (“you made a woman meow?”) and love everything relating to them and watching them get together while Harry and Sally can’t even figure out that THEY need to get together as well.

They’re the perfect counterpoint to every romantic comedy ever written – two people that immediately realize that they’re perfect for each other and skip straight to the happy ending (and you can bet I was really sad when Bruno Kirby died).

5. New Year’s Eve

I find New Year’s Eve to be a crippling holiday. Maybe it’s just me (it’s not), but I feel this intense pressure to have an amazing night every time December 31st rolls around. This is in no way helped by movies like When Harry Met Sally. . . where people attend giant New Year’s Eve parties and get professions of love at them.

All my New Year’s expectations revolve around this:

“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you’re the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Who doesn’t want someone to love them for their (sometimes annoying) quirks?! I know I do.

This is a movie that is inside my brain so deeply I sometimes don’t even realize when it’s affecting me. It makes me love New York even more, it makes me love Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal even more and it makes me embrace my inner Manic OCD Dream Girl.

You got me again, Rob Reiner & Billy Crystal!

 (Photos from the movie lovingly screengrabbed by me from my DVD, transcription of scene from IMDb.)

  • Caragh Poh

    So good! This is my favorite movie. I agree with all of this! I’m mad I didn’t write it!

    • Erin Long

      I mean, it’s the best movie ever.

  • Lizzy Hale

    Erin, you and I have the same tast in everything. Rob Reiner makes perfect movies. I know that last speech by heart. Perfect.

    • Erin Long

      Love it!

  • Lizzy Hale

    And when I went to NYU every time I passed the arch I thought of my dear friends Harry and Sally.

  • Kinsey Stout

    I have always felt I was the only person not my parent’s age who was in love with this movie. Every single thing about it is perfect. Thank you for writing this! And also, my Thanksgiving plate looks EXACTLY like yours. Sometimes I get two plates (or a series of smaller ramekins) so that I can have a scoop of each thing without them all running together. If I ever find a grown-up version of a school lunch tray with compartments, I’m buying it.

  • Paula Gonzalez

    Definitely my favorite romantic comedy!! And that last speech, oh have I dreamed of somebody giving me that speech… Yep, WHMS definitely ruined my life. This is one of the movies that I never get tired of watching. In fact, I’ve just decided I’m gonna watch it this afternoon 😀

  • Natalie Cavey

    I love this!! and especially the new year’s eve speech at the end. I only watched a few weeks ago but I now I want to watch it again!
    I actually went to see it at the theatre but it really did not do the movie justice (especially as I’m in the UK so they were British actors with pretty awful American accents haha)

  • Lauren Hollaway

    This post just quite actually made my day, you are right this is just one of the best movies ever. When I get home today I’m watching this movie… which I still own on VHS!

  • Amy Addington

    This movie makes me want to get an answering machine so a guy can sing me a ridiculous apology song, and I can hear it as I’m typing away on a massive computer….

    • Erin Long

      Yep, now I’m singing it in my head

  • Lorianne Tibbets

    The first time I saw WHMS I was in college (long overdue!) and afterwards, I cried, pointed at the screen and bellowed, “I want that! Why can’t I have a relationship like that?!” and my friend turned to me and said, “You can!” I can? Then what the hell was I doing?? I broke up with the jerk I was dating, got my life together, and NO JOKE met my Harry three weeks later – and we’ve been together for seventeen years. WHMS changed my life! Rob Reiner – I LOVE YOU! Thanks a million.

  • Nicole Paulhus

    Your feature images are the greatest. Love this one!

    • Erin Long

      Haha thank you!

  • Becky Evers

    I thought I was the only adult besides Monk that seperated food on their plate! I get made fun of by every single one of my friends and family! Thank you for this whole article.

    • Erin Long

      I’ve gotta say – I feel so relieved to know others like us exist in the world. I thought I was insane.

  • SisterMargaretta MistressofPostulants

    i heartily concur on all counts! i throw baby fish mouth into a conversation and am then surprised when people don’t get the reference. grr. I am also equally obsessed with Sleepless in Seattle and can quote that at will. And then i get angry with people when they tell me You’ve Got Mail is the best movie in the Meg Ryan rom-com canon. ARGH!

  • Kelly Cifranic

    “Here’s my deal, if food comes all together (a stew, pasta, a salad, eggs Benedict, a sandwich) I’m fine with all the items touching. But like, if I’m eating eggs Benedict on a plate where there are also home fries then there better not be any egg or Hollandaise sauce touching my home fries.

    For real.

    Thanksgiving dinner is a nightmare of emotions for me.”

    THANK YOU. I am literally the exact same way! I am so glad you wrote about that and that other people are commenting they hate their food touching as well!!!

  • Sophie McKenzie

    Completely agree! Can and do quite often quote ‘WHMS’ to friends and family. I would give anything to live in NYC, but have been lucky enough to have been twice and was soo excited to go to the MET where that waiter/paprikash scene was filmed.
    My friend and I always laugh about the “I’m Ben Smalls of the Conney Island smalls.” “and I knew, the way you know about a good melon” ah the romance! And the ”Willage”.
    Its one of small number of films that I know word perfect, taking pride of place alongside Groundhog Day, Home Alone and Life of Brian.

  • Kaela Gagliardi

    You really did it, future best friend! Good work. Tonight I was watching the 90’s movie “Boys and Girls” and spent the whole time explaining to my friend just how much of a rip off it was of WHMS, and then directly quoting Harry in several different scenes. She really appreciated it, I’m sure.

  • Sarah Jenkins

    They may have gotten New York right (I wouldn’t know), but they did not get Chicago right! At the beginning of the movie they are going the wrong way on Lakeshore Drive! And University of Chicago is not the lovable frisbee throwing on the lawn usual college campus they make it out to be. I still love this movie though!

  • Jessica Greenhalgh

    I have such issues about my food touching. Such. Issues. Manic OCD Dream Girl is the most appropriate description for someone who alphabetizes everything (books, dvds, clothes by colour.. I don’t joke..), it’s making me so happy to know I am not the only one…

  • Rachel Stuart

    Mmmmm…home fries Benedict! But seriously, that whole “The first time we met we hated each other, and then we were friends for a long time, and then we weren’t…and then we fell in love.” is exactly my timeline with my fiancee. We love this movie!

  • Allison Schurr

    This is my favoritest movie EVER!! OMG I am totally high maintenance but think I’m low lol. I order food like that, however I do apologize as I am a former server myself. And I am a firm believer that men and women can’t be friends because of the sex part. I have like NO guy friends, except for the gay ones, which might as well be girls.
    In a way, they really just courted each other, just for a REALLY long time. I also calculate Sally’s age EVERY time I see this movie. With. Out. Fail. And I love the couples they interview.
    I’ve always believed they should remake this movie, but only if it can be as good of a remake as the original. This movie is good every time I see it. I’m now 30, and have watched this movie MANY times since I was like, 20. And as I’ve gotten older and my perspectives have changed, I still always come back to this movie and its principles. And I still believe that I have a Harry out there that’s going to give me the NYE speech that makes me tell him I hate him. And then we’ll get married.

    Baby fish mouth… lol

  • Allison Schurr

    Oh, and how could I forget Jess and Marie?? Totally jealous of the ease at which they got together.. Why can’t I have that?

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