So let’s talk for a second about how amazing The Mindy Project pilot was. (Yes, I know I’m behind the times and the pilot has been out for months, but I have this weird thing about not watching fall shows til the actual fall.) The show further cemented my belief that Mindy and I are meant to be BFF, as her character also has a ridiculous obsession with romantic comedies, and also thinks her life will turn out like one. Unfortunately for me, Mindy the character has a way better chance of this happening for her than I do, as she is a TV character. This is merely one step removed from a movie character, so it might take her a few seasons of the show for her life to get perfect instead of 90 minutes, but I sense things will work out okay for her. I will have no such guarantees.
Mindy and I both spent our formative years watching a lot of movies, and believing they in some way represent real life. Mindy the TV character gets to actually live the Grey’s Anatomy fantasy of being trapped in an elevator with a hot doctor, and gets to have Penelope from Gossip Girl as her assistant. This is because Mindy the writer gets to create these sorts of scenes. My life doesn’t have a showrunner, and correspondingly, I probably shouldn’t attempt to plot it like a romantic comedy. Below, a list of movie lessons I have internalized, and why they are not working out for me.
1. Dating in high school is a thing
Thankfully, this issue is now eight years behind me, but if you’re still dealing with it, let me help you out. In high school, I believed, on the basis of all prom movies, plus the entire TGIF lineup, that dating was something very normal and common for high schoolers. Maybe it is normal, but it is certainly not necessary. I cannot tell you how many hours I wasted being stressed out about never having been kissed, or not having a boyfriend, but it was a lot and I was convinced that my single status basically meant I was going to end up just like Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed, before she got the makeover. So I spent a lot of time trying to get weird, immature, acne-ridden high school boys to like me. While I won’t necessarily call this a waste, because when you’re fifteen, it can certainly be fun to giggle with your girlfriends over if so and so likes you or not, but I definitely spent way too much time worrying about the situation. I thought that if I didn’t date in high school, I wouldn’t date ever. Obviously this turned out to entirely not be the case, so please, please, if you’re still in high school, don’t worry about finding a boyfriend. If it happens, awesome, if not, you have the rest of your life for that, so enjoy high school for the spirit weeks and the teachers who actually know your name and the ability to eat whatever you want and not gain weight, because these are things that won’t last forever.
2. Thou must meet cute
Okay, so I have never had an actual meet cute story of the ‘oh, I tripped, he caught me, we exchanged numbers, now we’re in love’ variety. No, my ‘how we got together’ stories tend toward the How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days vein of ‘girl pursues guy with ulterior motive and no intention of becoming attached, ends up falling for guy’ variety. Interestingly, my problem isn’t whatever pathological weirdness I have that prevents me from just going ‘hey, you seem cool, let’s hang out’ and requires I have some nefarious purpose for going after a guy. My problem is that once all of this happens and I have fallen for said guy, I get so wrapped up in the idea of the story of how we got together, I assume it means we have to stay together, and I forget to check in on the state of the actual relationship. “But it was just like in the movies! It must mean something!” my brain says. I get too wrapped up in the story of us, even if it looks a lot like a tragedy now.
3. The boy stays in the picture
I have talked about this like a million times before, but it has caused me so much heartache that it bears repeating. Movies and TV shows have limited budgets for actors. People get attached to certain characters. This is why when two characters break up, because one or both are idiots, or because of life circumstances, or whatever, 9 times out of 10, we can rest assured that by the end of the movie or TV series, they’ll be back together, living happily ever after. This is not how life works. It is called a breakup because it is broken, not because you both secretly want to be together and will ultimately work it out. I cannot tell you how many times I have been trying to get over someone, getting pretty close and then my brain goes “But Carrie and Big! But Chuck and Blair! But Barney and Robin! But Mary and Matthew!” There is a particular guy I probably wouldn’t have gotten back together with, but I watched a lot of Grey’s Anatomy during the time we were broken up, and so my brain was all “But Meredith and Derek!” and so back together we got. This is bad enough when it’s just a problem I have; it becomes worse when my friends watch me make these mistakes and go “But Andrea and so and so!” and then apply my horrible choices to their own lives. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but more than likely, I am not the exception and we are never, ever, ever, ever getting back together.
4. Whoever he is, he was there all along
On the occasions when a girl doesn’t get back together with the guy that broke her heart, she ends up with some best friend/coworker/friend’s sibling that was there all along, waiting patiently in the background, for her to come around and realize he was the perfect person for her. This, to me, is a way more satisfying conclusion than the inevitable ex-reuinion. You’ve got Mulder and Scully, Elle and Emmett, Anne Hathaway’s characters in both Princess Diaries and Bride Wars. (You don’t have Andie and Ducky, which in my opinion, is the greatest cinematic injustice of our time.) I love this cliche so much, and so it leads to me routinely scanning my life for guys that might secretly, eventually, be The One. The problem is, those guys don’t exists. Maybe I just haven’t waited long enough (doubtful), but the guys that are my friends are my friends for a reason; if I wanted to date them, I’d probably have tried by now, as patience is not a virtue I possess. I know the whole point of this cliche is that I won’t realize they’re el uno until the magical moment, but there really isn’t anyone that I see ever belonging with me.
5. Drama! Drama! Drama!
I have saved the most embarrassing lesson for last. This one completely mortifies me, but if I own up to it, perhaps I’ll set about fixing it. There is a quote from a Taking Back Sunday song that sums up my life a little too well: “I’m an addict for dramatics; I confuse the two for love.” This goes back to my obsession with having a good ‘how we met’ story, and the general idea that I just want my love life to look like a movie. I want ALL THE THINGS to happen. Scheming! Betrayal! Grand gestures! Romantic proposals! I am fully aware that this is pretty much the most immature attitude I could possibly have, but watching too many movies has made me think that where there is drama, there must be underlying True Love. The fact of the matter is that I am not Princess Buttercup, and there don’t need to be giants and ROUS and epic battles for there to be romance. Relationships aren’t about drama, they’re about finding someone to make the even the mundane moments lying on the couch more enjoyable. Certainly that person should also be willing to brave the Fire Swamp with if you the need arises, but adventure should be optional, not a requirement.
So there you have it – the myriad of incorrect ways in which rom-coms have made me believe that life works. They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one, and mine is that I’m unwilling to accept that my life is not a rom-com (or a Taylor Swift song). I’m going to try and start accepting my life for what it is, and not trying to make it into what the movies said it should look like. Old habits die hard, though, so for now I might settle for watching more of The Mindy Project and seeing if I can follow Mindy’s plan for dealing with romantic comedy obsession.
(Image via FOX.)