Life lessons I still carry from ‘Now and Then,’ 20 years later

For most people, there’s at least one movie that reminds them of coming of age – or, at the very least, one they can say was hugely popular and dealt with coming-of-age themes while they were going through arguably their most vulnerable period in life: adolescence. From Pretty and Pink to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to Juno, many individuals can point to a film or two about growing up in the time period they did and say, “Yep. That was totally me and my friends.”

For me, that movie was Now and Then, which I first saw as a 10-year-old when it premiered 20 years ago today in 1995. Through the stories, both individual and collective, of Roberta, Samantha, Teeny, and Chrissy, I was reminded that my struggles – though unique in their own way – didn’t make me an outcast. My struggles made me a human who could look both inside herself and to her best girlfriends to get through anything life would throw my way, both (excuse this) then and now.

So in honor of Now and Then’s 20th birthday, here are the best lessons this movie taught me somewhere in the umpteen times I’ve seen it.

Money does not automatically equal happiness

Teeny’s country-clubber parents gave her everything under the sun except their attention. As someone who grew up with parents who didn’t have a lot of money but did have a lot of love to give, I saw this and was more appreciative than I might’ve been otherwise. Now I can see adults who grew up like Teeny in a completely different, more understanding, light.

…And neither does marriage

Samantha’s parents are the couple who try to stay together for the kids but have so much animosity between them that splitting up is the best decision for their family. Marriage doesn’t always last, and sometimes it’s no one’s fault and better for everyone involved (kids included) for it to end.

Don’t swim naked in an unfamiliar place

Remember when the Wormer brothers pelted the girls with Jell-O-filled balloons and then, to get back at them, the girls stole their clothes as they were skinny dipping in a lake? Classic. Sometimes, revenge can be really sweet. But yeah, don’t go naked in public, kids – especially when you know there is someone waiting to cash in a karma card.

The best first kisses are wrought with tension

Speaking of the Wormers, who could forget that epic kiss between Scott and Roberta?

But this was only after she kicked his butt in basketball, of course.  Fun fact: The other on-screen lip-lock shared between Christina Ricci and Devon Sawa was in Casper, which was also released in 1995. Ten-year-old me is still swooning over that one, too.

You can’t control everything

This is a universal truth I struggle with pretty much every day, for different reasons. For Chrissy, it meant staying innocent. For Roberta, it meant she couldn’t keep her boobs from growing.

But if you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum as Roberta, keep in mind that vanilla pudding makes the best bra stuffer – at least, according to Teeny.

Some jokes are never funny

Roberta fakes getting hurt after jumping into a lake to scare her friends, prompting her best friend Chrissy to slap her in the face in a completely out-of-character move before saying, “Don’t you EVER do that to me again. EVER.” To Roberta’s credit, she is still dealing with the death of her mother and is confused about how to handle those feelings. But as I get older, I realize hurt feelings don’t always mean someone is too sensitive – sometimes it can mean the joke-teller is out of line, even if they don’t mean to be. And it’s OK to speak up about that.

Treehouses aren’t just for boys

The girls’ primary goal in the movie is to save money for a treehouse. But it’s not just any old treehouse – this one is serious. It’s a replica of an actual house with a traditionally feminine look, where the girls can go to get away from everyone, including but not limited to the Wormers, their parents, and the random scary people around town like Crazy Pete and the psychic waitress played by Janeane Garofalo (both of whom actually turn out to be awesome).

A bike isn’t a bike until it has a radio

This can also apply to cars, scooters, mopeds, trains, buses, whatever. But in our childhoods, it was all about the bike.

Becoming a hermit is not the answer

One of my favorite quotes from the movie is spoken by Peter “Crazy Pete” Sims, whom the girls eventually learn is the father of the mystery boy who died years ago – Johnny – and the husband of Johnny’s mother, who died with him. Samantha works up the courage to speak to Pete shortly after he saves her from drowning, and they bond. During this, Pete tells Samantha:

“Things will happen in your life that you can’t stop. But that’s no reason to shut out the world. There’s a purpose for the good…and for the bad…”

So simple, yet so poignant. The people around you are there for a reason. So let them be.

Don’t discount the nerdy guy

Preston Myers in Can’t Hardly Wait. Sandy Frink in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Morton Williams in Now and Then. The shy, geeky guy sometimes has a lot to offer if you look past the awkward surface. Luckily, adult Chrissy figures that out.

True friends will be there for you no matter what

No matter how much time passes, how much distance is between you, or how much you’ve changed, your real friends will be always there when you need them, and that is something you should cherish forever. Because it’s rare, beautiful, and worth the effort.

(Images via New Line Cinema; GIFs via here, here, here, and here)


5 ways Now and Then ruined my life

Old Lady Movie Night: Now and Then