What I learned about dating from Penny Lane in Almost Famous

When I tell people that Penny Lane from Almost Famous is one of my inspirations, they usually scratch their heads and stare at me in disbelief. Most of them, unaware of the character’s complexity, ask questions like, “Wasn’t she just a groupie?” If you’ve seen the 2000 movie, you know she certainly wasn’t. Kate Hudson’s eccentric character was so much more than that.

Believe it or not, Penny Lane—inspired by real-life music-enthusiast and entrepreneur, Pennie Trumble—was a semi-fictional woman who possessed an admirable passion for life, love, and of course, rock ‘n’ roll. In Cameron Crowe’s 2000 hit film, Almost Famous, she led a group of “band-aids” who traveled with touring musicians for the love of music, and her free-spirited attitude and willingness to take risks in the name of romance is something to be admired.

That said, Penny Lane taught me a lot about dating. Sure, I usually fall for the deep-and-dark musician in the room (what’s up, Russell Hammond?)—so I might have been a little predisposed. However, Penny rides an emotional rollercoaster throughout Almost Famous that could teach anyone valuable lessons about love, whether they’re into rockstars or not.

1Never take dating too seriously…

As Penny Lane says in the movie, “Never take it seriously. If you never take it seriously, you never get hurt. If you never get hurt, you always have fun—and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.”

No, this doesn’t mean that you should treat every date you go on like a joke. In my opinion, it just means that you don’t have to act like every person you meet is the be-all-end-all. Instead, take it easy. Have some fun. Don’t let your guard completely down until you’re 100 percent sure that you should.

2… but love passionately.

Once you let your guard down and allow someone into your life as a partner, embrace them entirely. Take risks with one another. Travel the country together. Support each other’s dreams. Be giddy and keep the freaking spark alive.

This, too, relates to Penny Lane’s journey in Almost Famous. As all of you movie buffs know, Penny once spent a summer traveling with Stillwater, a semi-fictional group inspired by a handful of 70s’ rock bands that Crowe met while working for Rolling Stone IRL. Sure, Penny lived for the band’s music—but she also adored Russell Hammond, the group’s lead guitarist. While assisting William Miller during his writing assignment on Stillwater, she re-joined the band’s entourage and became even more infatuated with Russell. She traveled with him, stood side-stage during his performances, and swooned over his musicianship. In those moments, her passion for their love was inspiring. However, it quickly took a turn for the worst.

3Don’t be too trusting immediately…

Spoiler alert: Russell had a wife, and he was cheating on her with Penny. Of course, Russell didn’t tell Penny about his relationship—and she had to find out for herself. It was a total bummer, to say the least, and I felt for her.

Penny’s devastation taught me that you shouldn’t be too naive when you find yourself head-over-heels in love with someone, because not everyone is as honest as you’d like them to be. Sure, you can’t read minds or force someone to tell you about their romantic history, but you can always encourage open communication between the two of you before you get too attached.

(FYI, this is coming from someone who’s super jaded—so if you’d rather dive head first into a relationship, by all means, go for it. I’m just prone to staying cautious.)

4… and don’t blame yourself.

Shortly after Penny found out that Russell had a wife, she became distraught… and, well, those of you who saw the movie know what happened next. During the tragic scene, Penny questioned why Russell didn’t love her.

In that moment, I wished that I could shake Penny and tell her that it wasn’t her fault. She loved Russell endlessly, and couldn’t do anything about the marriage that he hid from her. She should have never blamed herself for something she couldn’t have controlled. That’s an important reminder for all of us when we’re wronged by the person we loved. We’re not responsible for someone else’s mistakes.

5Music will be there when a relationship ends…

As you now know, Penny was a “band-aid,” which meant that she toured with rock bands because she loved music so much. And her answer to loneliness, as I mentioned earlier, is to “just go to the record store and visit your friends.”

What I’m trying to say is that music will be there when a significant other is not. I’m not just saying that because I am a musician; I’m saying that because music isn’t going anywhere. It’ll be there to comfort us when we’re feeling low, so if I’m dealing with heartbreak, I put on a song or go see my favorite band perform live. It helps me make it through.

6… and so will your friends.

Our friends will help us, too—but that should go without saying. Penny Lane’s character taught me the importance of friendship, because it was her closest friend in the movie who ended up saving her life. Plus, the “band-aids” looked up to Penny and had her back throughout the duration of the film.

7Know your self-worth…

After Penny recovered from her overdose, she headed back home to California—and it wasn’t too long before Russell Hammond came back for her. Instead of letting Russell back return into her life without hesitation, she sent him in a different direction.

This taught me that you must understand your self-worth and stop letting those who’ve hurt you in the past back into your life so easily. Yes, I understand that people make mistakes, and that being forgiving is an admirable trait. Still, I’ve found myself in too many situations where I’ve forgotten how I should be treated and settled for what’s convenient for the other person.

8… and embrace your freedom.

One of the last scenes of the movie shows Penny at an airport about to embark on a journey to Morocco. In that very moment, she seemed free of romantic distress and ready to start embracing her independence.

This character development showed me that it’s never too late to start a new chapter of your life after experiencing a relationship that didn’t work out. Do the things you’ve always wanted to do, and see the places you’ve always wanted to see. Until you’ve found “the one,” embark on some solo trips and do all of the things you’ve been wanting to do.

I mean, “it’s all happening,” isn’t it?

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