(written after eating Panda Express and talking about RuPaul’s Drag Race with Thea, a tru g0ddess)
Mindy Kaling once said that she classifies rom-coms in the genre of science fiction, and I agree. The premises are so thin, the coincidences are so transparent, and the characters are…Matthew McConaughey.
But there’s something about the rom-com that appeals to me, and since its Gila monster fangs into my heart. Rom-coms shape, for better or for worse, how we interpret romance. We think it should be hard, with twists and turns, and at the end, we believe that everything will work out in the end. And that’s not bad, and I don’t want to stop believing that. Because the alternative to the rom-com world—likely Nihilism—sucks ass.
Rom-coms allow us to take the shitty and spin them into gold. The boy that didn’t call back, who was kind of a douche—instead of taking them as them, you take them as the steady montage of Boys That Weren’t, before the Boy That Was. Unconventional romances take the tune of a No Strings Attached.
Side bar: remember when everyone was very into the “friends with benefits” movement? That’s very much the grandfather, or slutty uncle, to our “hookup culture.”
And the boy that drags our hearts through the mud like a kite—made on last week’s episode of The Amazing Race—becomes not just another guy, but the One. We make all these excuses and parse all these moments for hidden meanings; we peel apart words like artichokes, searching layers for the core.
Sometimes things aren’t artichokes. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they aren’t. and that really sucks. But I don’t know if I can shift my frame of mind to believe that. For better or worse, I’m a sucker for a Mindy Kaling, Nora Ephron moment, a swell of non-diegetic music when their name pops up on your screen. There’s something painfully beautiful when fantasies crumble, a la Her, but life is hard enough. I have depression and anxiety—I feel like I’ve filled my cup full of all that kind of hardship. I’ll keep believing in rom-coms and even when the poison incapacitates me, I’ll welcome that fat, slobby Gila monster into my bed.
Because why not? It’s better than nihilism; it’s better than cynicism. The world is built for cynics, and who wants to follow that crowd? I might be dumb and hopeful and completely wrong, but all that buildup before the fall is excruciately beautiful and inspirational and worth it. I don’t mind falling and breaking and sad. I can deal with that. I’ve been dealing with that. But to put up with the inevitable fall for the taste of rushing wind and the excitement before the strike of teeth and flash of pain…that seems like a good trade for the flush of excitement when he likes your Instagram, or when she looks your way. In a sickening way, it’s all worth it. Even when it’s not.
Give me a Troop Beverly Hills over a Ten. Give me Guardians of the Galaxy. Give me improbable love that I can ingest and carry with me even when I’m feeling like smacking books out of people’s hands. Give me unlikely, unrealistic, sci-fi-worthy romance that’s so saccharine it’s painful. I’ll deal. I’ll take it all. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I can handle it.