My dating life began with a Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy.
“We were sitting in a darkened theater during my freshman year at my middle-of-nowhere college with a date whose name I would later refer to as “Touchy Feely Boy…” which was how I would begin the story I would later tell my friends in our shoe-box sized dorm room over a Papa John’s pepperoni pizza and beer that the guy across the hall made in his sink. I wished at that moment I could transport myself into the movie and away from Touchy Feely, my first ever date. Touchy Feely was the guy who decided that his first date move would be to propose marriage. In the harsh fluorescent lights of 21 Choices, the frozen yogurt place we’d go to after, he reached across the table, grabbed my hand and proposed marriage, explaining that when you knew, you just knew. My response was asking what his last name was.
Jennifer Aniston’s romantic comedies were the backdrop of my dating life in college and for many years after. As a lifelong fan of the actress whom I first watched when she played Jeannie, Ferris Bueller’s sister in the television version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I always chose a movie of hers when a guy asked what movie we should see on a date. She always seems to play very likable characters — sweet girls that always get the guy whether he’s the boy next door, a co-worker, a best friend. She always seemed to get what she wanted and looked amazing doing it. I chose her films because I figured if the date went wrong, then at least I watched a movie I wanted to see, starring an actress whose work I always enjoy.
While she was being cheated on by her husband in She’s the One, I went out with “The Awful Racist” (no explanation necessary). While she was falling love with her gay best friend in Object of My Affection, I was having dinner with “Soldier Boy,” who threw a temper tantrum at an In ‘n Out because I told him not to feel me up in public. When she was trying to keep up a relationship with her fake fiancee in Picture Perfect, I had just met “Psycho Pants,” who thought a great first date opener would be to tell me about how he punched his father in the face and just got out of rehab.
These bad dates felt like the opening of a Jennifer Aniston film, where you see immediately that the guy is not right for her. She always makes it look easy and fun and the endings are perfectly scripted. It takes her two hours to meet her prince, while all I am left with at the end is a funny story and some witty one-liners.
Yet as I have moved forward in life, I have started to take a different view of romantic comedies. Jennifer Aniston makes it looks too easy. Real life is far more difficult. Dating is hard. There’s no perfect fit — no one to magically come to my rescue in the middle of my real life movie.
The end of my real life movie love story is still in progress… still an unknown, and maybe that is where the mystery is? Could the end result be that you really don’t know who will be there in the end?
Life is not like the movies where you know within the first five minutes who Jennifer Aniston will end up with… or won’t in the case of The Break Up. But maybe it’s okay not to know. You meet new people, you date, you grow, you live. You learn what you want, what you don’t want and every single encounter brings you nearer to whatever your ultimate relationship goal is. And every step brings you even closer to your own version of the happy Hollywood ending.