Romantic comedies are a sham. I love them but sometimes I hate the storybook endings they sell us. Love always works out! Falling in love is the hard part! And really, it’s not even that hard! So what if the guy you’re interested in lies to you and is the reason your mother’s children’s bookstore closes? It can still work out! (I’m looking directly at you, You’ve Got Mail).
Instead, give me a romantic comedy that’s complicated and imperfect to the very end, you know, like love actually is. In Moonstruck, Cher is Loretta Castorini, a thirty-seven-year-old single woman navigating love with the help of her family. Her first husband died from being hit by a bus, her fiancé is more worried about ruining his suit than giving her a proper proposal, and the man she ends up with is the brother of her fiancé, bitter about his maimed hand and serious about his love of opera.
No one is normal. Everyone is a bit of a mess. But how can you figure out lessons in love if everything looks perfect and easy? This month, when hearts pop up everywhere and there are suggestions for making this the best V-Day ever, forget perfection. Cozy up instead with 10 love lessons from Moonstruck…
Change it up.
When we meet Loretta, she’s grey-haired and in cozy knits. After a passionate night with Ronny (Nicolas Cage) and a date for the opera, she goes through a transformation, hair and nails done, make-up, and a new dress. She’s visibly different but she also feels different. It isn’t getting rid of the grey hair (grey is gorgeous), it’s getting out of her comfort zone. It’s trying something new. We all need to do that sometimes with the way we look, the way we live, or the people we’re choosing to love.
Make your own luck.
Loretta’s been burned once in love, losing her husband after just two years of marriage. This time around with her fiancé Johnny, she wants to do everything just right so that she won’t repeat her bad luck. He needs a ring when he proposes. Her father needs to walk her down the aisle. She wants a real church wedding. She thinks she was cursed and that’s why her life hasn’t ended up the way she expected, widowed at 37. But a relationship with Ronny isn’t at all what she planned. And sleeping with your fiancé’s brother is probably not great luck. Sometimes we can get swept up in destiny and fate but we can also make choices. We can make our own luck.
Olympia Dukakis, as Loretta’s mother Rose, gets less screen time than Cher but drops a few priceless bits of wisdom. On a night out alone for dinner, she witnesses a fight between a man (John Mahoney, RIP) and a much younger woman. She tells him the woman was too young for him and later tells him he’s a bad little boy. Haven’t we all been there? No matter the gender of your partner, anyone you’re romantically involved with should be a real grown-up. Not just in age of course but in mentality. Are they aware of the patterns in their past relationships and are they doing the work to change them? Can they communicate with you? Are they supportive of all your aspirations or do they hold you back?
Know who you are.
And on that same night he asks if he can come in, Rose tells him no. He figures it’s because people are home but she tells him straight out: “I can’t invite you in because I’m married and I know who I am.” So, who are you? Even beyond your relationship status. Fiercely independent? A traveler? An artist? A terrible cook? Knowing who you are can literally keep you from inviting the wrong people into your life.
Don’t be afraid to be hurt.
“We are here to ruin ourselves and break our hearts,” Ronny tells Loretta. After all, he also says, “the storybooks are bullshit.” And that includes that every story ends with the traditional happy ending. That shouldn’t stop us from going full force at love. Not at a speed so breakneck we miss signs about our romantic interest we should pay attention to (See: Date grown-ups.), but never fully loving someone because you’re on the lookout for heartbreak is no better. Go on, break your heart. It will heal.
This is modern times, but there can still be miracles.
Johnny’s mother is on her deathbed in Sicily but she gets out of bed when she hears that he’s to be married. He calls it a miracle but Loretta contends that “This is modern times, there aren’t any miracles.” But it was kind of a miracle (or a movie plot) that she has a way to get out of her engagement and be with the man she’s actually in love with. And though our love lives might take winding paths, there’s likely someone who it worked out with or didn’t work out with that was a kind of miracle for your life. Without that particular partner, you traveled more. Or with that partner, you could pursue the career you’d always wanted. See? Miracles.
“Playing it safe is just about the most dangerous thing a woman like you can do.” Loretta’s past has made her risk-averse. It happens to the best of us as we get older. We know more of what we’re up against in life and have taken on more responsibilities. We don’t make some of the leaps we would have made when we were younger. Fear has its role in our lives but it shouldn’t be the starring role.
Ask for what you want.
Rose, Loretta’s mother, knows that something is up in her marriage. She suspects that her husband is cheating on her and tries to understand why. Eventually, when she’s satisfied with a reason (Men fear death) she tells him to stop seeing the woman. He makes a scene and then says ok. Often in love, we can fret over the things our partner doesn’t do what they wish they do but we don’t outright say to them what we need. Ask for what you want.
You’re never too old for a love bite.
“You’ve got a love bite on your neck!” Rose yells at Loretta. And so she does. Teenage stuff, we might think, or maybe it’s more passionate stuff. If you’re in a relationship or in search of a good time, don’t neglect the passion inside of you. Be a little reckless. Be a little foolish. Have fun. It’s just your love life.
Wear dark red lipstick.
This is really more a life lesson than a love lesson but look at Cher with that dark red lipstick?!
Cheers to love!