Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Jake Ryan Myth

In one of the opening school scenes of Sixteen Candles, Samantha is completing a sex test. Of course, the word “Confidential” is spelled wrong and I notice this every time I watch it (editorial geek alert). I’ve seen this movie a lot. Too much, I think. It’s one of those movies that I can watch over and over again without getting sick of it. It came out when I was 14, and at 35, I can still recite it verbatim start to finish. In fact, I remain covetous of the outfit Sam has on at the school dance – the pink skirt ensemble that looks as though it’s been torn to shreds. Stereotypically 80s, but I swear to God, I’d wear it to work tomorrow if given an exact replica. Recently, I found myself wondering if I’ve been emotionally screwed up by John Hughes. It was like a mini-epiphany. I mean, I believe Mr. Hughes could be responsible for single-handedly scarring me for life, and although I'm no longer litigious in my old age, I may very well have a class action lawsuit to pin on his ass. Seriously. Hear me out.

I can name at least three other women I know – just off the top of my head – that have had a vision in their mind of the perfect man. And, if any other women read this blog entry, they too will agree that John Hughes is an evil man for giving us that said perfect man.

He gave us Jake Ryan.

Jake Ryan (I'm smiling, too, ladies) is the perfect guy, and as a woman in my 30s, he was introduced to me right before I started dating, so I’ve technically been searching for him unconsciously my whole life. I think I suffered more than most, as 14 is a crucial formative and emotionally developmental period in a girl’s life. John Hughes took my childhood innocence and ripped it to shreds with the likes of Jake Ryan. That dark-haired, blue-eyed, ridiculously polite, painfully gorgeous guy who had his own Porsche in high school, yet drips with modesty over his lot in life. For starters, he's gorgeous. And then, add to that the fact that he's the coolest guy in the school, in town, and quite possibly, on the planet. He’s calm and secure and emotionally stable. He can dress himself. He can mingle with the cool people and in the same night, enable a geek. He’s that guy that, when faced with your grandparents answering the phone, asks to “converse with you briefly” and is secure enough with his manhood at age 17 to tell his jock friends that he’s “interested in more than a party” when it comes to relationships. And, most importantly, he’s going out with the blonde senior with the great rack, but he REALLY wants to hang out with you, because you’re the cute, witty, smart one, and let’s face it...the REAL catch that’s just never been snapped up. Jake Ryan is the only boy wise enough to see how incredible you really are. Like I said, the perfect guy.

And Mr. Hughes fed this bullshit to us.

Twenty years after being introduced to Jake Ryan, I’ve been through several boys, five real relationships (well, at least I consider the majority of them somewhat real), one marriage thrown in the mix, and the enlightenting, educational, and entertaining various dates scattered here and there that are not really worth mentioning. In fact, my sister and I went to have wings and beer a few weeks ago, and I remembered I went on a date to that particular restaurant once a few years back. But, neither one of us could remember his name to save our lives. Case in point: this guy was clearly NOT Jake Ryan.

I think, in some strange underlying way, I’ve had my expectations unmet on several occasions due only to the pedestal erected solely by John Hughes. A ridiculously exaggerated pedestal. Jake Ryan was, and still remains, the holy grail of men. If a 30-something woman says otherwise, she's a lying sack of dog crap. Young, impressionable pubescent girls, now wandering through the relationship jungle in their 30s, believed that this man truly existed somewhere in the world. Little did we know that he would end up an urban legend. He just doesn’t exist, but we went (and some of us still go) through years of thinking he does, only to learn in the last year of our starter marriage that Jake Ryan is as real as Freddie Kruger. This pivotal moment usually comes when the cobwebs in our eyes clear and we see – I mean, REALLY see for the first time - that spouse lying on the couch in his boxers, scratching his butt, unemployed and dipping daily into his quickly draining trust fund, playing Nintendo, fresh with Cheetos residue on his white, pit-stained t-shirt. The a-ha moment, if you will. Jake was a figment of our romantic, idealistic imagination. And, Mr. Hughes is a dirty, rotten jerk for giving us this relationship version of Santa Claus.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not upset that men aren’t perfect. I actually love that they aren’t. I have never stopped loving the species, even though I've been through some of the worst of the worst. Most of them before S.O. have betrayed me, lied to me, and or mistreated me in some way, yet I find men endearing in many more ways than I lead on. I’ve always looked for the best in them, which was part of my problem, actually. I know now that love is what you make it. Relationships take work. I've learned that if they come so without any effort whatsoever - complete with roses and sunshine up your butt, then you’re probably in a one-sided relationship. Or you may be a stalker and just haven’t been served restraining papers yet.

As an older and more experienced woman, I love the honesty that I see in the man I love. It’s this realness that shows me glimpses of what Jake would be had he not been so damn two-dimensional. The little nuances like leaving little whiskers in the sink, or nodding his head while you chatter on about the day, using that "I'm interested, hon" look, all the while knowing that he tuned you out after 45 seconds. You learn to appreciate the head nodding, really - it's like a sweet gesture in the grand scheme of things. It’s the little things, like when he kisses the dog on the head when he doesn’t think you’re looking. Or when he makes you dinner after a long, crappy day - without prompting. I try to recognize and love the everyday crap, the snoring, the occasional fashion faux pas, and the fact that he doesn’t drive a Porsche. These are all reminders that he’s real...reminders that he’s NOT Jake Ryan. And after what I've seen, this is a good thing. It’s the end to a figment of my imagination. Just as believing in Santa Claus is a little creepy at age 35, Jake Ryan is something I should’ve stopped believing in at least at age 18. If only my sister would’ve told me the truth at a young age like she told me about the nonexistence of Santa. I can't even think about the money that could've been saved on divorce lawyers.

I still believe I could have a class action suit against Mr. Hughes. It may be worth seeking, too, because I’ve spent a ton on therapy and could use that money back for some killer Christian Louboutin python stilettos. Or better yet, that shredded pink outfit Samantha wore to the dance that’s probably on Ebay right this second...