I’m lucky. My daughter is still young. Right now boys are just friends with whom you arrange playdates, not real dates. Her future plans involve having 100 children whom I will babysit while she goes to work as a teacher/astronaut/fashion designer/Mommy. The romantic lead in this scenario is an unidentified male character called “Husband” who elicits little concern at this moment. But one day she will grow up and boys will become, well, slightly more important. Since I know when that day arrives, she certainly won’t want my advice, I’ve compiled the next best thing: a list of movies that will teach her the ins and outs of young romance. You’re welcome, future teenage daughter.
1. The Princess Bride. Cary Elwes may be the perfect fictional man: handsome, devoted, willing to go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line — all in the name of true love. This movie teaches us never to give up on love, no matter how many sword enthusiasts and rhyming giants get in the way. Besides, a man who is willing to battle Rodents of Unusual Size may come in handy should my daughter ever move to Manhattan.
2. Heathers. Oh, those bad boys, with their perfect hair and love of explosives. While most of the bad boys my daughter is likely to meet will pale in comparison to Christian Slater’s murderous J.D., this movie is still a good reminder to stay away from mysterious young men reeking of cigarettes and danger. Because sometimes the cool, misunderstood guy is actually trying to blow up your school.
3. Can’t Buy Me Love. This movie offers several lessons. First, don’t overlook the nerdy guy. He may one day earn a fictional medical degree and — against all odds — become the dreamiest doctor on television. Second, when it comes to love, it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. It took a while for the teenagers in this movie to see past each other’s social statuses; when they did, they got to ride off into the sunset — on a lawnmower, of course.
4. Say Anything. What is it about Lloyd Dobler that makes him so perfect? Is it his determination not to sell anything bought or processed? Is it the enduring image of him holding up a boom box, blasting Peter Gabriel into Ione Skye’s window? In my opinion, what makes Lloyd — and this movie — so great is his willingness to embrace the wisdom of Lili Taylor: “The world is full of guys. Be a man.” I can only hope my daughter chooses a man — and a man with a boom box, no less.
5. Chocolat. I’m sure there’s a lesson in love somewhere in this movie, and when the time comes I’ll have one handy to share with my daughter. But let’s get real. This is about bonding over two things all mothers and daughters can agree on: chocolate and Johnny Depp.
6. Once. A man and a woman make beautiful music together and don’t sleep with or end up together. Turns out, men and women can offer each other something meaningful and transformative besides sex. Who knew?
7. Save the Last Dance. Yes, I know this movie was largely about race. But I was more impressed with the relationship between Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas, two equals who were both ambitious, intelligent, and “about something.” They challenged each other and ultimately made each other better. What more could I want for my daughter?
8. Up. The beginning of Up always makes me cry. Yet as sad as it is, it reminds me of something important — that two people who love each other can build a joyful and happy life, even in the face of profound loss and disappointment. This optimistic view of love is something I want my daughter to hold close to her heart.
9. Mean Girls. Girls can like math and still get the guy. Thank you, Tina Fey.
10. The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. As my daughter gets older, she’s bound to see the havoc love can wreak. This movie is a reminder that broken hearts don’t start out that way — that love begins with hope, beauty, and passion. “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” may be cliché, but it’s true, and I don’t know a better lesson I could teach her.
As my daughter grows up, I’m sure she’ll have many questions about love and relationships. While I may not have all the answers, I will have a bowl of popcorn and a stack of rom-coms at my disposal. And, should she want to see one of these classics for the fifth, tenth, or twentieth time, my answer will be simple: As you wish. And go clean your room.
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