Sixteen Candles is a fun, silly, wonderful, and fairly clever ’80s film (and yes, it is also deeply problematic, but that would be an entirely different post). It’s a movie where the geek gets the girl, the lowerclassman gets the senior guy, and all those deserving of it get their just desserts. (Darlings, what does that phrase even mean? Because desserts as justice for wrongdoings doesn’t exactly sound like a punishment. It’s basically the precursor to, “Cake or death?”)
My birthday is next month. It’s always been a happy time in my life. I don’t give two canned fucks about getting older. I still climb through fences instead of opening the gate. I will do cartwheels for the hell of it. And I love comics. Age is just a number, and I like what I like. Red lipstick, X-Men, cooking, and wearing my PJs on Sundays.
But my birthday, for years now, always makes me think of the end of Sixteen Candles. You know, when Jake Ryan shows up at Sam’s sister’s wedding, unexpectedly, because he finds out she’s interested in him, realized he’s interested in her, and just…shows up. Kind of like magic.
The ending shot is of Jake and Sam sitting cross-legged on a dining room table (why? I don’t know.) with a birthday cake between them. You see, throughout this entire crazy movie, it turns out that her family forgot her birthday, because of the aforementioned sister’s wedding (officiated by the amazing woman who starred in the ORIGINAL Poltergeist. We shall not speak of the remake. *hisses*).
Sam thanks Jake for getting her underwear back (which she loaned Farmer Ted, aka Anthony Michael Hall, back when he was still skinny and not a domestic abuser!). He says happy birthday. And they both lean forward and kiss over the birthday cake that he’s presumably got her. (Full disclosure: if I tried that, I’d accidentally light my hair on fire, because Rapunzel problems.)
Now, every year when my birthday comes around, there’s always this lingering hope in the back of my mind. The impossible desire for something seemingly out of reach, because life isn’t an ’80s movie. But it’s still there, that insanely stupid want. That lit up expectation that never gets said out loud. I’ve come to expect it, even when I’ve tried like hell to push it away. You can’t push the heart away, even though we sometimes try.
Jake, without any ulterior motive, just shows up. He shows up to indicate that he cares about Samantha. That he is interested in her. And he goes the extra mile not only to return her pink, strawberry-decorated underwear – but he comes armed with a charming smile and a birthday cake.
Maybe it’s not a pink trans am and having sex on a cloud, but as far as fantasies go, that isn’t bad. It seriously gave me unrealistic expectations about my birthday, despite nearly 33 years of life. There’s always a small part of me that hopes, that cranes its head toward the magic of maybe. There’s a small space in my heart that allows for the idea that sometimes life is a crossroads between what is and what can be, and there are some of us always standing there.
And you know what? Even if I live to be 90 and that Jake Ryan moment never happens? That’s okay. Because I think I’d like to hold on to the idea that it’s always possible. That while life is certainly not a movie, and no guy is every going to be Jake fucking Ryan, I think it’s that kind of small belief that keeps a heart open.
And who knows, truly, what this coming birthday may bring?
“The timing was always wrong.”
No. Guys, this is a lie. There’s never a good moment. There’s never an ideal moment. That is a lie, a myth. Life is messy. Love is mess. Chasing after what you want? Also messy. But always goddamn worth it.
The timing is only wrong if there’s no next minute. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Write a tweet. Take a chance.
The notion that things will settle down and the time will be “perfect” is so untrue that it hurts. Nothing is ever perfect. Nothing. Not me. Not you. No relationship is ever perfect. And it SHOULD not be. Real, honest love is not the Hallmark kind. It’s not the kind that wants something. It’s not the kind in posed photographs. It’s messy and honest—and sometimes inconvenient. It knows how to argue without getting its hands dirty. It is vulnerable and honest, loyal and silly, beautiful and absolutely unfiltered. It’s something that you fight for, honor, and cherish—even at 3am and you’re tired. Even at 2pm when you’re running on no sleep. Even when you’re apart. Even when your scared.
So, who do you love? Not who are you expected to love. Forget everything that’s ‘expected’ of you—people will use that to keep you caged. Society will use that to keep you caged.
Who do you love? Who sets your soul on fire? Who makes you smile you didn’t think you could and makes you laugh when you’ve nearly forgotten how?
The timing isn’t wrong. The timing is never wrong to honor what’s in your heart.
Go on. I dare you to. I double-dog dare you.
*title taken from a Mary Oliver poem: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver
Darlings, I am lucky enough to know a lot of talented artists. So, I’ve decided to do a blog post spotlighting one, once or twice a week.
This week, kittens, I’d like to introduce you to my amazing friend, Dani Stinger. Dani recently opened a Redbubble shop, which you can check out here. There is an array of merchandise available with Dani’s art on it (there’s a great Wonder Woman, for my fellow nerds), and once you get a glimpse of her work, you’re probably going to want EVERYTHING.
She is also open to doing commissions, and you can always contact her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/maddarilke) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Now, if you’d like a wider sampling of her art (she’s well-versed in some many different mediums, from pastels to paints), I’d suggest taking a look at the photos on her Twitter account: https://twitter.com/maddarilke/media.
If you look hard enough, you might even stumble across a piece featuring yours truly. Oh, wait, how’d this get here?
*cough* She makes me look good, y’all. I was also fortunate enough to have Dani do the cover art on my last book, I Don’t Love You Pretty, which you can see here.
Every day, I am grateful for her presence in my life – for the beauty she brings into it, with both her work and simply by virtue of who she is. I am honored to know her. And once you see her and her work, I know you will adore her, too.
Explain how secrets
fall like snow, but no one
says a word. Every breath
of protest that forms in the air
vanishes, and there is nothing
to be done about the chill.
what river runs through
your heart and how
the rapids feel at night. How
often are you drowning
from within? How many
oceans have you swallowed?
fear as a constellation. How many
vicious stars does it take
to make you forget the sky?
Why do you let
such false things
lead you home?
I want to understand
of love, the kind
you walk away from, a ghost
given to the grave
without any fight. Bones
are so easily buried,
but I did not think you could
how weightless the heart is
when offered freely
and without teeth, like a soft
neck meant for kissing,
a vulnerable confirmation
of all the worst fears. Gravity
is every inch between us
growing smaller, but
I am starting to forget
the way wanted
unfurls, the way honesty
is a history lesson. Teach
me what I have meant
to you. Explain the theoretical
maybe of what might be,
not what is. I want
to understand you