Love is hard. Romantic movies make it harder. We've lived through lifetimes of rom-coms and romances and the occasional dramas that make relationships seem ever so simple or sometimes complicated but still beautiful... If you only wait it out and sleep in your makeup and make sure to attend weddings with your gay best friend, and love dogs and do the right thing and are fully aware of when he or she is or is not just that into you. And we are tired. Tired of the lies. Tired of the misleading details. Tired of being fooled into thinking that real life works this way, and therefore our expectations are completely and totally reasonable and why hasn't anyone flown a plane overhead explaining how devoted they are to us? Sure, The Five-Year Engagement may have been a flop, but that doesn't mean it didn't imperil thousands of Americans with unrealistic romantic expectations, and, further, continue a long tradition of movies cementing bad habits and relationship turmoil. Let's put a stop to it, here and now. Here are the ways in which Hollywood lies. It probably cheats, too.
You will never have to choose between two amazing men (or women) who love you equally and utterly but in completely opposite ways. One will not be a brunette, and one will not be a blonde, because you either like blondes or you like brunettes. One will also not be a hunter while the other is a bread-maker, and one will not be courageous and strong and your best friend while the other loves you unconditionally, even, maybe, after he's been driven mad by corrupt governmental forces. Neither of them will want to kill you, unless you're complaining about taking out the garbage again, and in that case, it's only figuratively. Nor will you have to choose between your adoring, perfect boyfriend or girlfriend and his/her annoying, perfect best friend. More likely, you will tolerate the annoying best friend who's always making the dumb jokes or talking about shopping because your beloved adores that person, foul piece of humanity he or she may be, and, more importantly, when you make fun of the BFF your beloved tends to get really annoyed and denies you sex.
You will not find someone ten years after you met them but did not give them your number because you were being weird or whimsical and, at the time, coyly believed in fate. You will not be able to track them down using old receipts and half-disappeared memories, they will not appear magically at a skating rink when it has just begun to snow. And even if they do, even if you and your wacky friend do somehow manage to track this person down, it will have been ten years and you only met them the once so it will be awkward and you will very quickly realize that the connection you felt all those years ago was just a quick, passing thing, a ribbon of lightning gone as quick as it came. You're both older now and you have different values and you live all the way across the country and this whole adventure will suddenly feel sad and strange instead of exciting and romantic. You will realize that if you were interested a decade ago you should have just given them your stupid phone number and he or she would have called and you would have gone on some dates and maybe it would have worked out and maybe it wouldn't have, but at least it would be then, and you would know, rather than wasting all this money on airplanes to New York ten long years later.
Your hook-up buddy will never be more than your hook-up buddy. Same with your sperm donor.
There will never be a last-minute chase scene as you board the plane to Dubai/New York City/Los Angeles/Singapore/Iowa City, Iowa, in which your lover, former lover, or best friend not yet your lover has finally realized his or her grave mistake, and that he or she needs you desperately after all. This person will not stop you before you board and will certainly not board the plane himself, eyes wild, rushing through the seats to find you and ask for your hand in marriage. For one thing, in this day and age of air travel, that is impossible. Further: He will not be carrying flowers, or gifts, or even a bottle of water. There will be no grand gesture. More likely, if your lover does decide he wants to try again after you fly to Singapore, he will email you and schedule a time in which you can Skype. It will probably be some months from the time you depart, around the same time that you start dating someone else, because former lovers have that sort of radar. Maybe he will convince you to come back, and maybe he won't. But he will not arrive at your doorstep, if you even have a doorstep, without telling you he's coming, and then get down on one knee and proffer a ring/a sign that says "To Me You Are Perfect"/a bottle of champagne/something important that only the two of you know about. If, on the very rare occasion, he actually does arrive, you will probably have to take out a restraining order, or, alternatively, pick him up at the airport.
You will never fall in love with a hooker with a heart of gold, or, if you are a hooker, your john will not fall in love with you and also happen to be a very wealthy businessman and a very nice person, too, who takes you on shopping sprees and cleans you up and makes you presentable and teaches you what fork to use at the dinner table and introduces you to high society. When you consider going back to your old ways, he will not climb a fire escape and rescue you and get down on one knee and promise to make you an honest woman. You will not watch Lucille Ball stomp on grapes together and congratulate yourselves on your good fortune in finding each other, and there will not be a kindly hotel manager who looks like Hector Elizondo to take anyone under his wing at the Regent Beverly Wilshire.
Your male friend will not suddenly realizes he loves you. He will not have any romantic epiphany in which he remembers great, unwittingly sexy times you had together and realize suddenly that they make up a perfect patchwork quilt of love. If you have had this friend for years and years and he has not shown an interest then he is either a gay person or really just not into you. Either way, he will not show up at your house in the rain and tell you a story about something you two did when you were kids, he will not make an awkward, embarrassing speech at a party, in front of everyone. Your other friends will not nod and smile knowingly, because they thought you two would get together all along. (And if they did, wouldn't they be not very good friends for having never said anything to you?) There will not be a nice old jazz song that plays. There will be no end credits.
Your marriage will not be interrupted by the person who's actually right for you, at the altar, when the minister asks if anyone would like to speak out against said marriage. If anyone does disapprove of the marriage (and surely, someone, somewhere, will), they will never say anything until and unless your marriage ends, years later, possibly, and then that person will say something to the tune of, "I never liked him/her anyway." This person is more likely to be a relative than the person who has hidden away their love for you, like a locket underground, for many, many years because they only wanted you to be happy, even though you clearly weren't. Additionally, you will not be a wedding planner who falls in love with a client, or a client who falls in love with a wedding planner, or, for that matter, an escort who falls in a client, or a client who falls in love with an escort, and you will certainly not marry someone you meet when you are a bridesmaid at a wedding, or a guest at a funeral.
That slacker guy who got you pregnant? Chances are, he's not going to reform and suddenly become wonderful. But you never know!
You will not fall in love with someone you fight with all the time, be they neighbor or coworker or obnoxious magazine writer. If you fight with them all the time it means you do not like each other and do not get along and should not, will not, date. Why would you want to date the asshole across the hall anyway? Why would that smug jerk at the rival advertising company suddenly seem appealing? This will not happen. You are enemies, not future lovers. Stay away from this person because they make you mad and you do stupid things to get back at them, stupid wacky zany things that no one will find cute, they will just think you're annoying and you will probably get fired or evicted and it will all be because of this complete ass who you will never fall in love with.
There will not be a makeover montage. There just won't be.
You will not meet on a boat, or on a plane, or in a school or florist's shop or mall, or via a professional male matchmaker, and be of two different social and economic classes yet know from the minute your eyes meet that you are kindred spirits destined to be together despite the odds, despite impending tragedy. You will not save one another over and over again, from water, from fire, from certain death, from bad humans, from falling back into your own sad life. You will not, in the end, attempt to climb atop a board together—once, only once—and fail, and then stop trying. You will not freeze to death in the cold, cold sea waters after the Titanic has sunk.
There will not be a comedy of manners or tiny, insurmountable offenses, in which he says one thing and you take it the wrong way and then you say something else, and then other people stick their noses in and sway you in one way or the other, but then he saves your sister from ill repute, and you finally realize what a good man he is, and how he love-love-loves you.
There will not be a "happy ever after." There might be a happy sometimes. For best chances of such, stop believing what you see in romantic movies.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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