10 love lessons you can learn from the ’80s
by Nico Lang
1. Dancing is the key to winning someone’s heart. (Dirty Dancing, Flashdance, Footloose, Fame, Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo)
For anyone who has seen Dirty Dancing and the wonder of Patrick Swayze’s torso (#neverforget), you know that nobody can resist dancing. What’s sexier than someone who is in touch with their body and knows how to move it? It doesn’t even matter what they’re dancing to or whether it’s a tune as admittedly dopey as “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.” When you see those hips moving to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ words, nothing else matters; not maudlin theme songs, botched backstreet abortions, the high expectations of your parents (Emily Gilmore and pre-L&O Jerry Orbach) or that you think you can’t do that lift. You can do that lift. You just have to learn to believe in yourself. His sweet moves will show you the way.
Also, you know you kind of still love that song anyway.
2. Any problems you have with your romantic partner can be solved with the soulful tunes of Peter Gabriel. (Say Anything)
John Cusack movies taught me everything I needed to know about relationships, and Say Anything is a great example. Did you give her your heart and she gave you a pen? Do you want to be a professional kickboxer while she wants to study in England? Is her father, the dad from Frasier, being investigated by the IRS for tax evasions? All of these issues can be solved by blasting/serenading your beloved via boombox outside of her window. If you can’t figure out what to say to win back her heart, let Peter do the talking. Like in 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, music is the universal language, and when it comes to love, sometimes Gabriel’s lyrics are the only words you need.
3. Hot guys have feelings, too. (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink)
Hey, just because he’s beautiful, perfect and has cheekbones that could slice a diamond doesn’t mean he isn’t soulful or doesn’t want a real relationship with someone. For example: You know all those douchebag friends of his that wreck his parents’ house or that awful ex-girlfriend who let an unlicensed freshman operate his dad’s Rolls Royce? He doesn’t like those things, either. He might just like you and if you let him in, he will wait for you outside of your sister’s wedding with a trans am, ready to do it on a cloud without getting pregnant or herpes. Or you’ll just eat cake together, because who doesn’t love cake? Either way, someone will remember your birthday and see how special you are, and it just might be him. So, when he tries to talk to you at the dance, make sure to say something back.
4. Sometimes the bad boy is just bad. (Heathers)
If the object of your affections is a dead ringer for Jack Nicholson in The Shining, has suspicious access to firearms and explosives and helps you plot to kill all of your friends, you might not want to take him to the prom. Before getting involved with the bad boy, ask yourself: “Does his father blow things up for a living? Did he move to your town under suspicious circumstances? Does he wear long trenchcoats all the time? Is he anti-social or a possible serial murderer?” If you are unclear about the answers to any of these questions, run. “Ich Luge” bullets are not a thing — you’re the one who is lying to yourself.
5. Opposites attract. (Pretty in Pink, Footloose, every ’80s movie ever)
Just because he’s popular doesn’t mean he’s not into you. You’re the girl from the wrong side of the tracks (who has to make her own dress for the prom), the sort-of-goth girl who needs someone to open up to or the preacher’s daughter who just wants to let her wild side out and dance but can’t because the town outlawed dancing. Although your families don’t approve and it seems like you couldn’t possibly get together with society standing in the way, nothing is so insurmountable that it can’t be solved before the closing credits. You’ll get a makeover, find your self-esteem and get your dad to sit down and listen to what the kids are jamming to these days. When John Lithgow finally hears Kenny Loggins, he’ll understand what Paula Abdul and a cartoon cat have been telling us all these years: Sometimes it’s so wrong that it couldn’t be more right.
6. Want to get the guy? Be yourself. (Sixteen Candles)
This is the ’80s, and girls aren’t like Sandy in Grease, ditching their poodle skirts to impress some guy. No. You’re like Molly Ringwald, and guys like you for just doing you. You’re not like other girls. You wear kooky-yet-cool flowered hats and loan your underwear to a freshman, because you’re special and you care about people. If he really likes you, he won’t care about his popular friends or that you have an overtly racist Asian caricature staying in your house. When you like someone, you like them for the quirks that make them who they are, even if those quirks are Long Duk Dong.
7. I repeat: Don’t change for them. (The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink)
’80s movies are big on transformations. We find out that nerdy guy was McDreamy THE WHOLE TIME or that Ally Sheedy is a knock-out when her bangs aren’t covering up her entire face. Getting a new wardrobe and a new lease on self-esteem is wonderful, but don’t let someone else tell you who to be. A makeover can turn a frog into a prince, but that only goes so far. When Patrick Dempsey gets the girl in Can’t Buy Me Love, it’s because he’s been a prince THE WHOLE TIME. Change the clothes, but don’t forget about the person inside them.
8. Guys who ride riding mowers are surprisingly sexy. (Can’t Buy Me Love)
Although country music has informed us of the erotic powers of the tractor, CBML makes a strong case for the sexual appeal of lawn trimmers. However, it helps when the person riding that thing is as forever-hot as Patrick Dempsey, who only seems to get more good looking with each passing year. Between him, Robert Downey Jr. and Anthony Michael Hall (who got weird hot after the ’80s), I’m convinced there’s a Brat Pack Fountain of Sexy, and I want in. At the very least, they need to share with Judd Nelson.
9. Friendship is the basis of any great relationship. (Some Kind of Wonderful, The Goonies)
Although the two of you CAN just be friends, sometimes being best friends with someone can be the foundation for something more. When Harry Met Sally is the classic example of this (because who wouldn’t eventually fall in love with Meg Ryan?), but Some Kind of Wonderful proves this conclusively. You seem like bros, but this just masks the fact that you’ve got it for him, bad, even though he has the hots for Lea Thompson.
However, he will eventually watch Howard The Duck, where she has intergalactic nookie with a cigar-smoking alien waterfowl, and he’ll get over her. Guess who will still be there? You. You put in the time and the effort and were there for him while he got his heart broken by poultry porn, and that matters. Sure, you might have to chauffeur him on a couple dates to get to that point, but when he sees how cute you look in that chauffeur hat, he’ll never think about Lea Thompson again.
10. But sometimes, you have to settle for being friends. (Pretty in Pink)
Sure, you could end up in a Beauty and the Beast (1991) situation, where there’s something there that wasn’t there before. But if you’re pining for her and she makes it clear she wants to be with the angelicly feather-haired Andrew McCarthy, you need to give it up, bra. You can best win her over by being there for her when Andrew’s bougie best friends are a jerk to her for being, like, poor and stuff. (Dem blue collars are such a buzzkill, amiright?) Either she’ll find happiness with Andrew McCarthy when he finally gets up the courage to tell off James Spader and you’ll come to respect her decision, or you’ll forge an alternate reality where a Flock-of-Seagull-haired Jon Cryer can find love, too. Maybe that will then stop him from doing Two and a Half Men? A girl can dream.
Nico Lang is Co-Editor, In Our Words; Associate Director, The Civil Rights Agenda and tweets @Nico_Lang
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.