Some say that the ’90s were the golden age of romantic comedies — a time when meet-cutes and Meg Ryan graced the screens of millions of Americans. But today, rom-coms of a different generation are emerging — ones that show a more nuanced understanding of love and the people who find it.
It’s about damn time.
For example, newly released films “Crazy Rich Asians” and “To All the Boys I Loved Before” look at love in a different way. To start, the female characters have agency and motivation outside of just finding love. And, gasp, everyone isn’t white and upper-middle class. That may be, at least in part, why when I rewatched the rom-coms of my younger years, they felt completely outdated, unrelatable, and generally boring. So I set out to call BS on them.
I reenacted four meet-cutes, each pulled from rom-coms of decades past, to see if there was any truth at their promise — that if you want it badly enough, love can find you anywhere. The difference was this time, I, the woman, was in charge of my own story.
Movie: “500 Days of Summer”
Tactic: Coyly ask someone what music they are listening to.
Let me be clear about one thing: I avoid starting a conversation with anyone listening to The Smiths. There’s emotional baggage there. However, I was determined to pull Zooey Deschanel’s famous “I love the Smiths!” move from “500 Days of Summer” in my own creative way — that is, casually asking a guy what music he is listening to and acting like I’m really knowledgeable about said genre/artist, resulting in him thinking I’m super chill.
So, I set off to do it in the least creepy way possible. Since everyone has AirPods these days, which are sound confined and don’t give you the benefit/curse of hearing anyone else’s music, I knew I was diving into dark waters. At 6 p.m. on my hellish rush-hour commute home on the subway, I held my breath and jumped in. The guy sitting next to me had a subtle head bob going, and I knew this was my chance. I stared down at his phone, perhaps for a bit too long, trying to get a glimpse of what song was playing. Please note that his phone was resting on his lap, and it suddenly dawned on me that it looked like I was staring at his dick. He looked up in horror. I blurted out, “Whatcha listening to?” He took one of his AirPods out — he hadn’t heard me. I asked again. He said, “podcast.” That threw me for such a loop that by the time I mustered up the courage to say, “I love podcasts!” (original, I know), he’d put his AirPod back in. He got off at the next stop. Maybe he was playing hard to get.
Tactic: Reach for the same item in a store.
I walked through the streets of Soho carefully analyzing each store I passed. Where would the man of my dreams be shopping right now? I considered several options:
- Supreme: ideal if I wanted to date someone who would give up our first-born child for the newest pair of Yeezys
- Bloomingdales: logical If I were seeking a 36-year-old MBA student
- H&M: makes sense if I were seeking a 36-year-old business-school dropout
I saw Levi’s out of the corner of my eye and knew that it was my store. The type of man who’s willing to pay the mid-to-high dollar for quality denim. I was walking towards the men’s section when I spotted him looking at the slim fits. I started sorting through the same pair until our hands accidentally touched. In that exact moment, I realized I had no justification for looking at men’s jeans. Is he going to think I’m shopping for my boyfriend? I wondered. “I’m picking out jeans for my brother,” I blurted out. He laughed (possibly at me), told me that those were his favorite pair, and we proceeded to engage in what I can only describe as denim-based small talk. I think at one point I said, “There’s nothing like a good acid wash.” If you need me, I’ll be hiding in the dressing room.
Ryan Gosling had more than his perfect face working for him in that scene. He was also in a quiet bar without many people around. I was in a loud, overcrowded dive bar in Brooklyn. My chances at being suave died the second a Lil Pump song started blaring through the speakers.
Movie: “Crazy, Stupid, Love”
Tactic: Be obnoxiously bold.
There’s a scene in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” where Ryan Gosling approaches Emma Stone in a bar and fires pickup line after pickup line before finally asking, “Do you find me attractive?” Even though this sort of boldness is off-brand for me, his tactic felt the most doable of any of the meet-cutes on this list, mostly because I’m a no-BS kind of girl who would rather skip the small talk and get to the point. Before going out to a bar with friends , I stared at myself in the mirror and repeated the age-old confidence-boosting mantra, “you are Ryan Gosling.”
My friends and I picked seats at the end of the bar. After a few drinks and a few bathroom trips to repeat my affirmation, I noticed two guys a couple of feet away from us ordering beers. It was now or never, so I approached them. Here’s the thing: Ryan Gosling had more than his perfect face working for him in that scene. He was also in a quiet bar without many people around. I was in a loud, overcrowded dive bar in Brooklyn. My chances at being suave died the second a Lil Pump song started blaring through the speakers.
Nevertheless, I was a woman on a mission. I approached the guy who had a nice smile and a skateboard at his feet (my weakness). “Hey I noticed you from across the bar,” I shouted. He responded, “Oh yeah? What about me?” I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I nearly choked but went with “I liked your shirt,” which, by the way, was a plain white tee. But maybe that wasn’t quite as awkward as I thought, because when I invited him to come sit with my friends and me, he did.
After introducing ourselves to one another, I took a deep breath and went for it. “So, do you think I’m attractive?” Of course, the song changed at that exact moment, and instead of asking him privately, I basically asked the whole bar. I burst out laughing. Luckily, so did he. I think he thought I was being ironic or quirky. We quickly began talking about something else. He never answered my question, though.
Movie: “The Wedding Planner”
Tactic: Be a damsel in distress.
Out of all the classic meet-cutes, this one irks me most. I am vehemently anti the damsel-in-distress trope, so this time, the man was going to be distressed and I the hero.
I spent a few hours looking for any signs of a struggling man. Finally, I found him. I was in an UberPOOL on my way home from a friend’s house when I noticed the other passenger trying and failing to untangle his headphones. I decided to step in and assert myself in the situation. “Want me to try?” He nodded. I was relentless, and I unknotted those bad boys in record time. After all, this wasn’t my first rodeo. He looked at me as if I had just solved a Rubik’s Cube with my hands tied. “How did you do that?” he asked. He was amazed. It felt good to be the hero of my own story. We chatted until I got dropped off first (a true UberPOOL miracle). When we pulled onto my street, he asked me for my number, but I politely declined. I’m not trying to date anyone who doesn’t have AirPods. Welcome to the future, bro.
Ultimately, I learned that meet-cutes only exist in the manufactured universe of a rom-com writer’s mind. Most of us are too skeptical and have listened to too many true-crime podcasts to believe that a stranger we bumped into is our soulmate. My takeaway? Get to know someone before giving them all of your information in an UberPOOL. They might be weird or, even worse, have a low rating.