Relationships & Friendship

Love Lessons from the Movies

e9431ded-5a77-4fec-8942-d8f5b0a500dbRegular readers of my blog will know that I love to write about romantic comedies. From the gender stereotypes they perpetuate to the misconceptions they give us about love to the modern-day endings to classic rom coms, I don’t know if I’ll ever get tired of watching, swooning over and criticizing these films. :)

Of course, the romantic comedies we watch can actually teach us a lot about love and relationships! Below are some of the lessons I’ve taken away from these films, which will hopefully enhance your love life and bring you the happiness you seek!

  • High school is a drag, especially when it comes to dating, but if you change everything about your appearance and personality, you will finally find true love. – Grease (1978)
  • Living under the sea is a drag, especially when your only friend is a flounder, but if you sell your soul to a sea witch in order to change your appearance, you will finally find true love. – The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • Don’t fall in love with a womanizing slacker. Instead, fall in love with his workaholic brother who tried to ship you out of the country so he could complete a business deal. – Sabrina (1954)
  • When you love someone, the best way to show that love is by yelling at the other person. – Katherine Heigl movies
  • Women are most charming when singing among nature or not talking at all. – Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  • If you really want to be with someone who is otherwise engaged, you should wait to reveal your feelings until that person’s wedding day. – Various films
  • If you begin a friends-with-benefits relationship with someone, you will ultimately fall in love and end up together. – Friends With Benefits (2011), No Strings Attached (2011), various other films
  • If you’re otherwise sweet and easy to relate to, then it’s okay to steal your best friend’s fiancé. – Something Borrowed (2011)
  • It’s not an inappropriate age gap if the older person in the relationship is undead and still looks like a teenager. – Twilight (2008)

Readers, what are some of the lessons you’ve taken away from the movies you’ve watched? Sound off in the comments section below!

The Role of Women in Romantic Comedies

sandrabullockIt has become a widely accepted fact that the plots of romantic comedies are just not realistic (for further proof, see here and here). Growing up with the now often-parodied teen flicks of the 90s and early 2000s, I can attest to the fact that the movies I watched when I was younger played a huge role in the misconceptions that I and so many of my peers had when it came to relationships. If a guy treats you poorly, he likes you. If you argue a lot with another person, it means you have chemistry. And if all else fails, you’ll probably just wind up with your best friend anyway.

I think we can agree that these misconceptions are harmful, but until recently, I didn’t stop to think just how harmful their portrayals of women could be. Most female characters fall into two categories: desperate to fall in love and get married (think of Ginnifer Goodwin in He’s Just Not That Into You), or too career-driven to ever want or attract a man (Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks Notice, The Proposal, Miss Congeniality or perhaps any other movie she has ever been in). Let’s call this second character Jane.

No-Strings-Attached_240These movies do an incredible disservice to Jane and characters like her because they paint them as cold, out of touch and clearly Missing Something. In fact, there is usually a best friend character prone to “messy” relationships who summarizes this sentiment early in the film by stating that Jane is so set in her ways and afraid of getting hurt that she risks finding true happiness. Also, would it kill her to put on a little more makeup and wear her hair down once in a while?

Never mind the fact that Jane loves what she does for a living and is well suited for it. Pop culture tells us that the woman who focuses “too much” on her career is simply doing so to distract herself from finding a soul mate. Only when she lets her hair down (literally and figuratively) and demonstrates some form of vulnerability, perhaps by crying or getting drunk in front of the male love interest, does she open herself up to a happy life. Only then does she truly become the character we like and root for. After all, what man would want to be with a woman who enjoys her job?

In real life, there are gradients between these extremes. Women who love their careers and enjoy being in a relationship do exist. In addition, there are plenty of men who like independent women. Why do we have to box ourselves into these two very limited categories? (And for the women who don’t ever visualize themselves in a relationship, who are we to judge?)

ginnifer-goodwin-purple-nails-he's-just-not-that-into-you-nubar-pasadena-purpleWe value a woman’s willingness to be in a relationship as a trait to be valued, but not her independence. In the movies, Jane’s “independence” is clearly just a wall she put up after someone hurt her, a wall that is meant to be broken down by the male lead. (Jane’s best friend or love interest in the film may actually use the whole “wall” metaphor in a big speech that makes her realize just how closed off she has been the entire time.)

If a woman rejects a man or decides to put her career first, pop culture labels her as cold. (Tweet this!) What the movies – and the people who watch them! – fail to think about is the fact that we all have different priorities at different points in our lives, and while a woman may hope to marry and have babies someday, she might not be ready for that stage.

There are a few exceptions to the romantic comedy genre that don’t posit relationships and careers as an either/or for women, but all too often, pop culture dictates that we must choose (and that “career” is the wrong choice). Society – and women especially – need to remember that these options are not mutually exclusive, and that they can have both.

Dramatic Relationships: The Musical

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Over the years, I have been astounded by the number of romantic comedies that promote dysfunctional relationships. Not only do filmmakers continue creating these movies, but we as viewers continue watching them, rooting for the couples who argue constantly in the name of passion. In these films, the romantic leads often forgo their happy, drama-free relationships in favor of something messy and often tumultuous.

However, these themes have most recently slipped their way into our music, as artists croon for their imperfect partners because of the excitement that their relationship problems bring. When Hunter Hayes sings, “I don’t want easy. I want crazy,” listeners nod, reasoning that the best relationships require struggle.

While I agree that no relationship is perfect and that every relationship, good or bad, will have its ups and downs, I have to ask: What’s wrong with easy? Does a happy relationship have to be crazy? (Tweet this!)

tumblr-kr2ib7tjuz1qa1f2go1-500In her song The Way I Loved You, Taylor Swift describes her picture perfect new boyfriend: a charming, sensible, endearing young man who is close to her mother, talks business with her father, opens doors for her and tells her she is beautiful. Nevertheless, T. Swift pines for her ex, claiming that “I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain and it’s 2 a.m. and I’m cursing your name.”

In her case, an easy relationship with an “incredible” guy simply doesn’t measure up to the fits of passion/incessant arguing she faced in her previous relationship. She would prefer to act insanely out of “love” than to go through a mature adult relationship with a reliable guy who genuinely cares about her. Sadly, it seems that many young people these days feel the same way.

Throughout the various breakups in your life, it is natural to miss various aspects of those relationships. However, in my own life, I can honestly say that I have never once missed arguing with a significant other. And yet, somehow our music and pop culture glamorize the rocky relationships and discourage us from the “easy” ones. They devalue the healthy relationships that don’t constantly swing up and down, making them seem less complex and less worthwhile.

In the end, however, are you really going to be happy with a lifetime of drama?

Readers, I am not encouraging you to settle, but I do suggest looking at the successful marriages and relationships around you in your real life rather than pining for the type of love that generally only makes for a good song or film.

Unhealthy Relationships: 5 Signs That the Nice Guy Isn’t So Nice

This article was originally published as a guest post on HUGStronger in September 2012, a college advice blog that has since been discontinued, and was later reposted on College Relationships here.

We’ve all been warned.  Before leaving for college, we receive a surplus of information from older friends, advising us both academically and socially.  These friends also share their dating wisdom, cautioning us against falling for the “wrong” kind of guy.

Pop culture portrays the “wrong guy” as the unmotivated slacker who skates by on an academic probation, or as the misogynist who only wants you for your looks.  However, during my freshman year, I learned that the wrong guy can be difficult to spot, because he often disguises himself as the nice guy you can’t help but trust.

That fall, I met a boy with whom I instantly connected.  We fell into an easy friendship that eventually developed into more.  With little dating experience behind me, I took his seemingly charming personality at face value.

In time, I learned that his “nice guy” routine was exactly that – a routine.  He simultaneously pursued multiple girls who had no knowledge of each other, while feeding them the same lines and spreading hurtful rumors. Ultimately, I realized our relationship was unhealthy and would only drag me down.

Nice guys do exist, and I’ve dated a few since then. However, when dealing with new guys, watch out for red flags:

ran-into-my-ex21. He says mostly negative things about his ex-girlfriends.
If he tells you extremely personal (or insulting) details about previous girlfriends, chances are he’ll say the same things about you when you break up.  Of course, you don’t want to date someone who still loves his ex-girlfriend, but if he seems particularly vindictive toward the girls he’s dated, you might want to break things off.

2. He likes to tell you about all of his admirers.
Even when he claimed to be interested in only me, my not-so-nice guy would constantly rant about the many girls who were “in love” with him.  I’m not a jealous person, but I often wondered why he needed to share this knowledge.  It’s one thing if other girls find him attractive; it’s another thing if he’s using that information to try and upset you.

3. He mixes up his stories.
First he tells you that he was spending time with his boys last night.  Then he casually slips in that another girl was there.  Then he gets annoyed when you ask him for details about his evening, and accuses you of not trusting him.  What starts out as simple curiosity can quickly morph into suspicion.

aint-nobody-got-time-for-that4. He plays hot and cold with your emotions.
If a guy is sending you mixed signals for any prolonged period of time, he’s not that into you.  If he’s truly worth your time, he will make it known that he’s interested, and he won’t keep you guessing whether or not he wants a relationship.

5. He disguises condescending remarks as compliments.
In trying to win me back, my not-so-nice guy once explained that I had grown since we last parted ways, and that he now felt more attracted to me because of how “assertive” I had become. (Translation: “Now that you’re unattainable, I consider you a challenge worth pursuing.”) The truth was, I hadn’t changed much in that time, and I didn’t need his affirmation that I had “grown” enough to be worth his attention. Remember, you deserve to be treated well no matter how much you still have left to learn or accomplish. (Tweet this!)

Not-so-nice guys come in all forms. Be aware of the warning signs, so that you won’t fall into the same traps as many others.  Don’t settle for anyone who treats you as anything less than you deserve.

Unfinished: The Tricky Thing About Closure

Lifetime_How-I-Met-Your-Mother_6_Unfinished_79899_LF_2013_HD_768x432-16x9“You need demarcation.”
“Demarcation?” I asked.
“It means a clear separation between two things,” he told me. “A solid end before a clean beginning. No murky borders. Clarity.”
- Sarah Dessen, The Moon and More

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As I was binge-watching old episodes of How I Met Your Mother, I came across an episode in season six that struck a chord with me. In the episode Unfinished, Robin has recently broken up with Don, a boyfriend who had left for a job in Chicago just as things were getting serious. Robin experiences both anger and remorse as she deals with one of the most difficult break-ups of her life, concerned that she will never have closure, and that she and Don “will always be a loose end.”

closurelaw-smIt is a problem that so many of us face in our lives, whether we are going through a break-up or experiencing another monumental change. Within the realm of relationships, it is difficult to find closure if one or both parties aren’t ready to let go, and as much as we hate to admit it, we often aren’t ready. Lines of communication are kept open, words are minced to soften the blow and suddenly we find ourselves wondering where we would be if X, Y and Z had never happened. Things end in a way we don’t expect and don’t like, and the closure we yearn for is suddenly out of reach.

I remember at the end of my junior year of high school, I finished my cheerleading season with injuries and a few sub-par performances that my sophomore-self wouldn’t have been proud of. Because of my senior year schedule and my new position as a yearbook editor, I knew that cheerleading in my senior year was out of the question, but it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that my season hadn’t ended the way I wanted it. I was devastated, and considered forcing practices and games into my schedule so that I could end my cheerleading career on a brighter note, if only to gain the closure I so desperately needed.

delete-buttonOf course, I realized that would have been a mistake, and while I initially mourned the uniform and pom poms (bear with me, I was a teenager!), I eventually moved on. I had a successful year as a yearbook editor, and not re-joining the team gave me more time to write freelance articles locally. As an adult, I have never regretted the decision I was convinced I would regret at age seventeen.

In my college years and early twenties, I have been in situations that initially lacked closure as well – a break-up I wasn’t ready for, a perfect first date that never led to a second, jobs I applied to that never called back. I have craved closure and sometimes I have even gotten that closure thrown back at me in the worst possible way. However, I have also met new people along the way and even ended up at my dream job.

7fd7600e150ac1bce69b852d20676a53Throughout Unfinished, Robin struggles to erase Don’s phone number from her memory (and from her cell phone), but by the end of the episode, she forgets it. And just as Robin forgets Don’s number, you too will forget your ex’s nuances (or the job you didn’t get, or the sport you quit, etc.) in certain ways because your brain will be focused on something else: a hobby, perhaps, or someone new. Breaking up with closure can be a tricky thing, but it passes with time as you change your circumstances and create your own closure.

“And the heart,” says Judith Ortiz Cofer in her poem To a Daughter I Cannot Console, “like a well-constructed little boat, will resume its course toward hope.”

The Weekend Five: Romantic Comedy Plots That Don’t Work Out in Real Life

graduate2Valentine’s Day may be over, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop binge-watching our favorite romantic comedies! From Sabrina to You’ve Got Mail, I have my go-to films that I can’t help but love, flaws and all. Of course, sometimes these movies may shape our own beliefs about love and relationships in an unrealistic way. As a personal service to my lovely readers, I’ll share five romantic comedy plots that just don’t work out in real life. (Feel free to add your own in the comments section below!)

The Weekend Five: Romantic Comedy Plots That Don’t Work Out in Real Life

1. Person A stops the wedding of Person B, and the two ride off into the sunset together.
This romantic comedy staple has always bothered me! First of all, who waits until the day of their beloved’s wedding to declare their love for that person? Second of all, who would want to be with someone who would leave their betrothed at the altar? Here’s what really happens when Person A stops Person B’s wedding: The two “ride off into the sunset” and enjoy a few happy months together before Person A starts to question whether Person B would actually run out on their wedding. Person B realizes that the woman he almost married has gotten better looking and more successful, and wonders if he made a mistake. Person A and Person B become so resentful of one another that they break up after a year and never speak again.

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Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-Spotless-Mind-movie_image2. Guy falls in love with quirky commitment-phobe who has a few serious issues and tries to fix her.
Unfortunately in real life, this happens all too often, but with one catch: he can’t fix her. People are drawn to the manic pixie dream girl or manic pixie dream boy (see: Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer, etc.) but they don’t realize that they can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change.

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3. Two friends with benefits fall in love and live happily ever after.
In real life, these arrangements are usually much more complicated. Although attachments do occur, they are usually incredibly one-sided. Person A may be in love with Person B, but Person B doesn’t take Person A seriously as a potential love interest, and quickly brushes Person A aside once the stronger feelings have become more apparent. Hint: Do not start a “friends with benefits” situation with anyone you are even considering starting a relationship with in the future.

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movieimage4. A journalist lies about something important for an investigative piece, but winds up falling in love.
This goes against every ethics course you will ever take. No reputable newspaper or magazine will require their copy editor to pose as a high school student to run an exposé a la Never Been Kissed, and no self-respecting journalist would take such an absurd assignment. (Of course, it does make for an entertaining movie!)

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5. Person A lies to Person B about everything, but they still end up together.
Person B finds out in a horrible twist of events that Person A has been lying about something very important: his marital status, his identity, etc. In real life, this would lead to a lot of resentment later on. After all, how can you really trust a 25-year-old journalist who claimed to be a high school student in your English class? (Yes, I am still on Never Been Kissed!) Things might work out temporarily, but not very likely in the long run.

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Any other romantic comedy plots that you would argue would/would not work out in real life?

Best Cinematic Love Quotes

Two years ago, I shared a list of some of my favorite literary love quotes of all time. The list appealed to bibliophiles of all kinds, and remains one of my most popular blogs to date! This year, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I would like to bring my movie-loving readers five of my favorite cinematic love quotes. I’m a bit of a romantic comedy junkie, so this may get interesting! :)

Enjoy the list, and please feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section below!

bestcinematiclovequotes
1. “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
When Harry Met Sally (1989)

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2. “It’s gotta be that can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, World Series kind of thing.” – It Takes Two (1995)

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3. “If I hadn’t been Fox Books and you hadn’t been The Shop Around the Corner, and you and I had just, well, met… I would have asked for your number and I wouldn’t have been able to wait 24 hours before calling you and saying, ‘Hey, how about… oh, how about some coffee, or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie… for as long as we both shall live?’” – You’ve Got Mail (1998)

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4. “You had me at hello.” – Jerry Maguire (1996)

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5. “The best kind of love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds.” – The Notebook (2004)

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Well, friends, what are some of your favorites?

The Post-Weekend Five: Honest Relationship Statuses for Facebook

67469ce10f5ca882f88785d3642bb181Let’s face it – social media has a huge effect on how we talk about relationships. In today’s world, when a friend tells us about her latest love interest, we are quick to ask if and when they made things “Facebook official.” (Because obviously a relationship is not truly official until it has been declared so on Facebook!) However, when it comes to our real-life relationship statuses, there are shades of gray that cannot fit into the neat little single/in-a-relationship/married/divorced/domestic-partnership box that Facebook provides for us. Sometimes, life is a little messy, and while we may have a special someone on our minds, we may not be ready to classify it as a traditional relationship. (What is traditional, anyway?) This week, I present to you a list of honest relationship statuses that Facebook should enable to make the selection process a little easier when “it’s complicated” doesn’t even begin to cover it!

The Post-Weekend Five: Honest Relationship Statuses for Facebook

1. Talking.
I’m still not completely sure what it means to be “talking” to someone, other than having a spoken conversation, but among many teens and twenty-somethings, “talking” is all the rage. “He’s cute,” a friend might say in relation to a guy whose picture you showed her on your phone. “Are you guys together?” You smile and shrug. “We’ve been talking,” you reply, as if that answers everything. Readers, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a friend told me that he or she was “talking” to someone. Obviously, talking isn’t serious enough to deem a full-fledged relationship, but at the same time, it implies at least some semblance of exclusivity and seriousness about the other person. Therefore, it should require its own status on Facebook!

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4dWzLh12. In a Platonic Relationship.
You and X are not actually dating, per se, but to everyone else, it certainly seems that way. You’re his date to every social event, you talk about yourselves in first-person plural (“thank you so much for inviting us,” “we were so happy you could make it,” “we LOVE the tortellini alfredo here”), you share desserts and you finish each other’s sentences. No one will bother to date either of you because: a) everyone is threatened by the friendship and afraid that it would affect a potential relationship, and b) the two of you are shaping up to be the greatest “will-they-won’t-they” story of all time. Even if you aren’t interested in one another, which is likely the case (these things tend to be one-sided, anyway), you might as well acknowledge the platonic relationship online.

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3. Hung Up On My Ex.
If you fit this description, you’re probably listed as “single” on Facebook (or you’ve elected not to include a relationship status at all), but “single” doesn’t really describe how you feel. You picture single people enjoying nights out at bars, dancing on tables and leaving their phone numbers scribbled on napkins. You hear single people claiming that they hate to be tied down, that they’re just down for a good time. But that doesn’t accurately describe you. You feel alone, and every movie, news article and billboard you see reminds you of your recent breakup. You aren’t ready to wear your singlehood proudly just yet. You may be technically single, but you are Hung Up On Your Ex, and that is a different breed of single altogether.

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tumblr_m9q9kmQVeh1qkpo94o1_5004. Emotionally Damaged.
You aren’t hung up on your ex, but the relationship was so dysfunctional that you have no plans to enter another relationship for a long time. Anyone who mentions “Valentine’s Day” to you clearly has a death wish.

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5. I Love My Pets.
You want to find a meaningful relationship someday, but right now, you’re perfectly happy snuggling with your cat or dog instead.

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What are some honest relationship statuses you would want to see?

The Weekend Five: Modern-Day Endings to Classic Romantic Comedies

fa439c081aea20a79a7d5457caf4694aHappy February! Valentine’s Day is just a few short weeks away, which means it is time to break out the chocolates and force our significant others to watch our favorite romantic comedies with us. (It also means that you’ll be seeing a lot more dating/relationship articles on my blog this month!) Of course, as I look back at some of my own favorites, I realize that the plots of many of these stories could have been radically different if they were set in 2014.

This week, let’s take a look at some of the classics, and discuss the alternative endings that would have taken place in modern day.

The Weekend Five: Modern-Day Endings to Classic Romantic Comedies

3831_11. You’ve Got Mail (1998).
In the original film, Meg Ryan (ShopGirl) and Tom Hanks (NY152) are real-life business rivals who unknowingly fall in love with one another after meeting in an AOL chat room. They exchange IMs and emails, gaining a deeper insight into one another. The idea of falling in love on the computer was very new at the time, and while still relatively modern, the film would have a few key differences in 2014. Meg Ryan would have met NY152 on Facebook, and the two would exchange messages until he revealed himself as a Catfish in the end.

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2. Pride and Prejudice (1813).
The book came out in the 1800s, but multiple film adaptations have occurred since. In modern day, celebutante Lydia Bennett (protagonist Elizabeth Bennett’s sister) would marry Mr. Wickham in Vegas, but when their marriage winds up in Star Magazine, Mr. Darcy sues the tabloid and saves the Bennett family’s reputation. Elizabeth gives up on her hatred for Darcy and decides to date him.

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romantic-scenes-never-been-kissed43. Never Been Kissed (1999).
In the film Never Been Kissed, Drew Barrymore’s character (who has never been kissed) falls in love with her very attractive English teacher. When he finds out that Barrymore is actually a 25-year-old reporter, he takes this as a personal betrayal and leaves. As her apology, she urges him (via newspaper) to kiss her at a baseball game. Of course, in that end scene, she waits for the teacher and almost gives up, as he doesn’t show up right on time. In 2014, however, he would have sent her a simple text message: “Omw, running late.” A lot of tension would have been lifted from this scene!

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4. Roman Holiday (1953).
Audrey Hepburn plays a runaway princess who spends a day with an American reporter (Gregory Peck) in Rome, who has secretly discovered her identity and plans to exploit it in the paper. In the 2014 version of this movie, however, he wouldn’t have to — local passersby would identify her on the street, snap photos for Facebook and Instagram, and the paparazzi would soon swarm. Also in this version, because we crave happy endings, Hepburn and Peck end up together.

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sleepless-in-seattle5. Sleepless in Seattle (1993).
In the modern version of Sleepless in Seattle, Tom Hanks’ son sets up an online dating profile for his father, who lost his wife a while ago. Women across the country fall madly in love with him, and the son quickly chooses Meg Ryan’s character as his father’s soul mate. Tom Hanks is apprehensive about meeting her at the Empire State Building, but when he looks her up on OkCupid and sees how pretty Meg Ryan is, he decides to give the relationship a chance. And the rest is history.

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What are some romantic comedies that could use a revamped ending? Share below in the comments section! :)

From Breaking Up in the Age of Social Media

Happy Friday, friends! :)

I am excited to share that my guest blog, From Breaking Up in the Age of Social Media, was published today on The Things I Learned From. Check out my post on how social media affects not only the beginning, but also the end of our relationships. Drop a comment to let me know what you think!

♥ Valerie