Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I Will Never Fit In, And I Blame John Hughes

I will never fit in, and I blame John Hughes.

Growing up in the 1980s, John Hughes movies were my everything. I related to a lot of the movies--I grew up in a mostly white middle to upper middle class suburb, I had divorced parents, I desperately wanted to fit in but also wanted to be different, and I had a crush on the cute guy down the street that looked like Jake from "Sixteen Candles."

I wonder what happened to all the John Hughes characters as grown ups...what do their lives look like now in their 40s and, gulp, 50s.   Here's one version I recently read about Sam from Sixteen Candles (click here to read it) but what about all the non-Sam Bakers/Molly Ringwolds? 

The character I most related to isn't from the bigger hits like Sixteen Candles or Breakfast Club or even Pretty in Pink. Nope the movie I loved was Some Kind of Wonderful, and the character that I felt the most like was Watts. The misfit drummer who was best friends with guys, had a dysfunctional family, played the drums and wore kickass fringe gloves. 

And she said things like "It's 1987, a woman can be anything she wants to be." She was my angsty feminist icon before I knew what that was. She was weird, misunderstood and just wanted to be respected AND loved. And she didn't love rich people. She had a big chip on her shoulder. 

That was what I felt like. Except I was too scared to wear the gloves in high school and never played the drums.

In almost every other way she was me, I was her. 

In the end of the movie, Watts found some good in a few rich people and got a nice-ish guy. 

(The above pics: me during the actual John Hughes movie years and me in the post John Hughes movie years...less attitude, but still an are you kidding me kind of expression/disbelief/wonder at life/circumstances/luck...)

Fast forward 30 years and um, I still feel a lot like Watts. I still feel like a misfit--weird, misunderstood and I want to be respected AND loved. I got a nice guy (a very nice guy), live in a different but still mostly white middle-upper-class suburb, and also feel distrust of the rich (leftover from not just John Hughes movies, but all 1980s movies, think Karate Kid, Can't Buy Me Love...dude, all the rich white people were so over the top, the poor guys=the good guys...Right? Remember Daniel Son from Karate Kid who lived in an apartment with his mom who drove an old stationwagon and had to battle the awful rich guys from the fancy karate studio?).

Now I'm a mom driving the beat-up, rusty minivan (my version of Daniel Son's mom's station wagon) and trying to figure out life in my post John Hughes world...adulthood. This past fall my oldest was going to his high school homecoming dance with a group of friends. The friend's house where the parents were gathering to take pictures of everyone was owned by a dad who drives a Lamborghini, I felt my inner Watts starting to come out. I was judging that dad like he was the bad guy in an eighties movie. I said things to my kid like "money isn't everything" and felt like I needed to be in a drumming montage. It turned out that the dad seemed nice and my kid just rolled with it all and had a great/drama-free time at homecoming (so un-John Hughes movie-esque).

But I mean really, I still have all these 80s feelings. But now my role is an over-worried, underpaid mom of teens just trying to pay the bills, keep my kids healthy, happy and out of rehab, and stay married. It's a lot. I remember watching Sixteen Candles and being horrified that parents would forget their 16-year-old's birthday, but now I totally get it! 

I find myself channeling my inner Watts and other misfit characters from John Hughes movies. I drive around in my rusty minivan trying to hold it together and hold my head up and not be too judgey (of others or myself). Sometimes when I'm walking the dogs (because of course none of my kids will) I walk across a field and hold one fist up in the air like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club. When the nice guy that I married takes me on a date I say let's get drunk at Chili's because I know that is what Watts would do, while all the Molly Ringwolds and Lea Thompsons of the suburbs are going to the trendy restaurants that cost a gajillion dollars after shopping at LuluLemon (not that I'm judging, nope I'm rebelling like a sad middle age bad ass). And always wishing for a dance off in a dimly lit gymnasium or a kind loving parental figure to give me some good advice while synthesized music plays from somewhere in the background.
Me getting drunk at Chili's while my good guy looks at Twitter...modern romance. Would this be Watts' life?

Maybe I'm thinking about my teen angst and how John Hughes movies wrecked my perspective because having teenagers is intense (and trigger-y AF). It's nerve-wracking and anxiety inducing and interesting and exciting and  overwhelming and fucking exhausting. Phones and sexting and vaping and driving and bullying on social media and the list of worries and things that could go wrong goes on and on. All while I'm trying to manage my own hormones and mid-life bullshit and not repeat my parents' mistakes and try and finally grow up. 

A lot of the times, I find myself wondering what would Watts do? I mean really, WWWD (What WOULD Watts Do?)?!?!?!?!

I need to see THAT movie. I'm a mess. Thanks a lot John Hughes.

Maybe it's actually not such a horrible thing that I'm so in tune with my inner angsty teen. I mean, maybe John Hughes wasn't only making movies so I could relate to teens when I WAS one, but also for when I had them of my own. I mean the only thing weirder than parenting a teenager is being one. 

Life is hard and weird and so many of us feel like we don't fit in when we are young and old and in between. I personally think it's kind of a cruel joke that teenage hormones and midlife hormones happen at the same time in the same house for a lot of us. 

I know for sure that I would totally want to see the movie about a middle age bad ass Watts figuring shit out while drumming in her garage to get away from her own teenagers and maybe getting high in the library after a heated booster club meeting with a bunch of middle age parents from different cliques who also need to remember what it was like to be angsty and how hard it is to parent kids who are mad at them but still need them and how rejection sucks no matter how old you are and how it doesn't matter who we all voted for in any election because us parents have to stick together if we are going to get through this whole midlife raising teenager business, and then they'd all do a dance, and the nice guy would take Watts to Chili's and get drunk and she would put her fringed gloved fist in the air saying hell yeah it's still a John Hughes movie kind of world...cue synthesized music...end scene...roll credits.

Me on a good day feeling like I got this,
 in an Uncle Buck kind of hat. Don't even get me started about how much  I love John Candy John Hughes movies like Uncle Buck and Planes,Trains & Automobiles because I LOVE them.

I will never fit in and I guess John Hughes, you were right, that's not such a bad thing.

Oh my god, I love this.


  1. I have lots of the same feelings but with a tween, and that means I’m juuuusssstttt starting this craziness.

  2. Beautifully written and relate able as always! Thanks for writing and letting us know we are not the only one feeling these ways.