HIGH SCHOOL FEVER

Catching Sweet Sixteen on HBO Family unexpectedly hurled me back through high school, leaving me fever-stricken. Molly Ringwald, the iconic anti-heroine of my generation who, in the end, always got her dream boy, was back on the little screen after two decades. I first saw her in Pretty in Pink and the slew of characters – eccentric Ducky Dale (Jon Cryer), nondescript Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald), pretty boy Blaine McDonnagh (Andrew McCartney), and iniquitous Steff McKee (James Spader) – somehow left indelible memories  in our lives. But I am only speaking for myself.

 

The first generation-defining movie, Pretty in Pink. [www.imd.com]

The first generation-defining movie, Pretty in Pink. [www.imd.com]

My high school was like a scene from Pretty in Pink. There was definitely a Ducky in school. With his unconventional ways, he made being different fine. He exemplified loyalty in a friendship; he was the geeky best friend you run to when the world was collapsing. Andie did not have a dearth of people identifying with her. Meanwhile, Steff was the one you ignored although with difficulty because your crush is his best friend. Blane was the one, the one that made a bad day good, the one that made your heart skip beats. My Blane was senior N, who was on the basketball team. He was a good dresser (adored his signature look of jeans, shirt and penny loafers), and with a bonhomous attitude. Watching N on the court or the hallway always made my day. He didn’t have a Steff with him, but he did have girlfriend whose hauteur annoyed me to no end. N’s girlfriend was the reincarnation of the rich, bitchy girl friend of Blane, Benny, who enjoyed bullying the people she deemed not part of her league. Outside of the classroom, she was the “it” girl along with her lackeys, but inside the classroom, she was nowhere near my league.  Cliques, just like in the film, were omnifarous: jocks, punks, rebels-without-cause, nerds and the popular girls in their coiffed hair and miniskirts or super tight jeans.

 

The second generation- defining movie,  Sixteen Candles. [www.imd.com]

The second generation- defining movie, Sixteen Candles. [www.imd.com]

Sixteen Candles was another walk down high school for me. Ducky was reincarnated into The Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) brimming with bravado in pursuing Samantha (the Andie in this film). Gone was Blane and in sauntered the amiable drop-dead gorgeous Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) who was moulded into the role of the perfect high school boyfriend. Jake, unbelievably, was looking for true love and serendipitously found it in the retiring Samantha whose teenage angst was aggravated by her family forgetting her birthday. I vividly remember the film because it mirrored the teens’ problem all wrapped up with a “solution”: to fall for someone who reciprocates. Certain scenes were seared into my memory bank particularly the one where Jake made that all-big, romantic gesture of seeking Samantha wherever she was, which, at that point, was at her sister’s wedding. This was followed up with another grand gesture of a private celebration complete with a birthday cake with 16 candles, and a thrilling kiss from the one.

 

The kiss from the one, the kiss from Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles. [Youtube.com]

The kiss from the one, the kiss from Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles. [Youtube.com]

My Jake Ryan came after university. I was completely smitten with C’s exotic Chinese-Indian features, sense of humour and good conversation skills. This high school fixation lasted for several years where we engaged in this weird on-off, non-platonic, platonic relationship status. It was a face palm – moment about two years ago when I suddenly experienced metanoia, which was a huge relief. I finally got rid of my high school fever!  But I couldn’t help think of the wasted years, of the other path I could have taken but instead doggedly stayed on the path C was. John Hughes glossed over the part of maturity and I took it to mean it existed in young men.

There was certain poignancy to Sixteen Candles, viewing it through the lenses of a 40-something adult. Annoyingly, viewing it was accompanied by the high school fever. I was again engulfed in a blanket of sorrow for what was lost, for wrong decisions made, doubts, and an inexplicable yearning for that someone. There is something to be said about the stereotyping of gender in films and the culturally incongruent philosophies on love and sex, yet my thoughts rested on the Jake Ryans and Blane McDonnaghs of my life. I was sucked back again in the vortex of the epic failure called C that resonated with that one high school desire: grand romantic gestures of love. But the bout with high school fever is fleeting. Enlightenment made it easy to break the fever: C was no Jake Ryan and high school was a long time ago. Still, I keep looking at the horizon for that elusive Jake Ryan and wishing he’d show up at my doorstep one day. Oh no! Please tell me I am not experiencing a nasty relapse.

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