I'll Have What They're Having

I am about to say two things that have taken me four years to come to terms with and that ...

I am about to say two things that have taken me four years to come to terms with and that will probably alienate every straight, single boy on campus:

I am a feminist, and I want to fall in love.

No less significantly, I want to be Meg Ryan. I recognize this as an aspiration that may be more difficult to realize than the former two, but I intend for that to change when I walk up to the hairdresser on Monday, hand her my card and say, “I want to be Meg Ryan,” or, maybe, “Please give me a shaggy bob to convey my bubbly but vulnerable personality.”

To clarify, the Meg Ryan in reference is not 51-year-old Meg Ryan, star of 2008 trainwreck “The Women,” ex-wife of Dennis Quaid through an affair with Russell Crowe, and adopted mother of a girl she named Charlotte until she realized, “I thought she was a Charlotte and she’s just not,” and renamed her Daisy True. I’m talking Nora Ephron’s Meg Ryan, star of “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” and, most importantly, “When Harry Met Sally”—the quality romantic comedies that, cultural critics and those with opinions about Katherine Heigl tell me, are dying.

In her commencement address to Wellesley College, Ephron famously said, “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” Annie Reed, Kathleen Kelly, Sally Albright—Meg Ryan by several other names—are heroines. Wit being a primary symptom of heroism, it is notable that the current Meg Ryan, who is in a rather slimy relationship with John Mellencamp, is despairingly banter-deficient in comparison to the characters she portrays. The Meg Ryan I remember is the kind of heroine that, if she dies prematurely (à la Whitney Houston or Brittany Murphy), will inspire us all to say, “She's amazing, and the stagnation of her recent career is irrelevant given her earlier greatness, which we should all totally remember now.”

The heroines I admire—the funniest, most confident, well-traveled, and sassy—are considerably older. In middle school, I aspired to Diane Lane’s Tuscan romance. I dragged my mother to the theater to see Dustin Hoffman woo Emma Thompson through his daughter’s London wedding in “Last Chance Harvey.” Forgive me, future lovers, but winks will always be compared to the standards set by then 65-year-old Jack Nicholson in “Something’s Gotta Give.”

But in the past year critics have begun to loudly lament the end of “good” romantic comedies like “The African Queen,” “Annie Hall,” and “Jerry Maguire,” attributing their demise to the flaws and fickle desires of a younger generation with a penchant for instant and total gratification. Cue the emotional ignorance of YouTube-era youth and accompanying buzzwords: the end of romance (hook up culture!), men’s fear of women who want it all (feminism!), the breakdown of reasonable obstacles to courtship (the internet!), and a battle between the sexes that has become a war between the sexes that has become a pretty sad sexual standoff orbiting around some combination of empowerment, disappointment, and wine (SWUGs!).

“Dear Generation Y,” these conclusions seem to say, “men, sex, courtship, romance—they’re all over.” And whether your response is to invest box office dollars in alternative genres or to stay in on Friday to drink three bottles of Charles Shaw with your girlfriends after an unreciprocated text à la “heyyyyy,” you might as well admit it.

But giving up on romance at a young age is hardly Generation Y’s doing. Before Sally and Harry finally consummate their friendship, Sally voices the same anxiety felt by anyone who has ever confessed “being too quirky” as her biggest fear on a first date:

SALLY: But why didn’t he want to marry me? What’s the matter with me?

HARRY: Nothing.

SALLY: I’m difficult.

HARRY: You’re challenging.

SALLY: I’m too structured. I’m completely closed off…

HARRY: But in a good way.

SALLY: …And I’m going to be forty.

HARRY: When?

SALLY: Someday.

I’m 19 years to 40, but I’ll admit that my love life has not progressed very far since age 10, when I fell in love with Austin, who, within the span of a few fated weeks, played Zeus to my Hera in our Greek mythology presentations and Mr. Lou Who to my Mrs. Lou Who in our fifth grade production of “The Grinch.”

As I remember, in the weeks following the production, I spent hours sprawled across a couch with my best girlfriends, discussing whether or not he and I could be a Thing, and if we could, what kind of Thing we would be. We did all this while watching “Miss Congeniality” and eating fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. Which, incidentally, and with the exception of preceding trips to Park, Russel, and the Owl, is exactly what I did last Saturday night.

So, as far as I’m concerned, the romantic comedy isn’t dead. The 90s are alive in Portland, and decades-old rom-coms are well-alive on my Netflix queue. And next weekend, shaggy bob a la tete, I’m going to go to Park, Russell, or the Owl, and I’m going to approach someone, and I’m going say something I think is funny and if he thinks it’s funny too (which won’t happen at the Owl), I’ll say something else. Maybe we’ll banter, and then, a few days later, we’ll go to coffee or, like, I don’t know, at least make out once during senior week. Because I’m a feminist, I want to fall in love, and if it means I’ll get to be anything like Meg Ryan or Diane Keaton, I’m pretty fucking stoked that I’m going to be forty…someday.

Michelle B. Timmerman ’13, a former Magazine chair, is a History and Literature Concentrator in Adams House. If you’re a straight, single guy who wasn’t alienated by the first sentence, call her.