Sweet Sixteen

the girl, the guy and the geek

One of my favorite movies when I was young was Sixteen Candles. 

It was a sweet high school love story about a shy and awkward sophomore girl (played by Molly Ringwald) who was secretly in love with a popular senior guy (who was played by this hottie whose name escapes me at the moment).  To complete the triangle was a geeky freshman (Anthony Michael Hall) who in turn had the hots for Molly Ringwald’s character. 

Molly Ringwald’s character had to struggle getting through the day of her 16th birthday, after everybody in her whole family forgot about it because they were all busy preparing for her big sister’s wedding the following day.  This plus the fact that she is secretly madly in love with a senior guy who she knew was “way up there” — popular, dates the prom queen kind of guy —  and someone who doesn’t know that she exists.  As an aside:  I still remember the guy’s name in the movie… Jake Ryan… it stuck to me somewhat.  But for the life of me, I cannot remember the actor’s name.

Yes, Sixteen Candles depicts what high school life is about.  Shy, awkward girls… popular and attractive guys… prom queens… geeks and nerds… it’s about wanting to be noticed… the dream of belonging to the ‘popular’ group… the fantasy of dating the cutest jock… the fear of coming out of one’s shell because other people may not be too accepting… the experience of being madly in love — and thinking that young love means forever after…

When you are young, everything seems promising.  Scary, but promising. 

I honestly wouldn’t mind being 16 again.

~ * ~

do you remember?

I had my first “boyfriend” several months before I turned sixteen.  The quotation marks are intentional (picture me doing the sign with my fingers as I say the word boyfriend).  It was a shortlived thingy, not even worthy enough to be called a relationship.  There were other guys that I really liked more before him, but this guy called me his “girlfriend” so I guess that was how he became my “boyfriend.”  (Give me a break, I was only 15 then!)

I think I liked this guy because I found him cute.  Eventually I realized that cuteness doesn’t make a relationship.  We had nothing in common, basically had nothing to talk about, plus I was afraid that my parents will find out (and ground me ’til I’m thirty), so after three weeks of being cute together, we broke up.  After that so-called relationship, I realized that I wasn’t really ready to have a boyfriend.  Or at least, if I would have one, it would be someone I truly felt something for. 

And so I celebrated my 16th birthday being boyfriend free. 

We had our high school Christmas dance about a week after my birthday.  Met this other guy at the dance.  We were both seniors, but I never really talked to him before that night.  He was a jock, seemed pretty reserved, not exactly too friendly.  He stepped on my toes while we were dancing with other people (believe me, it happens!)… and that was the first time I noticed him.  We exchanged smiles after that.

We started hanging out the moment we got back from the Christmas break.  Eventually we got to know each other better.  I never called him my boyfriend, but both my friends and his friends knew we were a pair.    I didn’t see anyone else while we were going out.  Ours was pretty exclusive for another non-relationship. 

Do you remember how the days seem to be long and the weeks and months are endless while you’re in high school?  It seemed like I spent a good deal of time with Guy #2.  And then graduation came, then summer vacation… then we were off to college.  Once again I realized that I wasn’t ready for a committed relationship.  I knew that things will not be the same once we’re in different universities.  So I did what I had to do. 

I ended it.  I told the guy I didn’t want to get too serious.  I wanted to see other people.  I thought I was being noble by being honest with my feelings.  Didn’t realize, though, that I was breaking up with him right around the same time he was going to celebrate his birthday…

Okay, so I was the ex-non-girlfriend from hell.  I don’t think I ever redeemed myself in the eyes of that guy.

~ * ~

I saw both guys last year when our batch had the 20th yr. homecoming. 

Guy #1 chatted with me for a very long time.  I never saw someone still so thrilled to see me, even after all these years.  At some point he had to grab another person to take our picture so we will finally have a picture together.  I think I ended up having a gazillion pictures with Guy#1 that night — taken by different people, using different cameras.  He just wouldn’t let up.  He was so excited he almost looked 16 again.

Guy#2 saw me… then ignored me.  I didn’t know whether to say hi or to apologize for what happened twenty years ago.  Honestly, I didn’t know if there was something to apologize for.  And so I also ended up ignoring him, as well.  We pretty much ignored each other the whole night. 

Maybe I am making too much of a big deal out of something that had happened two decades ago.  I mean, surely he shouldn’t be holding a grudge until now.  It’s not like I wanted to hurt him on purpose.  He married another schoolmate of ours a couple of years into college, they now have two grown kids…   surely he should have already forgotten about what I did.  Maybe, maybe not.

What I realized that night was that we all create impressions on people.  Some are good, some are bad.  It all depends on how we treat people at a point in time.  Believe me, it feels much better knowing that the thought or the memory you leave imprinted in their minds is something you can be proud of and not be sorry about. 

~  *  ~

At the end of Sixteen Candles, popular guy Jake waited for Molly Ringwald’s character to come out of the church after her sister’s wedding.  And then they celebrated her 16th birthday… freeze to the last frame where they were sitting on top of a table with a cake with sixteen candles all lit up, about to have their first kiss. Sweet!>  The sixteen year old in me still gushes whenever I picture that scene in my head.

fairy tale ending

Well, I think that’s what young  love is all about.  You get the guy, you lose the guy… sometimes you let go of the guy, other times, he lets go of you.  Yet unlike in the movies where you can freeze the frame for a very long time (until your player conks out), in real life, you move on… whether with the same person or not. 

But what’s good is that at 16, whether you love or you lose, one thing is certain… you have your whole life ahead of you to enjoy the good and still have the chance to make the wrong things right.

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Note:  The actor who played the role Jake Ryan was Michael Schoeffling. (Thank you wikipedia!)

photos via google image