Nora Ephron You've Got Mail Collage

Of Happy Endings and the Idea of a Perfect Romance

Yes, the kind you watch in romantic comedies, or read in romance books, and, more often than not, completely impossible to happen in real life. I just finished reading I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy by Erin Carlson and I’m heady with thoughts of why unrealistic love stories are the perfect kind.

You’ve Got Mail is one of my absolute favorite movies. Never mind that at the end of the film, Kathleen Kelly lets her defenses down and allows herself to hope that the Big Bad Wolf that is Joe Fox is NY152 after all. Yes, even after he has technically put her out of business. Yes, even if he stands for everything she hates. When Brinkley comes into view with his human calling after him, my eyes fill with happy tears just as Joe says, wiping away Kathleen’s tears, “Don’t cry, Shopgirl.” Because yes, “I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.

Only You, my favorite movie of all time, would probably get canceled if it got made today. Imagine, a man catfishing you into thinking he was your soulmate? A minor detail that he tricked you into thinking he was Damon Bradley, a name that you believed is the man you are meant to end up with thanks to a Ouija board. Make your own destiny, the fortune teller told Faith Corvatch. And isn’t that what she ended up doing anyway?

In Clueless, I never thought that Cher falling in love with Josh (oh yeah, he’s her stepbrother) was strange. That lightbulb moment when the fountain goes off and she exclaims, “I’m in love with Josh!” still gives me butterflies when I watch it. I gloss over that thing that would be cringe IRL because that’s exactly it. This isn’t real life. It’s a movie!

Romcoms have not ruined me for life. I know not to dream of the kind of love in movies—you know the one, the type that has a certain gloss to it. The kind of romance that has a movie script ending. If you’re living one, then good for you. But I think the perfect love stories in books, in movies, in songs, in art shouldn’t be one’s barometer for real love. Because if you’re already living in it, why else would you need entertainment for?

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