Beautiful Girls

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In 1996 I was 1/3 of a love triangle that ultimately yielded no love.

For the better part of a year I had been harboring an unspoken, yet hardly secret, crush on a girl named April. At that time I had not yet learned to how to discern the world of difference between a girl playing hard to get, and a girl not having a lick of interest in you.

So I hung around. Made jokes to see if she would laugh (she mostly did). Listened to her stories. Invited her along when a group of friends were going to a concert or to a movie. Etc.

If you’re doing the math at home, you’ll have deduced by now that there was still one more piece to this triangle. While April reciprocated not an ounce of my attentions, her best friend Heather harbored a much-spoken of crush on me. And, as bad luck would have it, I of course had zero interest in Heather.

If you’re still doing the math, add in to the mix that the three of us worked together in a lively, social, gossip-heavy atmosphere and if your sum result is anything other than heartache and awkwardness well, might I suggest you bust out a calculator.

For me, this mess all culminated in a day that I now refer to as LESSON FUCKING LEARNED DAY.

I invited April to see a mid-afternoon showing of the movie Beautiful Girls. Despite a cast of actors I admired, I wasn’t all that excited for the film. It just seemed like a safe choice to take a girl to, not knowing her feelings about onscreen nudity or violence.

To my gleeful delight she agreed to go. I fully understood that an afternoon movie is not exactly a candlelit dinner or, even better, an invitation for sex. But I was in the beggar’s seat, and this was better than nothing.

At least, in the best case scenario, it was better than nothing. I did not experience the best case scenario.

An hour before I was to meet her (not pick her up) she called and cancelled. She gave me the straight dope. The two of us hanging out alone would hurt Heather and cause serious damage to their friendship.

Fuck me.

Not only was I being turned down on that day, she was making it crystal clear that this would never go any further.

Distraught and irritated, I did what I often did at that age to cope. I got drunk. In the auditorium. By myself. Generous amounts of Wild Turkey mixed with a 44 oz. Coke. I settled into my comfy seat, scowl on my face, overly prepared to be a dickhead to anyone and everyone for weeks on end.

The pre-show music faded out. The house lights dimmed. The trailers lit up the screen. And approximately 2 hours later I felt saved. I felt different. I learned a fucking lesson.

Love sucks. Love hurts. Love is complicated. Love is oftentimes about perspective. Love doesn’t give a fuck about what you want.

Through the lives of the onscreen characters, I experienced all of the differing types/levels of love in just under two hours.

That hopeless first crush. Desperately hoping that the recipient of that crush will fall for you too, or maybe you can make them fall for you, and eventually realizing you are helpless and hopeless in this situation. And it fucking hurts.

The heartache of being on the losing end of a breakup. And it’s just over. They have moved on. There isn’t any negotiation to be had here. You can’t talk them out of it. The decision has been made. Fuck yourself and move on.

Being in love, yet being a selfish prick, and looking for sex/fulfillment in an affair that you foolishly believe will help you retain your youth.

The new, fascinating, exciting girl that comes into the life of a taken man. The girl that takes up residence in your head and won’t fucking leave, even though you know you have a good thing with your girl. And this new girl explains to you that somewhere out there, some dope is looking at your girl as the new, fascinating, exciting girl.

Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg and the late, great director Ted Demme imbue the two hour run time with so many perfectly realized moments, of the big and small variety, that the film left an indelible impression on my heart and soul. I revisit Beautiful Girls at least once a year, both for entertainment and for a refresher course in how not to fuck things up.

Beautiful Girls is a top three male-point of view romantic comedy of all time.

Matthew Stoker Written by: