Friday, August 7, 2009

My Life According to John Hughes

As I sit writing this I am listening to one of my all time favorite songs, Pretty In Pink by the Psychedelic Furs. A song that still stirs up so many melancholy feelings and memories that I can’t listen to it without a small lump rising from the depths of my gut all the way to my throat.

It took so many years for me to really be comfortable in my own skin. I was one of those kids that was teased mercilessly when I was young. I was the last one of the girls in the junior high locker room to wear a bra or shave my legs. My hair was a dirty reddish blond and I had freckles. I loved books and music. I wrote letters to Senators. I wrote short stories about time traveling kids and mysterious caves. In the third grade. Yes, I was born a geek.

When I was first introduced to the cliques and groups of the school years, I wanted to be cool. I wanted to hang out with the cool girls and be cool. But I wasn’t cool. At 31, I can look back and say that with much pride. I was not cool then, and I never would be. I’m ok with that now. But I wrestled with it then.

The L.A. Gears, the Aqua Net, and the Calvin Klein jeans, they weren’t me. They never would be. I would always be Levis and converse. Always be braids & ponytails. And I would always be uncool.

When I was in the 8th grade I realized that. And instead of fighting the part of me that was chronically uncool I gave in to it. I died my hair black. Traded in the L.A. Gear for converse and ripped Levis. I sat in my room blasting Psychedelic Furs, The Smiths, and Concrete Blonde.

Basically, I would never be Breakfast Club Molly Ringwald. I would always be Pretty in Pink Molly Ringwald.

Most of you reading this will get exactly what I mean by that.

Yesterday famed director and writer
John Hughes passed away at the young age of 59. He was my hero.

There are a million reasons why John Hughes impacted so many of people in my generation and beyond. And as I sit here to write a tribute to this amazing man, I realize that it would take a year to do so. But I’ll try anyway.

I always responded, even at a young age, to amazing storytelling. And above anything else in my whole life there is nothing I ever wanted to do more than that. Whether it be telling a story through words, music, or film.

John Hughes did, using all three mediums. He was able to bring to life characters that, all these years later, I still hold so very close to my heart. He was able to use music to help breathe life into a scene and make you truly feel in the depths of your soul what the character was feeling and going through.

He was able to make you laugh with every fiber of your being.

The man could tell a story. And he did tell stories. A million of them. He told my story. And that’s what was so personally inspiring to me.

I mentioned earlier about forever being uncool. A huge part of the reason why I was ever able to find some comfort in my uncool skin was the characters John Hughes brought to life, who were also uncool.

Keith in Some Kind of Wonderful was a favorite character that I related too. Never was there a better example of a teenager being cool with being uncool. At least in the end he was.

Even some of the later movies that dealt more with adulthood. She’s Having a Baby (another favorite, this amazingly autobiographical movie was based on Hughes’s life before becoming a famed screenwriter and director). Still gets me. More now then when I was a kid, obviously. I know what it is to be working a dead end 9 to 5 job, knowing that it’s not me. Knowing that I was meant to do more. Just not sure how to get it.

Basically I loved John Hughes because he touched me. He told stories that touched many people and made them feel better about who they were. He made a million teenagers feel comfortable in their own skin.

Well, at least he did for me.

For as long as I’ve been able to put pen to paper and create words, I’ve been a writer.

A few years ago I began getting paid to write. My first paying job was helping create content for a website that was in Beta and needed users to fill it up before it went public. The content? Memories related to music. My own personal memories and the songs that they related to.

I was getting paid to be John Hughes.

In the time I was writing those short stories, I did a lot of soul searching. I came to terms with a lot of things and I realized just how much I loved my life. The good the bad, and the ugly. And there has been a lot of all three over the years. And I attribute much of my surviving it all to the stories of John Hughes. His love of music and his way with words will always be a huge part of me.

The characters he brought to life will always be as dear to me as the real friends I shared my teen years with.

John Hughes may be gone but his legacy will live forever. In the heart of every poor teen who refuses to be defined by their social status. By every jock that knows that he is not better than everyone else. For every prom queen with a soul. For every geek who wears the title proudly. For every man who never quite grows up and for every family living and loving their life in the suburb’s of America.

Will I ever make a living as a writer? I hope so. Somehow, someway. Will I always write? Yes. Because, John Hughes showed me that when your life is full of colorful and amazing people and stories, it’s truly a crime to keep them to yourself.

I’ve always hated labels. I feel like I spent half of my childhood trying to find a label that fit and the other half trying to rip off any label anyone dared to put on me. And that’s the moral of almost every John Hughes movie. We can’t control, how other people see us, but we can control how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror.

In the immortal words of John Hughes (as said by Anthony Michael Hall),

"Dear Mr. Vernon: We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But, we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us, as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But, what we found out is that each one of us is: a brain . . .
And an athlete . . .
And a basket case . . .
A princess . . .
And a criminal.
Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours,
The Breakfast Club.”