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What Movie Gave You Unrealistic Expectations of Adulthood?

The other night after changing from my day pajamas to my night pajamas, I flipped on the movie I’d turned to since high school…

My Best Friend’s Wedding. I love everything about it — the snappy wit, the musical numbers, Julia Roberts’ immaculate 90s wardrobe and huge curly hair. I get cozier in my chair as the opening scene starts. Julia Roberts and Rupert Everett are at an upscale restaurant, when a fabulous dish is brought to the table. Jules thoughtfully takes a bite and offers a good rating, much to the kitchen staff’s relief. I remember watching this as a freshman in college and thinking, “This is what adulthood is like. You’re super established in your career early on, and also if you’re not married by 30, what are you even doing?” Jules is a hotshot food critic and author, fresh off a book tour, with all of New York’s top chefs cowering at the sight of her — all at the ripe old age of…28. George, her editor and bff, who isn’t much older, possesses the wisdom of the ages, hosts uber-sophisticated candle-lit dinner parties in his sprawling Manhattan apartment, and can afford to fly to Chicago and back to New York for a few hours, with a moment’s notice. They seemed to be the pinnacle of adulthood even when stealing a bread truck or breaking into song in the middle of a seafood feast.

However, the further I ventured into my 20s, the more I realized what a fantastical portrayal of adulthood it was. By the golden age of 28, I wasn’t anywhere near where I wanted to be in my career, let alone being at the top of my game — in fact, I was flailing. I struggled all of my 20s to find what I wanted to do with my life, as I jumped from job to job. It took me too long to realize what a gift that was, and that a lot of people don’t always gain perspective while in the middle of something so difficult. Now at 33 I realize that Hollywood portrayal or not, adulthood looks very different than I imagined it, and to simply let life do its thing.

Here are a few fun facts about the movie:

– Sarah Jessica Parker almost played Jules, instead of Julia Roberts.

– The ‘Say A Little Prayer For You’ scene wasn’t added until just before they started filming.

– There was an alternate ending where Julia Roberts meets John Corbett (Aidan from SATC) at the wedding, and they hit it off, but audiences hated it. Instead, they re-shot it with Rupert Everett showing up to her rescue in the closing scene.

Which movie or show made you think adulthood would look totally different?

P.S. What TV character do you relate to and what’s your dream movie house?

(Top photo from Vanity Fair.)

  1. Brittany says...

    So I hate this movie. But only because the ending is so sad to me. What do you mean Julia Roberts doesn’t end up with the guy!? How could you build this whole friendship/spark thing up for a whole movie and then he marries Cameron Diaz’ character?! To me, I wanted this movie to be a little more unrealistic!

  2. Nanne says...

    On a fun side note…my daughter and I have always loved this movie. As a surprise for her, we recreated the “Say a Little Prayer for You” scene during the dinner reception at her wedding. Her best friend and (then new) husband got up on the stage with the band and sang “Say a Little Prayer for You” to her. The bridesmaids gathered in the front and helped sing the chorus, the guests joined in. One of my favorite memories of the day.

  3. Nina Nattiv says...

    I am 100% a rom-com lover and I’m sure every single one messed with my expectations of adulthood- but growing up as a brown immigrant might have shielded me from a lot of disappointment. I was always told I would be set up with my husband (I wasn’t). I never looked like the people on screen. None of them had mandatory shabbat dinners with 50 of their closest relatives every single week. None of them seemed to have ANY family obligations. I was young enough to love SATC, but I knew how much Loubou’s cost and I knew it wasn’t realistic.

  4. Cherry Valance says...

    I never thought my life would end up like any of the adults in movies, The movie that had the biggest impact on my social life as a teen was, The Outsiders. The characters were sadly my only friends and I read the book every night. I just knew they would love and accept me and I was right there with them watching the sunset and reciting Robert Frost. I would inspire them to quit smoking and take good care of poor, gorgeous Johnny! I also knew that I would have to make my own way in life (kind of like Pony Boy Curtis!). May I add, that when I did get past the teen years, life was pretty damn fun and involved backpacking around Europe with barely any money, and dance clubs in Prague & London. Making a life better than what was lived in The Outsiders, wasn’t such a stretch. (Oh, and to quote a previous commenter, “No, boys don’t look like that in high school”!)

  5. C says...

    I was maybe 15 when Amelie came out and I always dreamed that a) I would reach peak adult when I could just randomly make myself pasta with freshly grated parmesan on it (that’s not a full, well-balanced meal!!) and b) I would meet my soulmate through deeply whimsical and artistic means.

    It turns out, I was pen pals with my (now ex) husband and we sent each other random art and music and I only happened to run into him one day, recognizing the description of his skateboard in a large town. It was Amelie’s fault I fell for the whimsy.

    THEN, I met my current partner at a halloween party, nothing happened, then just randomly happened to match with him on Bumble the next morning (in SF, where there are tons of people). We didn’t recognize each other until we recounted our costumes and realized we’d just met and had been interested in each other. So, fool me once…

  6. N says...

    The Royal Tenenbaums: “I think we’re just gonna to have to be secretly in love with each other and leave it at that, Richie.”

  7. Le says...

    “While You Were Sleeping.” I mean, sad family story aside, I basically thought I WAS Lucy (Sandra Bullock) in middle school. If I took my (super thick) glasses off and it was a humid enough day so my hair would be wavy (i.e., frizzed), the seventh-grade equivalent of Bill Pullman would surely leap lunch tables for me, right? (Uh, thank goodness he didn’t.) Ahh, the glory days of rom coms!

  8. Jess says...

    I was a young teenager during the grunge era. So, for me, it was films like Singles and Reality Bites. But also, I’m Indian and everything I grew up watching (besides Indian films) in Canada and the USA only featured white people. So I always thought that those were the adult lives white people were going to enjoy that I was going to miss out on. DIVERSITY MATTERS!

    • Lucy says...

      Jess, I’m right there with you — growing up as an ethnic Chinese gal in a South-East Asian country, NYC and LA and Chicago and all the other American cities depicted in Hollywood movies felt like they were whole worlds away, about as attainable as a life on Mars. Those glamorous lives felt like they were reserved exclusively for white people and I felt I would never be admitted into that club, too. Like you I had access to Asian-made shows depicting people of my race (in my case, the famed Hong Kong TVB series and Jackie Chan/Stephen Chow flicks), but I didn’t really identify with them either because Hong Kong was such a completely homogeneous society that it looked and felt nothing like the multi-ethnic one I was living in. It wasn’t even until much later that actresses like Lucy Liu showed up as lead characters in mainstream blockbuster Hollywood movies (the 2 Charlie’s Angels films circa early 2000s, and TV series like Elementary, Lipstick Jungle, etc) and Priyanka Chopra headlined an entire TV series (Quantico) in a cast full of diverse characters, where the white characters were the best friends instead, ie the supporting roles traditionally played by non-white actors. And then, finally, against all odds, a mainstream movie like Crazy Rich Asians happened, featuring people who looked and talked like me, having adventures and lives in my neck of the woods. It’s been a long road but the success of movies like CRA, Black Panther, Parasite etc shows that diversity matters, that diversity makes for great stories, and most importantly to the studios, diversity pays off at the box office. Which hopefully translates into more stories with diversity in the future.

  9. Diana K says...

    Ummmm what false expectations? I am basically Julia Roberts, I definitely have moves you’ve never seen before. I regularly get rejected by men of my dreams, and my gay friend is always there for me. No I can’t pull off those throwback jeans, but I HAVE been trying to coax more of a curl out of my limp-wavy hair.

  10. patty says...

    Working Girl. I did work on Wall St. at the time. One night we headed to a black tie event. I had worn my nicest black suit to work that day; I took off my blouse and added pearls which dripped into my decolettage. I felt utterly appropriate and SO FINE. I was young and really feeling it… Most of the other women were wearing gowns. haha

    • Dana says...

      I love this and want pictures!

    • Avril says...

      Me too! That movie was a HUGE influence on me. The end where Tess is sitting in her office and the camera pulls away to show her in the building? I used to think about that in my corner office on Wall Street all the time. Like “I made it! Here I am!”. “Working Girl” and “Wall Street” were two movies that had a huge influence on me, as unrealistic as they were.

  11. Lauren McKinney Nisonger says...

    One of my ABSOLUTE favorites! Love the fun facts you shared – and I agree, it definitely painted an unrealistic yet exciting picture of adulthood!

  12. Susanna says...

    I think about the character’s ages in My Best Friend’s Wedding all the time! It’s so weird to me now that all these movies make a point of even mentioning the characters ages, marriage pact or no. Echoing many comments, the designer clothing on SATC truly dazzled me to the point that at 23, I thought I was being practical by saving money for *just* the basic black Louboutin pumps—so useful for my job teaching children! Other life got in the way of that goal.

  13. Eleonora says...

    I hated adulthood as a child and I hate it now as… a 39 year old. I am even in therapy because of it! I didn’t notice “adults” in movies, like something that would never happen to me. Except for romantic relationships, and there I must say that “When Harry met Sally” created trouble, because whenever in a relationship I think I will nevertheless, at some point, end up with my first love of 26 years ago – now we are good friends.

    • Kate says...

      This is so funny to me as I am the flipside of your coin– i hated kid things as a kid (just wanted to be treated like an adult!) and just wanted to fast forward through my whole childhood and be a woman like in the movies. and now I am a 31 year old woman who has truly no interest in children (whether it be having my own or the kids ymy friends have) and I am about to start therapy because of it! Ha!

  14. Ashley says...

    When I was eleven, I saw Grease for the first time with my fourteen-year-old cousin who had just started her freshmen year. In that moment you first see Danny Zuko at Rydell –– John Travolta turns around as the camera zooms in, big, beautiful grin on his face –– my cousin staring at the screen said, “Just so you know, boys in high school don’t look like that.” The line has been a perennial refrain for me ever since: A house in a Nancy Myers movie? Just so you know, boys in high school don’t look like that. A mother looking well-rested and with clean hair shortly after giving birth? Just so you know, boys in high school don’t look like that. A teacher in a movie or show who seems to have but a single reasonably-sized class? Just so you know, boys in high school don’t look like that.

    • Tamara says...

      Love this!

    • Abbey says...

      😂 Brilliant.

    • JS says...

      This. Is. Hilarious.

    • Em says...

      dying 😂

    • Maryann says...

      This for sure makes me want to be friends with you.

    • kath says...

      hahahaha. so good.

    • Jess. says...

      This is genius. xox

    • Tilden says...

      100% adopting this line for life. Thank you!

    • Corey says...

      Oh man, where was this so so many years ago when I watched Grease, or anything with Freddie Prince Jr… or even To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (yeaaaaars after high school).
      I’ll keep this with me forever now.

    • Emily says...

      “A teacher in high school who seems to have but a single reasonably-sized class?”. This comment made my day! So much truth.

    • Kelli says...

      Can this be a new CoJ community inside joke? :)

  15. Lynea Wilson says...

    Friends and family often think I run the museum where I work (thoroughly not the case). I recently found out why: in movies the curator is either the boss, the villain, or the woman in heels waiting to be saved. I guess I should be flattered so many assume boss?

    In my first year here, a stranger came in requesting to meet “the woman who runs the place” and to everyone’s confusion he described me, the intern. He had met my dad on an airplane and heard all about the collection and my “high profile” job! I was horrified!

    • Kirstin says...

      I love this so much! Your father sounds like he is the best too.

    • Amy says...

      Ahahah proud dad moment there!

  16. Amelia says...

    I don’t know about you guys, but I was pretty much ruined for healthy romantic relationships by teen romcoms — looking at you, She’s All That, Can’t Hardly Wait, 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless — because of the insidious belief peddled by Hollywood in every one of these movies that a girl is only worthy of love and attention, especially from the cute boy at school, only if she’s conventionally attractive. If she doesn’t conform strictly to the beauty standards of the day, she must submit to or be tricked into a makeover. Cue montage and Le voila! Her life will instantly become 1,000% better post makeover and she’ll do nothing but win all day long. The weird thing is that I distinctly remember thinking even as a 14-year-old that none of the actresses cast in the role that’s clearly meant to be the “loser ugly awkward chick” were actually unattractive IRL. Rachel Leigh Cook in She’s All That was already a hottie, Brittany Murphy (RIP) was already super cute, she just needed a new wardrobe in Clueless, and so on — I mean, they were all slim, had clear unblemished skin, straight teeth, glossy hair, and seemingly unlimited allowances. It made me think as a teen that I was really screwed because I was super homely and awkward and just NOT the eye-catchingly stunning type that turned all the boys’ heads no matter how much I wished I was or wanted to be, and seeing as I didn’t have a fairy godmother on speed dial, there was nobody in my life I could turn to who was fashion-forward enough — or deep-pocketed enough — to be able to give me the clearly badly-needed makeover I would have to have before I could succeed in life. Also, these movies gave me the idea that romantic love could only be real love if it was all-encompassing and borderline obsessive, like the guy has to be completely infatuated with the girl and worship the ground she walked on before he could be considered an acceptable suitor. Obsessed as *I* was with that trope, my first boyfriend fit that descriptor to a T. But then, what did you know, I found that being in a relationship with such a clear power imbalance was not just unhealthy, it got boring too, real fast. Turns out someone who’s so clearly into you can also be utterly wrong for you, personality wise.

    Later TV shows like SATC, Friends etc gave me auuuuper unrealistic expectations for adulting benchmarks. Like so many others here I too never cracked the group friendship code, and I never hit the “live in and be able to afford an impossibly spacious apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the world all by myself” target. Actually I never even made it to NYC except as a visitor, so going by those standards I would have been an abject failure in my teenage self’s eyes. Of course life works out in funny ways because now I’m married to a husband who delights and exasperates and challenges and comforts me in equal measure, I adore my 2 funny kids, and I’m living in a tropical country halfway around the world instead where the worse weather we get is thunderstorms, although most of the time it’s just heavy rain, and have everything we could possibly need. Above all, I feel like I’m finally home, even if my life now looks nothing like the one I thought I’d have by this age when I was younger. C’est la vie!

    • Blythe says...

      AMEN to the teen rom coms!! I’ve worn glasses since the third grade and refused to wear them out as a young twenty something because in those teenage rom coms the girl is always ugly and then takes off her glasses and – voila – she’s beautiful. So I was always the one squinting at bars because I couldn’t see but at least I was pretty. Such strange things we grab on to as kids!

    • Jackie says...

      SATC

      hands down. As a teenager, I assumed I would move to NYC and just end up like one of them.

      When it didn’t happen, I left NYC. jaded.

    • Julie says...

      I totally get what you’re saying but it’s interesting you mentioned 10 Things I Hate About You because as a young teen I loved Kat for kind of the opposite reason. Not that she wasn’t beautiful but she seemed so strong and tough and for most of the movie she was like, “most popular guy in the school, no thanks! Alternative weirdo who is also super hot, also no thanks” (until she knew him a bit better and actually truly liked him). And it made me feel like I didn’t need a dude and it was kind of okay to hang out in my room and read heaps of books and be a bit of a loner!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I loved Kat because she had so many interests! She was always painting or reading or playing an instrument. That was inspiring.

    • Tee says...

      10 Things I Hate About You was almost anti-90s teens romcoms because Kat was against all those “look at me, look at me” and was a smart, well-read, independent young woman. I also loved the unhinged Dad because my dad was exactly him, minus having the belly onhand.

    • Amelia says...

      Wow, loving all the responses!

      Blythe, YES to the specs trick! Loved how Wonder Woman had a shout out to that when Etta Candy said, “Specs? And suddenly she’s not the most stunning woman you’ve ever met?!” lol!

      Jackie, I totally get you. It’s so disheartening how in SATC everyone’s living their best lives in their 20s/30s and utterly crushing it in NYC that anything less than that IRL feels totally disillusioning. Hope you’re well wherever you are now!

      Julie, Joanna, Tee: I totally feel you guys; I actually listed 10 Things I Hate About You because that’s where I got the idea that boys must be *super* into me before I could/would date them, just like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Cameron pining after Bianca and moving Heaven and earth just to be able to woo her. (Bonus points if they were as cute, earnest, sincere and adoring/adorable as JGL!) Similarly the boy or boys in question must be as unafraid to make the big, grand romantic gesture as Heath Ledger’s Patrick, enlisting the school marching band to help him belt out a perfectly charming musical number in order to win Kat back/get out of the doghouse after their falling out. A girl can dream! Safe to say the big musical number never actually happened for me IRL, but I have to say this hangup probably saved me from falling into the trap of pining after guys who were Just Not That Into me.

      I actually have lots of love for Kat, but I didn’t single her out because she didn’t really have/need a “fashion makeover” moment that was pivotal to changing how others saw/thought about her. Also, and this will be an unpopular opinion, as wonderful and talented and self-sufficient as she was, 10 Things still painted her as the “shrew” in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (from which the movie is loosely adapted), as if her independence and unwillingness to conform to societal pressures was somehow something undesirable that she could be cured of/dissuaded from, if only she had the redeeming love of the right guy. And then what do u know, the perfect guy shows up who breaks through her defenses and suddenly she’s non-shrewish and happy. It’s as if the movie treats her talents and perfectly great qualities as just a consolation prize or stand in for the true trophy, being with a guy, and she gets mocked and treated as less than for not wanting it by her sister, by her peers. My pre-teen brain latched onto this and thought if she’s so perfect and content and independent without a guy but she still gets treated as “less than” for choosing not to be with a guy (something which in contrast I did actually want, except there were no candidates for me to choose from!), what hope did I have??? My takeaway from that was despair. Utter despair, I say! Lol.

      It’s interesting to me that so many viewed Kat’s example as “permission”, so to speak, to opt out of the boy-crazy teenage girl stereotype and allow themselves the freedom to do their own things. I guess my takeaway is completely different because I was already secretly/totally boy crazy and the movie missed the crucial window in my life when I still thought boys were disgusting, ha.

  17. Grace says...

    I always grew up thinking I’d be really busy at work, like the Devil Who Wears Prada, and be very established in my career early on. 2.5 years after graduating from university, I have a regular 9-5 job, am still figuring myself out but didn’t grow as much as I hope to be. But I am hopeful my explosion growth stage will come eventually and I will get to be who I want to be!

    On another note, I did live out the life of Samantha Jones/Carrie Bradshaw for a while just after college and dated many interesting guys ;)

    • Amy says...

      “On another note, I did live out the life of Samantha Jones/Carrie Bradshaw for a while just after college and dated many interesting guys ;)” Get it, girl!!

  18. Rebecca says...

    It’s so unrealistic but it’s my all time favorite movie. I just love it so much. The scenes of Chicago also make no sense but I don’t care. 🤣

    • Ann says...

      Yes! Let’s take Lakeshore Drive on the way back from O’Hare. Makes sense.

  19. This post is so good and the comments are comforting. I say it once a week but I’ll say it again. I love the COJ content and community.

    I enjoy your writing Kim! ♥️

  20. Sally says...

    Honestly, based on the magazines my mum and grandma read, I thought there was going to be a lot more of “going straight from work to a night out”, based on the number of “turning daywear into eveningwear!” articles I read!

    • mims says...

      Sally, Same here! but, as it turns out, once my son was a tweenager and could be left alone responsibly, I started to have an after work/happy hour into the evening…. meeting up with our other parent friends who were at a similar life stage or childless. But it was not the fun dance clubs with fancy clothes and exotic drinks I imagined in the 80s to cruise for a potential mate. It was with my devoted husband and dog at outdoor patios of brew pubs drinking craft beer two nights a week. This alternate reality of clubbing after work was really fun! (And involved not much more than brushing my hair, putting on fresh lipstick and maybe changing into cuter shoes.) Plus our son was responsible for cooking dinner those nights.. something I recommend all parents do…teach your child how to feed people. He hated being dragged to brewpubs and listening to us grownups talk about our jobs/home maitanence chores/sports/politics and loved his independence. Win/win. At 21 yo old he is a really fantastic home chef and makes fabulous pizza, pasta, meatloaf and chili.

    • Alisha says...

      Ha! Same here. I had a Day to Night Barbie when I was a kid and thought much of my adult wardrobe would be reversible and that I’d be stashing some killer cocktail outfits in my office to jet off to a party immediately after filing my last report.

  21. Kelly says...

    I really thought there was going to be more lounging and drinking coffee in fancy lingerie.

    • danielle says...

      I still remember the first grown up lingerie I ever bought, a matching silk camisole and “tap pants” haha. It was gorgeous and made me feel very sexy. Lingerie is definitely one of the best things about growing up.

  22. Amy says...

    I’m 35 working at a startup in marketing and I STILL think that someday soon I’ll be at a job in a glass skyscraper, wearing a perfectly fitting skirt suit, chugging coffee and being a brilliant lawyer on three hours of sleep. Thanks The Good Wife, Suits, etc.

    The West Wing also made me think that tons of coffee and a business casual wardrobe meant I could successfully take on the world.

    • Amy says...

      Fitted not fitting!

    • Sharon says...

      Amy, this made me laugh out loud. Are you me?

    • harper says...

      lmao yes the good wife ruined me!!! It made me want to be a lawyer so badly even though I’m an artist and couldn’t be further from being a lawyer. lmao

  23. Jessica says...

    Rom-Coms and lots of other movies and tv shows gave me unrealistic expectations of how to communicate in a romantic relationship. I thought that if we were fighting and I laid out the truth of my soul we would then understand each other and make up, and live Happily Ever After.

    • HH says...

      Yes! I realized way too late that Jane Eyre was a fantasy. At 40, I am still sorting this out.

      Jane Eyre: Some man will “get” me 100%. And if I do the right thing I will eventually be with said person. But that doesn’t happen. Doing the right thing gives you self-respect, but you don’t get the happy ending with the guy. The self-respect is the better ending, but not in the moment.
      You’ve Got Mail: Why do my online dating experiences never end with a charming bookstore owning Tom Hanks who is the best friend I never knew I had?
      While You Were Sleeping: Wearing too long sleeves and dunking cookies in my cat’s milk is endearing and will guarantee the furniture-making man of my dreams will fall for me (And warrant a proposal from his super rich but obnoxious brother.
      Pride & Prejudice: The rude guy is my soul mate.

  24. Sara says...

    I absolutely love this post and the comments were so fun to read! I don’t think I ever realized it until rewatching back, but I just assumed everyone in movies were “adults”, and therefore a fantasy age that I had not yet reached. Then I was a rom com the other day, and they were all in their mid-20s (I’m in my 30s), and I had a reaction of, “you mean I already passed the fantasy adult age?!”

    • Courtney Tavernit says...

      Oh my gosh – same! I must have been looking the other way and straight up missed it.

  25. antoinette says...

    Just so glad Sarah Jessica Parker didn’t get the part!

  26. Anna A. says...

    Kim, I love your posts — this hits on so MUCH of what I have been feeling lately. I used to watch Will & Grace around age 8 and think “oh, I can’t wait to grow up! I will dress so chic and have such a rad apartment and be fabulous and fun!” I hate to tell that 8-year-old me now, I am 31 (older than Grace was in the start of the series!) and wearing pajamas most days as I work from an Ikea POÄNG chair for the last 11 months because my apartment is too small for a proper desk.

    Still waiting on that ~ adulthood as depicted in movies ~ reality to reveal itself!

    • Kim Rhodes says...

      Will & Grace was a huge one for me, too!! I actually once worked at an awful job when I first moved to NYC close to the building where Grace’s studio is supposed to be (with the golden Puck statue!)

  27. Pia says...

    Not a movie, technically, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought growing up would be like Friends? You know, awesome apartment in an awesome city, haven’t quie figured out our careers yet, but it’s ok cause we spend most our time hanging out with out friends who live across the hall. Naive I know, but I think how much less time I spent with my friends after we all finished college and got jobs was a bit of an unexpected one for me!

  28. Just watched Home Alone this year for the first time since I was a kid, and I always thought the mom’s gigantic wallet, filled with enough cash to pay for $150 worth of pizza and then some, was the epitome of adulthood. And sitting in first class while your horrible kids are in coach. (Right?! Someone would call CPS.)

    • Kat says...

      Right?! Now all I can think when I watch Home Alone as an adult is – “what on earth did the dad DO for a living to nab that sweet house??”

    • Avril says...

      I would like to think it was the mom who was a heart surgeon or CEO or M&A lawyer and made the big bucks. :-)

  29. A says...

    Bridgerton had me convinced that I’d have baby bangs throughout my early life and only after marriage would they start to grow longer at an alarming rate.

    ; )

    • Molly says...

      Oh my gosh, I almost spit my coffee out :)

  30. Sabrina says...

    Well I thought I’d have a very active sex life by 16 according to the WB!

    • Harper says...

      HAHAHA yep.

  31. Danielle says...

    Ok not quite adulthood, but as a child in the 90s I really thought high school would include more synchronised dance numbers. I was like “cool, everyone who goes to a club knows the same dance I can do this”.

    • adrianna says...

      omg THIS!! i just lol’d and its so true for me too. uh, if only…

  32. Jooley says...

    Showing my age but Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It made me think that all high schoolers were having sex and it was the thing to do. Gahhhh! Molly Ringwald didn’t help either! My kids are sooo much smarter than I ever was. But maybe I helped with that a little by being more honest about what was REALLY happening.

  33. Pink says...

    The intro montage to “the devil wears Prada”… all the glamorous women in their fabulous lingerie (matching bra and underwear)…. yeah, I have stopped wearing a bra and all my undies are gap :)

    • Emily says...

      I have always wanted to be that woman with fab matching lingerie! Maybe someday….

      The closest I’ve gotten is the CoJ advice to get all the same black undies which matches the days I wear a black bra!

  34. Karin says...

    Gonna date myself here: The Graduate. (NOT the sex-with-your-friend’s-son part!) I thought I would be wearing sophisticated, animal-print outfits like Mrs. Robinson, smoking a cigarette in a holder, drinking highballs, and attending parties with my rich friends around the pool.

    I do wear sophisticated, animal-print outfits, though (at least, I did back when I used to leave the house!)

  35. Sarah Mackey says...

    Kim – are you out there in the universe, picking up on my vibes? I laughed out loud when I saw this post at such a coincidence…

    My best friend and I had a rom com night this past weekend, where she dropped off movie snacks at my house, then drove back to her house, and then we proceeded to watch My Best Friend’s Wedding simultaneously and chatted about it over the phone when it ended. While we both have a soft spot for rom coms, especially this one, we both felt and expressed the exact same sentiment – that they gave us unrealistic expectations about what adulthood would look and feel like. We recognized that part of living our best adult lives is shrugging off our own 12-year-old expectations that we had built up (with the help of our beloved rom coms) around adulthood, and giving ourselves the freedom to reenvision the life we truly want to create. It can be such an empowering and liberating process.

    • Kim Rhodes says...

      Thanks, Sarah!
      can I come to the next long distance watch?? I’ll bring popcorn!!

    • danielle says...

      This comment reminds me of one of my fav rom com’s: How Do You Know with Reese Witherspoon/Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson. The psychology behind the dialogue is what drew me in but now I’ve seen it so many times it’s just fun and comforting to watch. There’s a scene where she talks about not feeling ok with social norms for adulting around relationships and babies.

  36. KW says...

    Yes! So many magazine articles were like “day to night looks” and I assumed that I would be dining out every evening and needed to freshen up my look for some…thing?

    • Amanda says...

      Hahaha, this. I’m still waiting for day-to-night looks to be a necessity in my life.

    • Liz says...

      I know!! Just swipe on some smokey eyeshadow and take off your jacket to reveal a stunning camisole, kick off your pumps and slip into some strappy heels. After 35 years working, IT NEVER HAPPENED ONCE!

  37. Julee says...

    Don’t laugh- but you know in Lady and the Tramp, when Lady’s “mother” has a real human baby, and she’s rocking it to sleep, wearing an amazing nightgown?
    Well, I though that was an accurate representation of motherhood, one which I looked forward to, enthusiastically.
    Four kids later, I can tell you motherhood had been much messier, louder ( the fingernails! The bodily fluids!), and almost never elegant…
    it’s more like those tough-mudder races.

    • Helen says...

      Yes, yes, and yes! Made me laugh out loud.

  38. Allie says...

    On the opposite end of the spectrum:

    We re-watched Castaway this weekend and I have a new appreciation for the massive amount of sun damage Tom Hanks has after four years on the island. I could probably survive the isolation and living off fish, but there’s no way my skin could make it through 4 years on the beach without sunscreen. THIS IS ADULTHOOD.

    • jdp says...

      haha! so true!

    • Amy says...

      Cackling! So funny!

  39. kk says...

    Baby Boom! In reading these comments, I realize I might be on the older end of the COJ reader audience.

    • Lulu says...

      Baby Boom! Classic. That is a go-to comfort movie and made me think it’d be SO EASY to start a craft baby food conglomerate.

    • Elliesee says...

      I rewatched Baby Boom and could not believe how unrealistic it was – she waltzes out of the car and opens the new house door with the baby in her arms – what, no need to fumble with keys and hang your bags somewhere? and of course the flourishing business while caring alone for a baby. It was just a great story when I was young.

    • Sandra says...

      You’re my Cup of Jo people! I was coming here to say Baby Boom as well. I thought once I graduated from college I’d immediately somehow have access to a sharp power suit, a high-paying job in the “rate race,” and a swanky New York City apartment.

    • Sandra says...

      Oop…that was supposed to be “rat race” :-)

    • Miranda says...

      I grew up on Baby Boom! It’s a keeper for sure.

    • Lori says...

      I love that movie! The music makes me teary!

    • Ashley says...

      I actually live in the town where Baby Boom was filmed (I pass that big beautiful farm house is on my commute!) and STILL I am a sucker for it’s postcard version of Vermont. One thing from the movie that is very true to life: how hard it is to get a plumber up here.

    • HeatherL says...

      Yes! Me too. I left my corporate job and started a small biz and I am totally waiting for The Food Chain to buy me out! And Sam Shepard to kiss me. :)

    • Sarah says...

      I loved that movie! I described it to my husband and he thinks it’s weird that my sisters and I watched it a million times as elementary age children. I guess it is kind of funny. We would check it out from the library about once a week. :) I think I loved that she showed those stuffy old men up in the end.

    • Verity says...

      So glad for the other Baby Boom fans! Watching that film far too many times in more formative years (we had the VHS) explains why despite coming from England, I now find myself living in the depths of upstate NY (not quite Vermont) on a rural property with lots of old apple trees. Sadly no Sam Shepherd, though my husband could be said to have a slight resemblance!

  40. Grace says...

    I feel this was about Christmas decorations…growing up watching holiday movies, it looks so easy to have a house completely decorated inside and out. Now that I’m an adult, I realize how expensive and time-consuming that is! When I watch Hallmark movies, it’s all I think about: The cost! The effort! Where does this fictional heroine store all of this decor? And how does she put it up by herself?!

    • Grace says...

      Oops “this way about…” ;)

    • Ezz says...

      This is hilarious, and exactly what I was thinking this past Christmas! The time! The storage space! Must one have an attic??

  41. You’ve got mail – perfect shabby chic apartment on the upper west side, a fun quirky job where co-workers are your best buddies. Smart, literary friends. Also Murphy Brown and a fabulous DC townhouse.

    • CandiceZ says...

      Me too!

    • Katie H says...

      +1 for You’ve Got Mail.

  42. Tara says...

    Frances Ha is the perfect subversion of this idealized Hollywood version of adulthood. It shows an educated adult woman who should have her act together faltering and failing in both her professional and personal lives. She’s trying to live out a cliched NYC dream but doesn’t have the talent or money to do so effectively.

    • S says...

      Oh yes. Frances Ha is realism at its finest.

    • Julee says...

      I loved that film!
      My entire decade of my twenties I was dashing around trying on every hat I could find, never sure anything was a good fit- but it was ALL FUN and made me who I am today!
      In Frances Ha, her friendship seems to be the best thing she’s got going, which was the same for me.

    • Becca says...

      I love Frances Ha! Not only does it show the uncertainty and struggle of one’s 20s, it beautifully depicts the heartache of figuring out adult friendships, especially when someone’s life seems to move them in a different direction than yours.

  43. Becka Freed says...

    Every single John Hughes movie made between 1984 (Sixteen Candles) and 1987 (Some Kind of Wonderful).

    • AG says...

      Ohhhh Some Kind was pretty accurate for me especially the scene where everyone’s getting ready for the big date. I mean, Keith was singing in the shower. Doesn’t everyone?

      You look good in my future! *swoon*

  44. Megan says...

    All of them? When I was in law school in the thick of studying all the time I used to think to myself that if this was a movie, surely they’d just montage over all of this hard, tedious work. Ha.

    • Lucia says...

      I always thought of this too! In reality it was much more like Marshall in How I Met Your Mother: studying the law, making the responsible choice for ma future, bein’ a lawyer had better be awesome!

    • Caroline says...

      I was positive every lawyer that went into work on the weekends wore their jeans and school (Harvard Law, natch) sweatshirt like Tom Cruise in The Firm. Also, not a movie but Felicity gave me very unrealistic expectations for what college would be like. That apartments in NYC! Simon Rex! The Epstein Bar! That first Thanksgiving with no parents!

  45. Caitlin says...

    This makes me think of a time when I was working with young adults on the autism spectrum when I was in my early 20s. One day a young man I was working with asked me how many dates I go on each week. I was like… “what? Zero!” He was so surprised because in his mind, thanks to TV and movies, adults went out on several dates each week. It ended up being a really nice moment where we talked about all the things TV and movies show that we can’t relate to, and also about how the two of us had much more in common than he might have thought. In this same conversation he asked if at the parties I went to in college people drank out of red cups and I was like, well actually yes that one is accurate.

    • Vanessa says...

      “Ha” to the red cups! Whenever we drive by the local campus and there are red cups everywhere I point out to my sons “no beer for you, those cups are not biodegradable!”

    • Jessica says...

      This is so sweet.

    • K says...

      This is literally my life! I am a primary caregiver for my brother with autism (who also has several other intellectual and developmental disabilities) and we legitimately talk about how TV and movies are different from real life on an hourly basis, because they are his largest frames of reference for figuring out real life. Ever since I was young it has made me SO frustrated about how ableist so much media is, and how inappropriate most humor on adult TV would be in real life. There are SO FEW sitcoms that accurately portray real-life consequences! I honestly cannot overstate how deeply so many people with ASD are failed by movies and TV (so many friends/providers have told us, “just have him watch kids TV!” — SO patronizing and disrespectful) and profound the impact of this has been on my brother. Thanks for naming it and receiving this rant of mine, xoxo

  46. Anna says...

    Okay, it’s not a specific movie but in so many movies when the woman has a sleepover at her lover’s house, she ends up wearing his (perfectly pressed) shirt in the morning. IRL in my 20s I would never. . . the guys I dated did not do laundry NEARLY as frequently as they should. But I thought that was what adults did. Wake up, slip into one of his perfect shirts.

    • Calla says...

      hahaha so true! I never really thought about it before, especially because even if you wear something belonging to the guy in question when you wake up, it’s going to be a T-shirt or a hoodie! Who is rolling out of bed like, “I need something formal to meet your roommates in that pairs well with no pants”

    • Laura says...

      and the shirt is always HUGE on the woman. Like, big enough to look like a nightgown. If my husband ever wore dress shirts, and I were to put one on, I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t button and that my entire butt would be hanging out.

    • Molly says...

      Yes! Yes to this comment and to the others who have replied to you. I am cracking up.

    • Diana says...

      Hahah I snorted at this because it reminded me of that Mindy project episode where the guy Mindy was dating sleptover, crawled out of bed and slipped into Mindy’s jeans (fitting it quite well). She did not react well to that visual but I loved how that trope was turned on its head!

  47. Chrissie says...

    I thought I’d have more (ie: any) montages of myself trying on different outfits to a very enthusiastic and aroused audience (ie Kim Cattrall in Mannequin and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman). It’s never come up! What the hell!

    • Isabella says...

      Dying laughing! I sometimes do this and make my 5-year-old be my audience. Admittedly, he’s very enthusiastic about his mama’s fashion sense!

  48. D says...

    I thought adulthood would consist of me wearing daywear that can easily transition to eveningwear looks because apparently I was supposed to go out every night after work! What?

    • Meg. F says...

      Omg this made me snort with laughter!!! This is so spot on.

    • Julee says...

      Hahahahaha
      Did you read “In Style” like it was the Bible, too? 😉

  49. Allison says...

    My Best Friend’s Wedding is on my mount rushmore of movies, no question. It is perfect in every way. SJP would have played a great Jules but the OG Jules (Roberts) made the character absolutely iconic.

    Speaking of SJP, Sex and the City is my answer to this question. Like others mentioned, the unrealistic apartments + wardrobes but also the concept of meeting 3 other women in adulthood and the *four* of you becoming best friends ?! And none of you ever moving away from NYC? Never in a million IRL, haha

    • Bonnie says...

      Exactly. Carrie writes a small newspaper column and owns 100 pairs of 400 dollar shoes? And I’m pretty sure her clothes weren’t from Target. :)

    • Lori says...

      Yep. I felt this way about Friends when I first moved to NYC in my 20’s. THE APARTMENT SIZE. I felt betrayed.
      I remember later that year laughing so hard with the rest of the movie theater while watching the movie Election and Matthew Broderick has to bend over in his NYC apt. So true!

  50. Lara says...

    Hahaha, I love this thread. I don’t know where I got this idea, but I definitely thought my adult work life would have more to go coffee cups and stilettos in it. And happy hours/me casually having a drink alone in a swanky hotel bar. And group beach house trips.

    • Julee says...

      Hahahaha
      Is it too late to get this because sign me up.

    • jules says...

      My 20s and 30s were actually this, except cabins instead of beach houses. I was just thinking about all the swank expense account hotel bar tabs I ran up and deeply miss in this old-mom COVID life.

    • Lulu says...

      Something about this comment reminded me that I thought adulthood meant I could easily afford multiple high-fashion winter coats easily. Perhaps it was Gilmore Girls, Breakfast at Tiffany’s or The Devil Wears Prada, but I remember thinking, “I’ll have so many pretty coats!” Fast-forward to today and I’m like “Listen here, Stitch Fix, do NOT show me no $99 coats right now, ugh please. Not when my cell bill is due in a week.” How the mighty have fallen.

    • Pink says...

      Like Jules, I lived this, would sometimes cross Lexington whil grabbing coffee in my manolos and think, oh god, I’ve turned into a movie cliche

  51. 16 Candles – WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE’S NO JAKE RYAN, or popular boy who’ll instantly drop his beautiful girlfriend for me?

  52. American Beauty shows the main adult character getting laid off, smoking a lot of weed and working out all the time. I was talking to my friend about this movie recently, and he pointed out that for many, this is an accurate portrayal of adulthood during the pandemic.

    • Mel says...

      Lmao. Accurate.

    • Lynn says...

      I love American Beauty and sometimes it seems odd when I tell people that I do (it’s the opposite of rom-com and yet it’s so real and accurate). It’s perfect in how it captures the imperfect adult lives we all live. I try not to care about what spills on the couch because of this movie. *it’s just a couch*

    • Calla says...

      @Lynn same here! I definitely have a tendency to be overly precious about my things (because I live alone and therefore can) and I always try to remember that scene when I have people over and can feel it bubbling up

  53. Calla says...

    I can’t pinpoint an exact movie because this is so universal, but I was really convinced that some love interest would then unexpectedly turn up on my doorstep for a romantic declaration. He might even wait there for hours while I’m out at work rather than just…text me to see when I’m free.

  54. Jacqueline says...

    The Parent Trap. I am 33, so when I say The Parent Trap I mean the Lindsay Lohan one. The parents in that movie are so glamorous. There’s the mom, Natasha Richardson, who lives in London designing wedding dresses, casually speaking French while on the phone, and looking so incredibly chic. She’s just unbelievably wonderful. Then there’s Dennis Quaid who has a beautiful vineyard in Napa. Meredith (Elaine Hendrix), who is the villainous younger woman set to marry Dennis Quaid (for money? For his vineyard?) is also impossibly glamorous. My sister and I both thought she was the most beautiful woman we had ever seen. It looked so easy. You just grow up and put on lipstick and bam! Have a vineyard if you want. No problem. Sure you might have a couple of relationship snags, but what do you care? You live in a London townhouse with a butler.

    • Calla says...

      hahaha I love this. That movie also set up unrealistic expectations of pre-teen hood for me too.

    • Rosie says...

      Also both Annie and Hallie had cute clothes, a great haircut, were super coordinated and had played good poker as pre-teens.

  55. Kate says...

    Grays Anatomy made me think I would be having all sorts of raunchy workplace sex… and Friends made me think that I could afford a two bedroom NYC apartment! Happily living without the former, but a little bummed about the latter :)

    • Kat O says...

      Okay I’m rewatching Friends now for the first time in like 15 years, and there’s an episode where Monica says it was her grandmother’s rent-controlled apartment and she’s still living there under her grandma’s name haha!

  56. Monica says...

    So good! I’d say, sadly, any film where the adorable but hapless lead male makes an epic mistake and realizes that he’s losing the love of his life and proceeds to make an epic spectacle of himself in order win her back.

    My kudos to anyone who has ever experienced this in real life.

    Heath Ledger in 10 Things, Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, Jude Law in The Holiday, Matthew McConaughey in just about anything.

    Another wonderful topic would be: What movie do you watch to transport you in times of stress?

    Mine has always been You’ve Got Mail. Oh to be Meg Ryan in pre-technology on New York with the most amicable break up on the brink of personal upheaval that results in new love and career growth.

    • Monica says...

      Oops *pre-technology boom New York City*

      The days of dial up…

    • Court says...

      My husband did this! He broke up with me right before I went to grad school. After I graduated, I moved home and then I flew back to my university to go to a football game where my (now) husband flew down to come win me back. He didn’t go to school there so he really showed up with only one plan: win me back. It worked!

    • Lynn says...

      Sleepless in Seattle. Another MR fave. The best soundtrack, too!

    • Linda says...

      What a wonderful thread! It’s making me realize that I also got to live out the “adorable but hapless lead male” story too! 27 years ago, my boyfriend and I broke up and he drove 5 hours to my university and showed up IN MY CLASS to declare to me and my dozens of classmates that he loved me and wanted me back! Yes, I married him :)

    • Monica says...

      Court and Linda,

      YES!! I secretly knew it could happen. Congratulations and I hope you have many happy years together!

    • Midge says...

      We hadn’t broken up, but this still is my great movie moment: my then-boyfriend was on an epic six-month “finding myself” roadtrip and after four months, he realized he missed me, drove across the country in 3 days and showed up at my office with a bouquet of red roses.

      Now-husband, of course.

  57. Lisa says...

    Thanks to the Drina Ballerina books, I thought that I would be married by 20, latest, and be a ballerina. And also travel around Europe. The only thing that has happened is the European travel. When I was older, I thought I’d have lots of dinner parties like Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding. It has rarely happened. I do love that movie though

    • Katie says...

      Drina Ballerina books were the best, and same. I wasn’t even a ballerina and I thought…maybe?

  58. Kristyn says...

    I remember seeing St. Elmo’s Fire when I was about 12. I hoped I would have it more together than some of the characters in that story by the time I was their age. They were all Georgetown grads, but most were struggling to transition to adulthood. Now, it seems like a fairly realistic depiction of early adulthood. I loved the scene where Mare Winningham’s character described waking in the middle of the night to make a sandwich. She looked around and thought “this is my kitchen and my refrigerator and this is the best sandwich I’ve ever had.” I could not wait to experience that feeling. Sometimes I will be standing in my kitchen and think of that movie scene.

  59. K says...

    Just came here to say…

    “YOU WILL NEVER BE JELL-O”
    “But I HAVE to be jell-o!”

    • Kelly M says...

      Haha. Love this!

    • Evans says...

      This is my FAVORITE line of that movie and my mom and I always say it to each other!

  60. AJ says...

    Love this! Oh my goodness, so many – all of them! My lockdown brain can’t bring any titles to mind, but pretty much all of them where people run for taxis in heels, live in sprawling city apartments (alone, in their 20s), have huge existential crises about marriage (in their 20s), be the underdog for years then do one really good presentation and ta-dah – they’re promoted to boss of everything and wake up with a whole new designer wardrobe. And they meet friends for breakfast before work. But still manage to start at 8am. After being out in a club the night before. Such mysteries!

    • Olivia says...

      Sec and the city (show, obv). On a more serious note, my friend and I obviously should not have been allowed to rent season after season of this show when we were like….12 or 13. I feel like the volume of sexual partners many of them had just cannot possibly jive with the average persons experience. It honestly makes me ill thinking back to what my parents let me watch bc it was how I “learned” a great many inaccurate things about life at a fragile time.

      On a lighter note…i definitely thought grad school applications would be as easy as Elle woods made them out to be! “What, like it’s hard?”

  61. Emily says...

    Love this piece and the comments so much! Growing up in England I remember watching 10 Things About You as a teenager and thinking that life in the U.S. looked SO cool – having your own car, wearing what you liked to high school, cute guys asking you out. My teen years were a huge letdown after that. However, I remember in my mid-twenties standing in a bar in Shoreditch in London, dressed all in black on a Friday night listening to jazz and thinking teen me would think this was pretty cool as living in London had always been my dream growing up.

    • nadine says...

      Love this comment Emily. And this could be a great day for another post. Which moment would your teen self have considered pretty cool?
      Mine is very similar, at a jazz club, in a different country from where I grew up, with candles and dressed in black. :)

  62. Agnès says...

    I saw Singing in the rain for the 100th time when i was 19 ans i suddenly and brutally understood that life was not, had never been and will never be like in a musical. I cried si bitterly and hated my mother so much for making me love those movies. Now in my 40ies i enjoy them again and i sing a lot in every day life but am so glad life is not like musicals.

    • S says...

      I love this comment! Singing in the Rain is one of my very favorites. Such an escape!

  63. Liz says...

    Going back a few decades — the Mary Tyler Moore TV show. If you were pretty and had spunk, a good job and a happy life would come your way. As easy as tossing your hat in the air.

    • Sarz says...

      Another vote for Mary Tyler Moore! For precisely the reasons you state. 🤣 At least I can hunt Ebay to make myself look like a less successful version of her…

    • Tracy says...

      And, a third…. later it was Working Girl….I listened to a tape (yes, a tape) of the sound track each morning during my commute to my first corporate job where I was sexually harassed by a co-worker who did not resemble Harrison Ford…..

  64. S. says...

    This comment is going to sound much sadder than it is (I promise my life is not this bleak!), but watching F•R•I•E•N•D•S all the time growing up gave me entirely unrealistic expectations of having friends as an adult! 😂 Or, at least how often/easily I would see these people. While I have some pals I see in my city, so many of my close friends are spread out around the country, we are not sitting in a coffee shop every day together, oh how I wish we were though!

    I don’t think I’m alone in this, based on how many articles I’ve seen with a title along the lines of, How to Make Friends as an Adult

    • Calla says...

      You are definitely not alone in this! Those shows really set me up for disappointment as well. Not only have I never been part of such a close-knit always hanging out adult group, the closest thing I’ve ever seen is houses full of 20-something frat-y guys. And those apartments are considerably less glamorous than Friends (why so many cables and why is everything always so low to the ground?)

    • Caitlin says...

      Omg yes to this, you are so right on, S. And Calla I absolutely LOL’s at “why so many cables and why is everything always so low to the ground?” I mean… WHY???

    • b says...

      Friends. How I Met Your Mother. Big Bang Theory. I don’t know any friend groups like that IRL, let alone have one myself.

  65. Ann says...

    That’s funny, I never thought of how Hollywood has everyone fly back and forth without showing all the work that goes into traveling. I just watched The Wedding Singer and I love that last airplane scene.

  66. Hannah says...

    Hahaha, I love this.

    • Julie says...

      Sliding Doors! Even tried the haircut. I loved that movie!

  67. Jenica says...

    FRIENDS.

    Though I believe the idealistic world is part of what draws us to it. The perfect escape after a hard day of adulting.

  68. M says...

    Thank you, Kim. Like you, I’m also 33 and I struggled all through my adult life to find what I want to do with my life. I’ve always felt so uneasy and ashamed that I’ve jumped from job to job. Reading your words is a comfort, knowing that other people are on the same boat.

  69. angel says...

    Friends tv show? I did think there would be more and closer, genuine, lifelong friends of both sexes. And it was kind of true, until I got a little older; then we each crawled into our respective holes, I guess.

  70. Caroline says...

    My partner (35) and I (30) watched this a few months back and we had to pause the movie when she revealed her age. We let out of the most flummoxed guffaw.

  71. Jamie says...

    Clueless really set up some unrealistic expectations of what being in high school would be like… can we all agree? Do I even need to go into details?

  72. JLW says...

    Sixteen Candles! No h.s. boy has ever looked like Jake Ryan….because he (the actor) was 23.

  73. Kris says...

    I thought high school was going to be just like Saved by the Bell. What a bummer that was.

  74. Liz says...

    13 Going on 30, How to Lose a Guy in 28 Days, basically every 90s/00s movie about twenty-something working for a magazine–these gave me unrealistic expectations about both adulthood and living in New York CIty

    • Caroline Caesar says...

      Ha, same here! Growing up, inspired by movies which featured the glamorous life of a magazine editor, it was my dream to work at a magazine, and well, now I do! Working as a fashion producer for a glossy women’s magazine, which sounds glamorous and it’s… nothing like the movies.
      When I tell people what I do I always get a „wow, how cool/glamorous!“
      Clearly, these people have also seen these movies and think that I wear designer clothes and jet around the word, whereas I wear comfortable shoes, never get to travel anywhere and spend a lot of time processing dreadfully boring invoices.

    • Rebecca says...

      Caroline, if I met you I would also think what a crazy glamourise job. I find it so interesting the realities of people’s different jobs.

  75. Jamie says...

    Even more unrealistic is the way Cameron Diaz’s character is so jealous of her fiance’s best friend that she traps her in an elevator and yells at her. That would be ultra crazy in real life.

  76. EPF says...

    I always thought it was ridiculous (in My Best Friend’s Wedding) that Kimberly was only nineteen. Nineteen!!??

  77. K says...

    I rewatched this recently and loved it so much more than I remembered. One thing the movie gets right (at least in my mind) is how flawed Julia Roberts character is — she is a mess, she is willing to hurt other people, she is selfish and sad that things haven’t turned out as she wants. She isn’t even sure what she wants (!!!). This sort of journey is all about those years in your twenties (obviously more exciting when condensed into a 2 hour movie). She grows at the end too — getting that the best love is the love of a good friendship (thank god for that ending).

    Movies and TV do totally ruin us with the professional and domestic side though. I’m 35 now have a great job and was living in a 350 square foot apartment in San Francisco in the Tenderloin before the pandemic. Not a dream apartment. This is one of the bigger bummers in life. I wish TV / movies started focusing on realistic depictions of apartments / houses so we didn’t just assume we would have more. I watched The Firm for the first time the other night and before Tom Cruise gets the fancy job at a law firm, he and his wife live in a truly normal / not nice apartment. He is working at a restaurant to afford law school. It was obviously set up to make all the wondrous things the firm was offering him all the more impressive, but it was actually realistic of how depressing things can be in your twenties even when you are succeeding.

  78. Sarah says...

    Grease! It didn’t ruin my adulthood, but it sure made high school a disappointment when people didn’t break out into choreographed song and dance every day.

  79. Millie says...

    The Neverending Story & Indiana Jones — I thought there’d be more quicksand.

    • AJ says...

      I also grew up thinking avoiding quicksand was going to be key for general survival.

    • Annie says...

      Ahahahahahahaha! YES! Best response.

    • Melissa says...

      HA!! Great comment : )

    • Ann-Marie Benz says...

      This is my disappointment. No quicksand. I have to generate my own adventures, and they’re not nearly this cool.

    • Kristin says...

      Ahh, my daughter recently said that she thought there would be a lot more quicksand in adulthood too.

    • Caitlin says...

      Hahahaha, I for sure thought I would have encountered quicksand at least once by now, but alas!

    • Julee says...

      Hahahahaha

    • Amy says...

      I’m just relieved there’s no ROUS; the possibility of real-life quicksand was much less disconcerting to me.

    • AG says...

      Hahaha! Love this comment @Millie. Quicksand and a casually strolling scorpion for me – I really thought I’d see one by now.

    • Isabella says...

      As an ecologist, I’ve encountered quicksand in the course of my work, and was disappointed that it wasn’t quicker. More annoying than swallow-you-alive.

    • Lia says...

      Ok I just googled “is quicksand real” and IT’S NOT. Or, there is muddy sand that’s hard to walk in but you can’t sink and die like they do in the movies. What a letdown, we’ve all been preparing for nothing.

    • Cate says...

      Ha, recently was discussing just this! Quicksand and those rooms where the walls were literally closing in, threatening to squish the character to death were completely de rigeur on TV and in movies growing up. Thank goodness neither materialized (yet!) for me.

    • Mims says...

      I consider doing my complicated taxes the city version of quicksand.

  80. Bri says...

    haha, I loved that movie too as a college student! and it convinced me to spend a term in Sweden, where, like you, I was pretty lonely despite sharing a floor with students from all over the world. I wouldn’t go back, but at least it was a learning experience.

  81. Kim says...

    I feel like Lindy West’s ‘Shit, Actually’ is a good book to read if this post vibes with you.

  82. Ellen says...

    Wow, where do I begin…

    In all seriousness, the vast majority of movies I’ve ever seen.

  83. florence says...

    i adore My Best Friend’s Wedding! though i didn’t relate to any of the characters as they were definitely far too glamorous than anything that seemed remotely close to “real life.” and agree on the nancy meyers… those homes and careers that everyone has, my goodness! that’s why it is a delicious escape i suppose.

  84. Merritt W. says...

    I love all your articles, Kim! This is a fun one. I have somehow never seen this movie, but adding it to my queue (which is very, very long because #kids) immediately.

    I can’t pinpoint one movie in particular, but I imagined my house looking like Kathleen Kelly’s UWS apartment and, uh, it doesn’t… at all. I’ve got Nancy Myers taste on a Target budget.

  85. Catherine says...

    Not adulthood exactly, but high school was nothing like the John Hughes films I had seen. I cried when I watched Lady Bird as a 40-year-old.

  86. Court says...

    This is like EVERY Netflix movie for teens now! Take Outer Banks- the main character is supposed to be in high school and in real life Chase Stokes is…28. I’m a 33 year old middle school teacher, so he’s closer in age to me rather than my 14 year old students who think boys in high school will look like this!!! Oh how disappointed they will be…

  87. SP says...

    about time came out when i was a junior in high school (it’s on netflix now!) and i absolutely coveted rachel mcadmas wardrobe in that movie. i saw it in theaters twice and have been on the hunt for the button down shirtdress she wears in the scene where her parents visit. i thought being a grown up would be very… british? lots of sweaters, walks on the gray coast, an afternoon tea habit, museums. i also thought i would have no problem landing a job in publishing with a BA in English from a state school. to be young & naïve again!

  88. LJ says...

    I enjoyed the film as an undergrad student, and then I found the script online. Enjoyed that a lot more. :)

  89. Jenny says...

    I love this and all the comments! There are MANY things in movies that gave me unrealistic expectations of adulthood (from career to the type of apartment one could afford), but the thing I think about most often is…breakfast. In movie after movie, characters sit in a sunlight breakfast nook eating scrambled eggs and drinking coffee and orange juice (there’s always orange juice) while reading the newspaper. It’s like every weekday morning is as leisurely as a weekend. I was convinced I would have a flawless morning routine like this as an adult. Instead, the reality for me has always been crawling out of bed at the last possible moment and grabbing a yogurt to eat at my desk when I get to the office. Now I wonder, do these people not have to be at work until 11 am? Or how horrifying early do they wake up to achieve this type of breakfast situation before work? I feel very misled – my life has 90% less orange juice than I was led to expect. Haha.

    • A says...

      😂😂😂 agreed

    • Frankie says...

      Hahaha THIS!!!

    • Sara says...

      I love this comment! Omg, so true.

    • Erin says...

      OMG – I have this same pet peeve! That has always bothered me. If I wanted a leisurely breakfast I’d have to wake up at 5am… and it certainly isn’t sunny and cheerful, nor will there be orange juice in a pitcher. We keep a plastic jug in the fridge :P

    • Lenae says...

      Early in the pandemic we watched a lot of Friends reruns, and my husband and I laughed at this same misrepresentation of people in the morning. Phoebe lives across town, but she’s at Monica and Rachel’s for breakfast before everyone goes to work? Ross is there? No one is rushing or running late? It’s so leisurely, and I can’t relate at all.

    • Hannah says...

      Yes, mornings in all movies/tv shows! I also wonder how early these people wake up—and who makes pancakes for their kids every morning??

    • Trish Williams says...

      And, always eating in the dark. It’s 6:30am or 6:30pm and where I am in Canada – dark most of the time!

    • Lisa says...

      Yes! Though I thought that maybe it was an American thing (I live in the U.K.) and I wondered how they had the time and energy to do all that cooking and cleaning up.

    • Madeleine says...

      hahahahaha

    • katie says...

      YES. And who puts their OJ into a carafe?

    • Annie says...

      Just been re-watching Friends and I actually get very anxious at the casual group breakfasts…YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE! GET OUT! I certainly hoped that, once I was about 19, I would be able to live alone in a city (London) and be mistress of my own life, no trouble at all.
      Miraculously, I would also be a good 6 inches taller than I am, most of it leg.

    • amy says...

      Yup, I can totally relate to this. Who has time (or cares enough) to MAKE breakfast every day?! When I used to have a commute I was doing great to eat cereal in like 5 mins, and take a coffee with me to drink on the way in. Now I just wait until I feel human enough for food- so I eat around 11 now (AFTER the caffeine has kicked in).

    • Jenny says...

      Erin and Katie – you make excellent points regarding the orange juice being in a carafe. Clearly these characters, in addition to being well coiffed, newspaper readers with unlimited morning hours, also make their juice fresh squeezed. Jerks.

      Annie – “most of it leg.” Hahahaha. Dare to dream!

      And 100% yes to the comments about Friends!

    • Rhiannon says...

      Once as a teen I saw something on TV where a teen girl my age was eating breakfast with her family on a regular school day and… the sun was up and streaming through the windows. My high school started at 7:30 am, which in winter meant I was waiting at the bus stop before dawn. I also had to wake up the earliest of anyone in my family – even earlier than my early bird dad – and be out the door the earliest of any of them. There were no family breakfasts on week days, let alone beautifully sunlit ones!

    • Susannah says...

      Hahaha yes! And even dramas like Parenthood or This is Us showing busy-getting-ready-for-work mornings… but still a full cooked breakfast for the kids and glistening pitcher of orange juice in sunlit kitchen. Who does this!?

    • rachel says...

      I feel like it makes me feel better to imagine the carafe as a way to jazz up the made-from-frozen-concentrate orange juice I’m going to pretend it is, instead of believing it’s part of this mythical adulthood to decant your oj from the carton 😂 (or, even more exhausting-sounding– to squeeze your own, while living in a place where oranges decidedly do not grow!)

    • Kelly says...

      Yes to all of this! And it drives me crazy when someone has to rush out in the middle of the big breakfast and they leave a full plate and can only manage to take a bite of toast!

    • Rebecca says...

      So true about breakfast, who has the time. I used to eat a very speedy bowl of cereal at my desk, no way could I find time to eat before I left the house! There is a scene in how to be single where Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson go through this long crazy morning routine montage before work and then it cuts to them arriving at their office and someone says “you are three hours late?” And I thought Yes! Because no one has this much time in the morning.

    • Jenny says...

      Kelly – Yes! Eating one bite of toast! Comeon!

      Rebecca – I need to watch “How to be Single” now! I love that they called it out!

  90. katie says...

    This is all so true – I adored My Best Friend’s Wedding in HS (that soundtrack! I think I could sing it all: throooow awaaay the chaaaaains…), but realizing her age at a later viewing made me laugh. But I guess somebody turning 28 in 1997 was definitely growing up among adults/grandparents who even fell in love in HS, early college, so it’s not wild. Glad that these days media is working to be more representative (mostly ;-).

    • Lindsey says...

      I don’t know exactly where I got this from, but I really envisioned myself having beautiful matching bras and underwear and sleeping in sexy silk nightgowns every night (but in a totally normal, this is just what I wear, kind of way). In reality I sleep in ten year old flannel pj pants and old tshirts. Who actually wears that type of stuff to bed?!

  91. just want to say that I love this whole thread . . . and I realize now that this even affects me as I age . . . of course I will have a beach house and Keanu Reeves will want to date me. Why wouldn’t he?

  92. Emma says...

    13 Going on 30; How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days; Bridget Jones’s Diary. Made me REALLY want to move to NYC and London, work at a magazine or in publishing, have a fabulous hot bf, go out all night with friends on weeknights (without a hangover the next day, mind you), oh and live in a cool, huge loft. Part of what makes these movies so glamorous is that they’re the ultimate escape. But watching them at 18-23, you feel like all of that can be achieved in such a short amount of time. It’s been fun turning 30 and realizing I’m so happy without 90% of that but man I bet those writers had a great time thinking of all the wonderful things a 30 year old *should* have haha.

  93. Bea says...

    The apartments in Seinfeld and Friends ruined my NYC real estate expectations. When I moved there after college I was devastated to learn that my entry level job would not support a sunny, spacious, multi-room apartment with a functional kitchen and cute living room. Now when I watch Friends all I can think about is what the rent would be on a place like that.

  94. SJ says...

    I would say cooking shows like Giada in the Kitchen made cooking seem really effortless. All recipes come together perfectly, beautiful people are gathered around a table within minutes, and nothing burned. Also – where did all of the dirty dishes go? While I enjoy cooking and baking as an adult, it takes much more effort and sometimes you just need to order in or get a Chick-fil-A spicy sandwich delux.

  95. Adèle says...

    Gilmore girls! It wasn’t big city living, but it romanticizes small town life like crazy. I think it was awesome to have a kind of shy girl as the lead, but being from a rich family and having an over the top super charming town was not relatable in my case.

    • Julie says...

      Hahahah! I know!! I loved GG, but the tiny town I grew up in had none of the charm and quirks of Stars Hollow. It was just plain boooooring. I was also quite disappointed in Rory in the most recent episodes (few years back). I felt that she was so entitled and had not aged well at all. If you watched them, what did you think?

  96. Meghan says...

    For me, it started with books rather than movies; series like The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High and/or Twins, The Saddle Club, etc. These books gave me an unrealistic expectation of what friendship should or would be. When you get to high school, you should be part of a clearly-defined friend group. A group where you’re each different enough to have your own brand, but cohesive enough to fit together. And, most important, your membership into this friend group would non-negotiable. You want to be friends with these people, and they want to be friends with you. Friendship will be a solid, immovable thing that you can anchor yourself to. When I got older this idea was solidified by shows and movies (Buffy, Sex and the City, Bridget Jones). I cannot tell you how much secret shame I had that my social life wasn’t like this. Instead I had intense friendships with one or two people for a little bit, until we gravitated towards other people (or separated in a spectacularly dramatic fashion). If I had temporary membership in a group, I always felt a little more than slightly out of place, like I wasn’t sure where to be around all the other people (it could be so dizzying). And not one of those books or shows even so much as hinted at how much work it would be to find, and then maintain, these friendships. Friends should take care of themselves, like a forest, not have to be planted and pruned like a garden, right?

    • Calla says...

      Oh my gosh Meghan I cannot tell you how much this comment speaks to me. My teenage and adult life has played out exactly like this as well. I caused myself so much shame and angst over not having a secure role in a clearly defined friend group. I did this in high school, in college, and the years following and always felt like such a failure when I didn’t have a go-to crew for going out on Fridays or celebrating my birthday, etc. These days I’m much more at peace with having close individual friendships that come and go but am still struck by an occasional pang of remorse, especially when anyone implies that the group setup is universal.

    • Ann-Marie Benz says...

      Realizing that friendship is an investment. That’s totally not how it’s portrayed. I’m lucky to have that type of group now – in my 40’s – but felt it was totally lacking in my high school and college years.

    • Tovah says...

      This really resonates for me as well. Thanks for commenting!

    • Julee says...

      I have similar feelings and always feel like an outsider, whether “in” or “out” of any respective group.
      Soon I will be forty, and I have never managed the famed “friend group” where everyone is equally invested and loyal to each other.
      I’m always the freak wondering why no one else needs a “best friend” as much as I do?

    • LB says...

      I believe it’s “horse-lover carol, practical joker stevie, and straight-a student lisa” …yes that’s right, just over here quoting the friend types of the three members of the saddle club books from WAY WAY BACK.

      Never found those friends in real life but they were there (and still are? lol) in my head.

    • K. Francis says...

      As the mom of completely independent 14 and 11 year old girls who prefer to do their own thing this helped me so much. Thank you.

    • Genevieve says...

      THE SADDLE CLUB wow

    • Lucy says...

      YESS to this! My literary poison was Enid Blyton and her even more unrealistic depiction of perfect British boarding schools and impossibly idyllic portrayals of school friendships, with the thrilling midnight feasts and the good-natured high jinks and harmless pranks and unbreakable bonds of platonic affection. Boarding schools were financially out of reach for me (non-rich parents) but surely the friendships in regular schools would be just as effortless and rewarding and fulfilling as in her books? As it turns out, the answer was NO. Especially damaging was her “unlikeable hostile anti-social loner performs one act of heroism and suddenly the loner magically becomes popular and well-liked” trope. Super awkward and insecure me clung on to that like a life raft in a raging sea of hormonal teenage outbursts in the hopes that people WOULD see past my abrasive exterior to see the beating heart within. Little did I know the reality would be so far from that as to be laughable.

      I *did* luck into a tight friendship with 2 like minded girls early in my high school life, but even though I was thrilled to have been “found” by people i thought were kindred spirits, the extreme closeness became suffocating after a while, even though I didn’t have the words or self-awareness to be able to put my finger on it. One of the 2 had very preconceived notions of what close friendships looked like, and was inclined to sulk if ours didn’t look like that every day of the week. (There was just SO. MUCH. DRAMA.) And then, through a combination of bad behaviour (mostly mine), bad luck (ours) and bad communication skills (theirs), I ended up suddenly and summarily exiled from that group. There was no discussion, no negotiation, no intervention — one day they decided among themselves that they were just done with me and cast me out. By then everybody else had already formed their own tight-knit groups or if they weren’t a group had at least found their besties, so I spent the rest of my high school years adrift, flitting from one clique to another but never feeling fully accepted in any of them. Also the pain and humiliation of always being asked where my other 2 friends were, because we had been firmly established as a crew, and having to give some noncommital answer while not knowing what the other 2 were saying to mutual friends, was traumatising enough to scar and scare me off of group friendships for life. Eventually I found myself in another group of friends but the PTSD and fear of having the same thing happen again made me hang back and not fully invest in anyone, which made it “safer” but very lonesome. It was a huge relief when high school eventually ended and I never had to think about my failed high school friendships/career again. (Except now of course we have social media to dredge it all up again!)

      Since then I’ve discovered that as an introvert, I really only have the emotional bandwidth and energy to really be able to invest in one-on-one friendships — group friendships always come mired with too much politics, too much gossip, too much drama, and ever-shifting allegiances for me to make it worth the trouble. It makes it all sound like Game of Thrones but honestly teenage girls can be every bit as cruel and capricious! After high school, i found new life in being able to reinvent myself and leave all that baggage behind, but i’ve only hung on to one or 2 friends from every stage of my life since then — 2 from junior college, one from university, a handful from various jobs. Honestly, that’s about all i can manage mentally. I’m forever grateful for my BFF, whom I again lucked into in junior college — she too was completely drama-averse and had no hidden agendas, and we were so like-minded on so many things that it was completely effortless to be in each other’s lives. She is one of the few people whom I felt instantly at ease with while simultaneously somehow inspiring me to be the best version of myself. But most importantly, like you said, it struck me that with her i felt that we both truly *wanted* to be friends with the other, no games, no manipulative tricks. I guess i would say that in the forest of friendships, she’s a redwood or oak tree to me — an everlasting species — while the other fleeting friendships are like garden-variety wildflowers that pop up here and there after the rain, nice to behold for a brief blooming moment but impossible to tend. It’s an imperfect analogy but all of this to say, one has to learn to discern which friends we want to keep around, which ones CAN be kept around, and which we should just enjoy with no thoughts of permanence while we can.

    • “A group where you’re each different enough to have your own brand, but cohesive enough to fit together.”

      This. I’m 34 and there’s a part of me that will always mourn the childhood lifelong friendships I anticipated but never experienced. I was always surrounded by people. Yet, lonely. Learning and accepting the two aren’t mutually exclusive is painful.

    • Jennifer says...

      I am fifty and have never had a friend group. I think I am looking foreword to being in a nursing home and making friends. Lol

  97. Rachel Simmons says...

    All.of.them.

  98. Amy says...

    When the movie “The Notebook” first came out when I was in high school, I remember thinking how romantic Noah and Allie’s relationship was: Love at first sight! That Ferris wheel scene! Passionate love is everything!

    Last year, I re-watched the movie and absolutely hated it. I love the quiet ebbs and flows in my current relationship – that our love is thoughtful and consistent. I’d take our shared spreadsheets and grocery lists over a public declaration of love any day.

  99. Amanda says...

    The Devil Wears Prada really gave me some unrealistic hopes for my future. The clothes, the portrayal of journalism, the friends with gallery openings, the sort of sidekick gay male friend who would give me a makeover… what a problematic letdown! But still a favourite!

  100. Sage says...

    Honestly, I had a really warped idea of drinking from media. I thought it was normal to just POUND beer + shots + mixed drinks and be coherent, perhaps silly-tipsy. (Only lame-asses get drunk after 4+ beers, naturally.) You can imagine the sort of shittiness that mindset led to. Sooooo happy to be sober now.

    • Faith says...

      Congrats on your sobriety! I just crossed one year sober, too! xo It’s crazy how drinking is constantly portrayed in movies and TV shows.

    • Sage says...

      That’s wonderful, Faith!! Congrats!! I’ll be at 4 years come March. :) Agreed…
      The one thing that struck me when I got sober was how suddenly I had so much more WEEKEND in my weekend, haha.

  101. Kim M says...

    Every Nancy Meyers movie. I never realized how much money you need to make to have a large beautiful kitchen.

    • sp says...

      ha! i second this one.

    • S says...

      🤣🤣🤣 yes!

    • jones says...

      So true. Not only kitchens, but just the houses themselves too.

    • savannah says...

      Hahaha! But the turtlenecks are totally doable!

    • Megan M Kongaika says...

      Haha – same. Or a house in the Hamptons. Major adulting letdown, that one.

    • Same!!! I’m actually in the middle of a bathroom reno now and made the horrible mistake of searching on Instagram #bathroomrenovation and felt like *&(*( that our little bathroom, while it will be 10X nicer than it was before is still not Instagram perfect.

      Then I slept on it and the next morning I was fine and back to reality again, because we have a budget!

  102. Julie says...

    Not adulthood per say, but a big disillusion nonetheless. I had looooved the movie L’Auberge espagnole, in which students from all over Europe share an apartment in Barcelona and are having a blast. As a young and very naive Québécoise dreaming of travelling in Europe, this movie portrayed something I absolutely wanted to experience. I was very fortunate to spend a year abroad in my early 20s, but I chose to spend it in Geneva, because of some university requirements. Switzerland is a beauty and it was definitely a transforming experience, but Geneva is definitely not Barcelona and, most of all, I was depressed most of that year. So my experience was far from what I had envisionned, but I would never take back what I learned from the loneliness and the hardships of that year. Oh to be so naive!! So cringey!

    • Kate says...

      Oh I so love love love this movie and wanted to embody all of the frivolity and personal adventure. I can’t find anywhere to stream it and it’s been bothering me!

    • Calla says...

      Oh my gosh the same thing happened to me! That movie really romanticized not only living abroad, but living with flakey, messy people haha.

    • Livia says...

      OMG fellow Canadian here – I loved that movie, too! Good for you taking that year in Geneva :) I loved Russian Dolls, too! <3

    • Jill says...

      Hi Julie,
      Your comment really struck me, especially the part ” I would never take back what I learned from the loneliness and hardships”. I went through many lonely times in my life but didn’t realize how much it shaped me and made me stronger until my oldest went through a lonely phase his first semester in college.
      He was homesick and lonely and sad and five hours away. Once I stopped trying to “fix” it for him, he got through it. We had so many meaningful conversations about feelings, relationships, inner strength, and all kinds of dumb stuff. He learned many valuable lessons about himself during that time, and can recognize them now that he is a senior.
      One time we were talking during that rough patch and he was jogging back to his dorm and he tripped off the sidewalk trying to jog around a group of girls. He fell into the street and was almost hit by a car. I could hear the whole thing going down and I heard one girl say, “he’s cute”. I wanted to scream through the phone “AND HE IS AN AWESOME PERSON…CAN YOU BE HIS FRIEND??”

    • Julie says...

      Calla, I’m sorry it was the same for you, but glad I was not the only one!

      Kate, if you have some knowledge of French, it seems fairly easy to find. Allocine.fr seems to work for streaming it.

      Both your replies brought me joy, thank you!

    • Rachel says...

      Oh I loved this film and have been wanting to see it again.
      No woman no cry!

    • Catherine says...

      I live 1/2 hour away from Geneva (in France though) Ok, it’s pretty and all, but what a sad town!! I go regularly and always feel that. It’s not you, it’s the town!! For those who want a fun year abroad, try Leuven in Belgium, it’s such a fun town, with people from all over the world. I spent an awesome year there.

    • Alycia says...

      Do you know there are two sequels to this movie?! Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle. I haven’t seen Chinese Puzzle but Russian Dolls is pretty good.

    • Marisa says...

      I was doing a year of college in Barcelona when that movie came out!!! Of course my roommates from all over Europe and I watched it tons of times. Wow, that was the best looking back. However, I was also super lonely and wounded from a horrible breakup!

    • Lb says...

      Yes to these movies! Did not know there was a 3rd. Have to find that.

    • Lisa says...

      Yeah, Geneva definitely isn’t like Barcelona. It’s beautiful but SO DULL

    • Laura says...

      I’ve seen them all and Chinese Puzzle reminds me a little of the last movie in the Before Sunrise Trilogy, Before Midnight–basically the main characters 40 and married and experiencing a bit of a midlife/relationship crisis. That can be a little depressing, but if you’re devoted to the trilogies (as I am), they’re still satisfying.

    • Blandine says...

      Sorry you did not enjoy Geneva! I lived there as a young intern with United Nations and my experience was every little bit like l’Auberbe Espagnole except with the need to wake up and in the morning. I had the time of my life there.

  103. Laura says...

    100%- I love this movie but it definitely made me think that I was a failure at 28 when I was an administrative assistant barely making rent instead of a seasoned food critic and author.

  104. Charli says...

    This is the best rom com ever. I love how unlikable Julia Roberts’ character is, I love how she doesn’t get the guy, I love the musical scene, I love her lovely friendship with her best friend. I love the pantsuits. I love everything about it. I now chuckle about how it was one of my favorite movies growing up but it took me many years into adulthood to realize I was gay…I rewatched this recently with my girlfriend and had one of those “aha!” moments and declared “OF COURSE I should have known…my favorite rom com was the one where she wears pant suits and doesn’t end up with the guy at the end!”

    • Julie says...

      This made me laugh aloud. Thanks!

  105. Ummmmm Adventures In Babysitting! They were teens but soooo grown up.
    I was a few years older than the little girl and remember thinking the Elisabeth Shue character was so old and glamourous.
    She was 17… ‘too old for this’ – babysitting – and she had a CAR!
    I found this movie incredibly romantic and hoped to be as cool as her when I was 17.
    Spoiler – I was not. And I babysat well into my 20s. (And still would, I hear rates have gone up since my day!)
    Still love that film. She still looks older in it than I think I look now.

    • Sage says...

      HAHA, I haven’t watched that movie in ages, but yes a hundred times over. Got that…babysitting blues (baby, baby). SOCOOL!

  106. Toni says...

    Meg Ryan’s apartment in You’ve Got Mail had me dreaming of living in a spacious sun-lit gem in NYC. I pictured my big fluffy bed illuminated in the sunlight, the pristine brownstone steps I’d hop up to get to my door, the sound of the key turning in my clunky pre-war door. This was more unrealistic than I ever could have imagined.

    My first place was tiny UES studio with 1 closet, a very blue bathroom (from the tiles to the toilets), a miniature store, and a few rats who were definitely not afraid of me. We all lived miserably amidst the Second Avenue subway construction.

    After that debacle, I moved to a less tiny UES studio with 3 closets, a friendly super, and absolutely zero sunlight (except for 15 glorious minutes in the afternoon when the sun was in just the right spot).

    I lived in Hell’s Kitchen with 4 roommates, a bunch of mice, and the sounds of pedi-cabs calling late night Broadway patrons home. I lived in a stunning pre-war UWS gem with a gorgeous view, kooky neighbors who I got to know well, and an electrical unit that might have been as old as the building itself.

    I’m still in NYC in my late-30’s in yet another Manhattan apartment with my husband and daughter. It might not be located in the most convenient spot but it’s spacious and gets a decent amount of light.

    And I’ve come to realize, 22 years after that lovely movie came out, that just like Meg Ryan’s character, I fell in love with Manhattan – and I might just be a lifer. Even with the rats, the roommates, the lack of a dishwasher for so many years, the pandemic… I never once considered moving elsewhere. My apartment expectations might have been way off base, but You’ve Got Mail remains my love song to Manhattan. I even play the soundtrack while strolling the streets when I’m feeling down.

    • Toni says...

      *miniature stove (not store, although that sounds like a fun NYC movie I’d like to watch!)

    • SP says...

      i love this! i have always dreamed of moving to new york and applied to a bunch of schools for a masters program this fall. fingers crossed! don’t you love new york in the fall runs through my head every autumn.

    • I love this…You’ve Got Mail is the movie that make me fell in love with Manhattan.

    • Toni says...

      SP – crossing my fingers and toes that you get into a school you love in NYC. There’s truly nowhere else like it. New York in the fall is magic – I hope you’re here for this one!!

  107. This reminds me of all the princess movies my daughters watch. The princesses are always like, fifteen or nineteen and they’re living in big castles and walking down the aisle. For my two and four-year-old these girls seem like all the way grown-ups, full on women, so far in the distance that that must be what it’s like. I don’t even think they’re interested in Ana and Elsa when we meet them as kids, they want the princesses with the powers and the complicated story lines.

  108. m says...

    I remember watching Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That, and other glorious late 90s/early aughts teen movies when I was in middle school and early high school. I thought for sure I’d have a car, boyfriend, go to huge parent-less parties all the time, and go on real dates in high school. Very little of that happened — I did get to use my grandpa’s clunker of a car and I did go to a few parties, but no boyfriend and certainly no romantic dates.

    Later in high school, I got really into Felicity. I remember thinking she seemed so effortlessly cool, and that college would all be about having hot men fighting over me, living in an inexplicably huge and well-decorated dorm, deep conversations in Greenwich Village coffee shops. (Little did I know the first few months of college would be sticky, sweaty, decidedly un-romantic frat parties and microwaving cup-o-noodles in my tiny, tiny, double with my roomie snoring feet away from me!) There were some Bens and Noels later in college, whom I have very fond memories of.

    I re-watched Felicity in my late 20s and was struck by how insecure and boy-obsessed she seemed — she gave up her college plans to follow a guy she barely knew across the country! In retrospect, not the role model I needed at 17. She did have GREAT hair, though.

    • Amy says...

      Ditto about Felicity! I still have my journals from high school, and many of my “I can’t wait until…” entires were directly tied to Felicity’s college experience. Like you, the experience was farrrrr different than expected. Not nearly as romatic. Not nearly as witty.

    • Amy says...

      I totally feel the same away about Felicity! Such great hair though. I was Team Ben the first time I watched and now I’m more of a Noah girl

    • M says...

      As a teen, I loved Felicity so much as well! My college experience was decidedly different. Would love to rewatch the series though.

  109. Abbey says...

    Being John Malkovich. I *still* haven’t found a portal into anybody’s head, let alone John Malkovich’s. Nor have I ever met anyone with a pet chimp. Adulthood has been one disappointment after another.

    • Amber says...

      😂😂😂😂

    • Rachael H. says...

      This made me chortle really loudly into my tea.

    • Amanda says...

      Haha!

    • Kristin says...

      LOL yes!

    • nadine says...

      Hahaha When I was a kid there was a guy in my small home town (in the north of Italy) who had a pet chimp!! Remembering it almost feels unreal..
      I’m afraid the chimp must have not been very happy though, so I feel relieved it doesn’t happen more often..

  110. Emily says...

    All Nancy Meyers films really set me up for adult kitchen disappointment. Also, while Father of the Bride will always have a nostalgic piece of my heart, I now realize how escapist it was (part of why I love it).

    • Kim M says...

      Haha I just posted a similar comment!

    • Amanda says...

      Yes, Father of the Bride! Still wish George Banks was my dad & I got swept away by a handsome, smart stranger on a trip to Italy.

    • Brigette says...

      “adult kitchen disappointment” is real! My 50 I expect to have my beautiful Montauk/Montecito home ;)

  111. Alex says...

    Has anyone you ever know hosted a dinner party like the ones in any movie from our childhood? Looking forward to my invite.

    • LK says...

      Yes! BUT I live in Boston and our apartments are SO small. We are great friends with about 12 of our neighbors, and only 1 couple has an open kitchen/living room concept that is big enough for a comfortable potluck. It is wonderful but as an aspiring cook, I wish I could host at my own place.

      Plus, everyone serves wine/beer and not too many cocktails, sadly.

    • SP says...

      CoJ reader dinner party?!

    • Merritt W. says...

      I started a pen pal and dinner party club series where I live a few years ago, chasing after this exact sentiment. It was very fun… and very expensive! Almost none of my friends throw dinner parties, though, so I’m still waiting to go to one of these movie-style dinner parties, too, ha!

    • Courtney says...

      Yes! When I was living in Manhattan in my 20s, I somehow met a group of fellow 20 somethings who were actually from the city and had access to some amazing apartments. They were super sophisticated when it came to food and wine and art and music, and they threw some incredible movie-like dinner parties that I got to experience. They also didn’t have jobs and did a lot of hard drugs so the novelty wore off quickly.

    • Madzie says...

      Pre-COVID, and some years ago, I went on exchange to Cape Town (the dream). Some of the students there would have a rotating supper club – each Thursday a different person would host and cook – and everyone who came would bring $5 (50 rand) to pitch in!

      It was super lovely and I wish I still had something like that in my life!

  112. jdp says...

    i just, just watched this movie the other night. and relished it. AND always snicker at the fact that she’s 28, and how unrealistic…. but then i think, who cares! love the dress, love the shoes, love everything…

  113. Veronica says...

    I just want to chime in to say that, “after changing from my day pajamas to my night pajamas” made my day, as it perfectly describes my current fashion aesthetic. What a wonderful essay, Kim!

  114. I LOVE this analysis and I did not know that there was an alternate ending! The ending of the movie makes it reedemable to watch now — it is definitely the most realistic part!

  115. Sarah says...

    I never got swayed by movies, TV, etc thinking any of it was “real” – growing up in a VERY small town it was pretty obvious that none of my friends/parents/adults lives looked like the lives of those portrayed on the big screen! I’m glad I never aspired to look or act like anyone but myself, that would have set me up for a life of heartache! It’s hard enough just being me sometimes ;)

    Reminds me of a great song I heard for the first time yesterday (“Fisher by Camel Power Club):
    Stop trying to look like models in the TV show
    Why would you want to be someone
    You do not know?
    Girl you’re not so pretty
    Even in the winter snow
    You deserve much better
    I think it’s time to grow

  116. Dee says...

    Dirty dancing ruined me for romantic relationships. I thought all relationships had to be characterised by crazy-making passion and drama, and that guys should be driven mad by desire for you, or it wasn’t ‘real’. The reality of growing up for me was that after a litany of drama-laden, spark-ridden relationships with charming but unreliable bros I ended up happily settled with a solid guy who was a real slow burn. I know now, that the instant spark/butterflies feeling says precisely zippo about whether you’ll make things last. But thank you Patrick Swayze for one of my favourite all time soundtracks!

    • Kimmy S says...

      Totally with you Dee! I also thought based on no specific movie but rather a number of (90s) romcoms/teen series that sometime TWO guys should be into you otherwise you would not be pretty enough for the fancy (young) adult world. Turns out of course that being pretty is NOT all a girl has to do or be AND that you really only need one (sweet and charming!) guy :) Who does not neccesarily fall madly in love at first sight but does have the presence of mind to ask you out two years later ;)

  117. Emily says...

    Seeing When Harry Met Sally when I was in high school, I thought most adults dressed up and went out to fancy parties for New Year’s Eve, especially if they lived in the city! I live in NYC now, and I have never dressed up and gone out for New Year’s – every Dec 31st, I’m usually cozied up in someone’s/my apartment with whatever friends happen to be around, as lots of people are still visiting family elsewhere. I enjoy it, but also, NYE is the most overrated holiday!

    • AE says...

      To be fair, I’m *from* NYC and have spent every year since I was 14/15 getting dressed up and going out to big parties on NYE (and spent 1 year with tourists in Times Square!) So, it does happen :)

    • Elizabeth says...

      Yes, exactly this! Never once have I gone to a hotel or any kind of fancy party on NYE (and never once have I desired to, quite frankly – introverted me is very over people by New Years!)

  118. Alison D says...

    My Best Friend’s Wedding for sure! When Harry Met Sally too.

    I think almost every rom com made me think that I would have my career & friendships totally figured out before I could fall in love with a romantic partner. Meanwhile, I think all three things take so much work and renegotiating. And I don’t know anyone who had it all figured out by thirty.

  119. Erin says...

    And wasn’t Kimmy only 20? Poor girl – she was SO not ready to get married!

    • jones says...

      She was still in college because she was going to drop out for him.

  120. celeste says...

    Journalism as a whole is portrayed kind of casually. See “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “13 Going on 30,” Ray on “Everyone Loves Raymond.” Way harder in real life, cannot live office at whim.

    • Lindsey says...

      13 Going on 30 — 100%

    • Amanda says...

      I read an article years ago about careers that are frequently and inaccurately portrayed in movies. Journalist and architect stand out. I started out as a journalist, and my closest friend is an architect. We can attest to how these two professions are mischaracterized and over-glamorized.

  121. Claire says...

    Not really any of them, but there is something about It’s a Wonderful Life that I find profound. (I do love My Best Friend’s Wedding, though, and also recently re-watched it).
    (also, I would love to hear more about this part of your essay: “… I was flailing. I struggled all of my 20s to find what I wanted to do with my life, as I jumped from job to job. It took me too long to realize what a gift that was….”

    • Britt says...

      I second this request.

    • Julie says...

      YES!!!

    • A says...

      Yes! Please write more about this! So much wisdom in these words!

    • annie says...

      totally agree. it might also be fun to hear from people who DID know what they wanted to do right from age 22 (or whenever they knew). but personally the stories of flailing would be great. i’m 35 now and still feel i’m flailing a bit, even though i’ve invested almost 10 years in my career, which i don’t hate, but also don’t love…. :)

  122. AE says...

    I think the ending of this is brilliant, perfect and sums up adulthood. Things don’t always work out the way you wanted, but with a good friend or two, you can pick yourself back up and navigate the terrible, messy parts. And, I love it for one of the reasons I like Love Actually— the displays of romantic love vs platonic love. Both important and necessary. The way he shows up for her is glorious— and we should all be so lucky to have friends who love us and know us this well.

    • Abbey says...

      I agree, the ending of “My Best Friend’s” wedding is it’s saving grace. I remember how gutting it was to watch when I was a kid but now I think it’s beautifully realistic and comforting.

  123. Rachel Adrianna says...

    YES. I don’t know if it’s the 90s movies that I grew up with specifically, or movies in general, or just my naive little self seeing my (“grown up”) 18 year old cousin putting on makeup and having a boyfriend…. but adults definitely seemed adultier until I technically became one. Still, at 31, I don’t care about my age (I don’t lie about it or anything), I just don’t FEEL 31 or act 31. Maybe part of it is not being Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail (my version of Kelly’s MBFW go to film) and owning a bookstore and living in a fantastic brownstone with linen clothes that never wrinkle and never having to carry a purse because your lips never get chapped/ you never need a tissue/ cell phones weren’t a thing yet/ you don’t rely on that emergency candy bar hidden next to your tampons in the side pouch of your bag. Or maybe it’s because I have tried to take my own approach to being an adult… which is to keep having my own version of fun (think Miranda Hart’s character from her titular British sitcom), and being myself as authentically as possible. So as an adult, I can still wear bright, crazy clothes, collect stuffed animals, not like red wine nearly as much as movies made me think I would, and keep an emergency candy bar in my purse.

    • Anna says...

      When I was 18, Kathleen Kelly was goals! My best friend and I even purposely bought clothes that looked like something Kathleen Kelly would wear. I couldn’t wait to be Story Lady at my own bookstore in NYC. I even got the Meg Ryan haircut. Spoiler: it looked terrible on me, haha. I don’t own a bookstore but I do get to be Story Lady to my three wonderful kiddos so that’s a win!

    • Megan R. says...

      I just wanted to hop on and say that you sound absolutely delightful. Your #KathleenKellyGoals had me crying with laughter.

    • Leanne says...

      YES!!!!!! You’ve Got Mail was the first movie I thought about when I read this article.

    • Julie says...

      Kathleen Kelly’s life is still my dream (I live in Tennessee, am a teacher, and definitely don’t have enough twinkle lights). I also adore Miranda Hart, so today it must be said this comment is everything to me. :)

  124. Sara S says...

    100 times YES to this entire post!

  125. V says...

    Practical Magic. Still trying to figure out how to make a sea-side family dream home a reality on a small town apothecary owner salary — while wearing the perfect 90s garb and spending time with all my favorite women.

    • Jill says...

      Yes!!!

    • Lilly says...

      I rewatched that and no joke my hair was in braids for a good month this past September. Especially the two braids/going to bed thing! I love that movie so much.

      Subsequently reading the books (Rule of Magic, Magic Lessons, and Practical Magic all – *just* finished) and realizing that the house is bought way out on cheap land/built with a minor shipping fortune/it’s all long paid off: makes their descendants financial lives make SO much more sense. If only my ancestors had thought to enable my seaside apothecary dreams, sigh.

    • Tovah says...

      @Rachel that’s actually an amazing idea for a movie! Who here works in the film industry and can pitch this?!

  126. Katie says...

    When I was 29 I saw this movie for the first time since I was in high school and I basically did a spit take when they mentioned her age 🤣

    • Lynn says...

      I just read the wiki on this and my eyes bugged out when it mentions, ‘they made a promise if they werent married by 28, they’d marry each other,’ WTF! LOL

    • Abbey says...

      😂 I’m pretty sure I made an agreement with at least one person to — not marry — but *be together* by the age of 40 if we were unattached. Because that seemed reasonably old at the time. Now that I’m 39 I’m thinking I need a little more time. And also I don’t have a clue who I made that pact with.

    • @Abbey, watch out, I predict your own rom-com when about 5 people approach you in the next year to make that pact a reality!
      (I’d watch that film!)