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Eight Lessons Clueless Can Still Teach You About Dating
Enduring wisdom from the Alicia Silverstone classic on its fifteenth anniversary.
By James Brady Ryan
Fifteen years ago this month, director Amy Heckerling gifted us with the iconic ‘90s teen comedy, Clueless. Some of the Valley-Girl speak may have faded from style, but this seemingly vapid film can still teach us some enduring lessons.
1) Do Not Mess With the Recently Single
We admire Cher for trying to help Tai find the most popular guy to date, but how did she possibly think that Elton was the right choice? She had a reason — Elton had just broken up with his girlfriend — it just happened to be a horrendous one. A recently heartbroken guy is the worst possible candidate for your new friend. Is he looking for a little rebound sex to help deal with the pain? Sure, maybe. A serious relationship with the new girl in town? No, he is not. Keep in mind, much like wild animals, people are at their most dangerous when wounded.
2) Be Wary of the Overly Affectionate
Do you have a "friend" who likes to give you shoulder rubs for no reason at all? To plant kisses on your cheek just because you did a good job? Is he always orchestrating ways to get you alone in a car/elevator/walk-in closet? It takes the viewer about one minute to realize that Elton wants to hook up with Cher, not Tai, but it doesn’t occur to our protagonist until after Elton tries to stick his tongue down her throat in the parking lot of some off-brand 7 Eleven. Remember, if he buys you little presents when it's not your birthday, or offers to watch your cat even though his allergies will make his face puff up like a Shar Pei, he wants to make out with you.
3) For the Love of God, Make Sure It’s a Date
For a girl who’s apparently super popular, Cher is surprisingly bad at picking up social signals. There is no scene more painful and hilarious than her attempted seduction of her (unknown to her) gay friend, Christian. There are campy cinematic classics, a pratfall off of the bed, a lie about a stomach ulcer, and overtones of desperation. We can't imagine a more awkward moment for both parties than when someone asks you, “Wait, is this a date?” Your date will feel like a bastard, and you will feel the need to stay away from sharp objects until the embarrassment fades. When dating, make your intentions clear, in advance.
4) Let Them Come To You
Cher is a true master when it comes to getting a guy’s attention. Her helpful hints include: don’t go up and talk to that guy you like the moment you see him; don’t immediately open your door for him (or for yourself, if possible); do send yourself flowers and candy to make sure you look popular. Are some of these rules a little crazy? Yes, (we'd really advise against the flowers thing) but they have a purpose. As hard as it can be, playing it cool works. Next time you feel like flying past your crush in a hot-air blimp that says "I'm Available!" on the side, breath deeply and try to channel Cher.
5) Nice to Meet You. Will You Marry Me?
Remember when Dionne yells at her boyfriend for shaving his head before their yearbook photos, because, in her words, “What will I tell our grandkids?” Or how the movie ends with the three main couples — two of which have only just started dating — at a wedding, joking about how soon the girls will want to get hitched? That was weird. It might have been less weird had the couples been older, but there has got to be some kind of minimum timeframe before talk of future offspring starts. Clueless is an example of what not to do here, unless you want to forever be known as “That guy who asked if I liked the name ‘Rebecca,’ for a girl, on the third date.”
6) Find Me a Find, Catch Me a Catch
These days, it’s pretty weird to be set up on a date by someone else. In general, when your aunt Linda says she knows the perfect guy/gal for you, shrugging it off seems to be the best bet. But can your aunt really be that much worse than some random website that compares keywords in your online profile? It’s true that not all of Cher’s attempts to hook people up ended well, but she set up a couple who eventually got married. So the next time a friend or family member tries to act as your own personal Yente, consider saying yes. It’s got to be better than vainly searching through Craigslist Missed Connections, right?
7) Berets Are Terrible
Maybe you think you can make it work with a very specific outfit; you’ll look French, or like a Beat poet! It’s kicky! No. Not even Alicia Silverstone gets away with this. Put it away.
8) Learn to Let Go
Does that sound trite? Let me tell you a little story: once, there was a wonderful little comedy based off of a Jane Austen novel that captured a moment in time and hit the right chord with the right audience. It was so quotable! The cast was so cute! Everyone was very pleased. Then, they made it into a sitcom that was sad and painful and limped along for three years on ABC and the UPN until it was mercifully taken out back and put out of its misery. Or our misery. Whichever. But what was true for Clueless is true for your dating life: if something’s done, let it be done. Otherwise you’ll find yourself months after a breakup, clutching your ex's forgotten T-shirt and singing “All By Myself” to a bottle of wine. And no one wants that.