Chick flicks. We ladies love 'em. 'Cause we're chicks. You on the other hand, are not. But that doesn't mean you can't learn a thing or two from the time spent with the movies we know and love (and love and love, because we'll watch them over and over—think of them as our Caddyshack). So here's your opportunity to get inside the female psyche; to discover what makes us tick instead of rolling your eyes and wishing you'd sprung for that glow-in-the-dark watch. If you pick up these ten lessons, you just might begin to understand us.
Thelma & Louise
Two best friends on a weekend road trip in a fabulous convertible. Of course, there's the nasty business of a drunken shooting, which turns the story into a tale of two best friends on a weekend road trip in a fabulous convertible with cops chasing after them. They're screwed. They get all their money stolen (after sex with a young Brad Pitt, which, some would say, is a pretty good trade-off). They have no place to go. But they have each other. And that's what we love about this movie—they're best friends who would do anything for each other, even kill a man. Even floor the gas pedal and drive off a cliff into the Grand Canyon, if it meant sticking together. I'm not saying we'd choose death over the other options, say a cocktail and dinner, but I am saying that we need our Thelmas and Louises.
Lesson 1: Encourage a girl's night out, remind us that it's been too long since we spent time with our friends. It's nice to know you understand that it's the Thelmas and Louises who keep us sane.
When Harry Met Sally
Can men and women be just friends? Harry and Sally attempt to answer that question, but you know what? We really don't care. When we're watching Harry and Sally we're more fascinated by their friendship than whether their relationship will develop into more. I don't know a single woman who ever wanted to watch Harry and Sally wake up in a pile of rumpled sheets any sooner than they do. Because they actually like each other. And not because he's taking her on wildly fabulous dates and she's answering the door wearing Victoria's Secret lingerie. The whole dating and romance thing is easy. Who wouldn't adore someone who's always putting his best foot forward? It's the friendship thing that's hard, the everyday things that wear us down. Harry and Sally eat bagels; they help friends move. Harry and Sally aren't a love story, they're a like story. We watch Harry and Sally because we want to believe that it's possible to know someone's good and bad and still like them.
Lesson 2: Never underestimate how much we want to be liked, not just because we're your girlfriend or wife but because you actually like hanging out with us.
She's a hooker. He's just a guy looking to pay someone for sex. Looks good on a movie poster, not so much in real life. Because let's be honest, not many women dream about a guy stuffing hundred dollar bills into their tacky patent leather thigh-high boots, even if the guy does look like Richard Gere. So what is it about Pretty Woman that makes women love this movie, a movie about a hooker? Actually it's the fact that she is a hooker. Well, not that she sells herself for sex, but that she makes really, really bad decisions. She dresses bad. She has no manners. She doesn't know how to act in public. She should be unlovable. But Pretty Woman gives us hope that even when we're feeling our most unlovable, we're actually not.
How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days
Competition between women gets a lot of play these days. We're expected to compete for jobs and men, attention and face time. Sadly, the term catfight has become a sort of rallying cheer and a reality TV staple. But in this movie the truth comes out—women enjoy a little competition with the opposite sex. We love watching Kate Hudson one up Matthew McConaughey, how she doesn't shrink from the challenge but instead embraces the opportunity to do one better.
Lesson 4: Competition can be a turn on. It gets our blood pumping. It's fun.
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four pretty cakes and death, oh my. This is a movie where our two lovely main characters don't walk down the aisle and exchange glimmering rings. In fact, they gag at the idea. And we find that way cooler than the elaborate ceremonies and over the top receptions they attend. We love that they don't discover that they're soul mates and gallop off into the distance. Instead they become acquainted with one another but it never goes anywhere. They get together with other people. They go on with their lives. For years. And when the time is right, when they're finally sort of okay with who they are and accept that life is fine without someone else, they get together.
Lesson 5: It's all about timing. We like the idea that things happen for a reason.
They're total opposites who meet as young girls. Their lives take different paths but they still manage to stay connected. They marry, have careers, and grow up. Then one of them gets terminally ill and dies. And we cry. A lot. It's so sad!! Why do we torture ourselves by watching Beaches? Believe it or not, we want to feel as bad as Bette Midler's character does when she loses her best friend. We want to feel the loss and the pain. Not because we're masochists but because we want what Bette had. Something real and meaningful. Something to be missed. Yeah, it sucks to feel that bad. But there's something worse: never knowing what it's like to have something so valuable to begin with.
Lesson 6: Don't begrudge us a weep fest. Be glad we recognize that something worth having is something worth missing.
Couple meets. Couple separates. Couple reunites. Couple grows old together. Woman starts to lose her memory. Woman enters nursing home. Man is by her side. Man tells her stories about when they met, reciting every detail, every moment, every feeling he had. Man curls up with woman and they die in one another's arms. Okay, rewind. Remember that part about how he could recite every detail of their meeting? How he recalled what she looked like and how he felt so many years ago? And this is an old guy we're talking about, and yet he manages to remember. Well, we want that.
Lesson 7: We want you to know what was on the radio the first time we kissed, remember what we were wearing when you knew we were the one. It's not hard. Just pay attention. And write it down if you have to. But care enough about those moments to store them in your memory and let us have a peek of them every once in a while. It makes us feel like those moments mattered to you, too.
Sex and the City: The Movie
Four best friends. Fabulous clothes. Amazing shoes. Awesome apartments. Enviable jobs. And they're still miserable. Any idea how good that makes us feel? Sex and the City reminds us that it's never going to be perfect. No matter how beautiful we make our lives on the outside. Change is inevitable. People change. Families change. Jobs change. We'll have family issues and relationship problems and job stresses and life altering decisions. And it won't be easy. No matter how beautiful the shoes on our feet. The only thing that really makes a difference? The people with whom we choose to spend our time. The rest is just the icing on the cake. We know that.
Lesson 8: Though it may not look like it, underneath all that superficiality there's a real connection that exists in certain friendships. Still, don't hate us if we really, really like icing.
We get it. Someday we'll be old(er). And all our grand plans may not have come to fruition. We might wake up and ask ourselves how we got where we are, and where the time went. But this movie actually suggests that we might really get better as we get older. Not just wiser, but funnier. And savvier. And even hotter, in a confident, "I don't care what anyone else thinks" sort of way. But it gets better!
Lesson 9: There might actually be someone who appreciates the older, funnier, smarter us. They won't be yearning for the girl who could wear a tank top without a bra. They won't stare into our eyes and think maybe Botox isn't such a bad idea after all. We want to believe that we'll be better than ever. And we want to believe you'll think that, too.
I wish I could say that if you liked Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse, you'll love him in Dirty Dancing. But I can't. The only similarity is Swayze, who happens to be hot and sexy in both. Which probably makes you uncomfortable, but at least you can rest assured that this is one chick flick starring a real man. Ever see Billy Crystal, shirtless and sweaty, break up a bar fight and throw a chair across a room? You get my point. Dirty Dancing brings together sheltered, idealistic suburban girl Baby with wrong-side-of-the-tracks dance instructor, Johnny. This movie has it all: Class warfare, the haves versus the have-nots, there's even a secret abortion,and dancing to boot! What makes women love this movie, though, is the unlikely attraction between a beefy Patrick Swayze and a puny, frizzy haired Jennifer Grey, pre-nose job. She's just so not his type. And then the other differences pile on: She's rich, he's poor; she's smart, he's, well, gorgeous. He can dance, she can't. And yet, he not only falls in love with her, but he changes—yes, a woman can change a man—from cynical angry dude to sensitive softie. The transformation is so charming, so poignant, that you just keep falling in love with Patrick over and over. And you want to high-five Baby for scoring the hottie, and leaving the dorky Yale dude behind.
Lesson 10: For all of us with two left feet and a slightly large nose (but a great personality!), we watch the movie believing that we can get just about any guy we want. Let us have our fantasies.
Jennifer O'Connell is the Boston-based writer of several books and novels, including Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume and The Divorced Girls Society. She recently co-founded Intimate Surprises, an intimate subscription service for couples.