A Fact That Will Immediately Make You Feel Old
Jake Ryan from ‘Sixteen Candles’ turns what age????
I stopped on the third post of my Facebook feed. The meme was a picture of the character Jake Ryan in the movie Sixteen Candles leaning against a candy apple red Porsche 944, smiling while waving. Above the picture it said, “Jake Ryan turns 60 this year ... in case you haven’t felt betrayed enough by 2020.”
Instead of feeling betrayed, I smiled thinking of one of my favorite ’80s movies. And even better, the person who posted it was my BFF who watched it with me a gazillion times when we were teenagers.
The movie came out in 1984, but I didn’t first see it until I was around 16 years old in the late ’80s. I recorded it on a VCR, so I saw only the TV-edited version. On almost any given Saturday night my BFF would come over and I would ask her, “Which movie do you want to watch, Sixteen Candles or Dirty Dancing?”
Sometimes we watched both or just fast-forwarded to the last scene of either movie, depending on our mood. The picture from the Facebook feed is from the last scene when Jake is waiting for Samantha, who had a crush on him during the entire movie. We could relate to Samantha and hoped that one day our crushes would notice us, too. Besides the guys at school, we also had a serious crush on Jake.
We watched Sixteen Candles so many times that we memorized many of the lines. During school we would randomly quote a line and then break into laughter.
Thinking of these fond memories, I decided to watch the movie. The last time I saw it was in my parent’s basement — using the VCR TV-edited, cassette tape version with my BFF in the late ’80s. Streaming the movie, I soon realized I never saw the unedited version during which she drops the f-bomb saying, “I can’t believe it. They f@$#ing forgot my birthday.” I definitely never knew that was what she said when I quoted it with my BFF.
The first thing I noticed in the opening scene is that Samantha is talking on a rotary phone, twirling her finger around the cord. I totally did that all of the time! Throughout the movie I spotted lots of other ’80s references that I didn’t pay attention to before — since I was living it then and therefore they were not unusual. I had fun searching for ’80s items peppered throughout the flick — like in Samantha’s room she has a huge Culture Club poster, or the polo shirt worn by “Farmer Ted.” I loved the references to floppy discs and how expensive they are. I bet my teenage daughter would have no idea what a floppy disc is if I asked her. I also noted the cassette tape and the huge cordless phone with an equally huge antenna. I also doubt my daughter would know what antennae are, since you can’t even find them on cars anymore.
When Samantha’s dad makes a comment about how expensive the wedding costs at $7K, I laughed — thinking that would be a bargain now. When they drove off in the wood-paneled station wagon, I couldn’t help but think of a similar minivan my parents owned.
I was surprised at all the lines I knew before the characters said them. Especially at the ending, I remembered every line even though at least 30 years has passed since I last ran lines with my BFF.
There were a few cringeworthy moments that I hope would not have been included if the movie had been made in 2020. But overall, watching the movie transported me back to a time when I talked on corded phones for hours or watched TV-edited movies with my friends and didn’t worry about mortgages, parenting or pandemics.
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and tell my 16-year-old self that it all works out — that you meet your “Jake Ryan” and it’s even on your birthday (24th not 16th, and sorry to say he doesn’t sit cross-legged with you on a table telling you to make a wish). But then I know that I wouldn’t do that if I could, because that would mean I would miss out on these incredible memories I shared with my BFF.
It’s like that last line in another great ’80s movie, Stand by Me: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?” Except for me, it was 16.
The actor who played Jake Ryan, Michael Schoeffling, is turning 60 this year — but his character is still 18. I loved being able to go back to that time in my life, even if it was for only 90 minutes.
I still talk to my BFF, although it’s hard because we live far away from one another and life sometimes gets in the way. But after I watched the movie, we reminisced about why we loved it so much. It is an underdog story where the underdog “wins” in the end. We could relate to feeling like that underdog, but we were able to laugh about it and hoped that one day things might change.
So even though 2020 has been the year of being canceled, I’m glad that the actor who played Jake Ryan is turning 60 — otherwise I probably wouldn’t have talked to my BFF.
Happy birthday, Michael, and I hope all your wishes came true.
Cheryl Maguire, who has a master’s degree in counseling psychology, is married and the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Parents magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen magazine and many other publications. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05