Still Crying over ET after All These Years

This past Friday was my first Free Friday Flicks of the season. It’s a summer ritual for me involving outdoor movies at the Hatch Shell in Boston and a certain Effin’ Pink Blanket, which you can read about here, (Not Just any Pink Blanket). The movie was ET, which I first saw in a theatre on one of those pre-prom dates. I don’t know if kids do that any more, but that’s when you decide to go with someone to the prom and to show you aren’t just using each other for a prom date, you go out once before hand. Who said chivalry is dead? He was a senior and part of my extended group of friends who were mostly senior guys, and we were juniors girls who matched ourselves up with them. I got Charles, who was the smartest, nerdiest, pocket protector carrying guy in the group. I got a kick out of his super nerdiness and was good friends with his sister, so when he asked me to the prom and then to go see ET, I was happy to go. Also, it was the first and only date (outside of prom) I had in high school, so I thank Charles for that.

So we were watching the movie, and since I’m a natural crier anyway, when the movie gets to the part where ET is dying and dies (sorry for the spoiler…ha!), I’m sobbing away, feeling slightly foolish, but there is nothing I can do about my emotions. And Charles leans over and whispers. “He’s not really dead,” and sure enough his heart glows red, and the music swells, the brother hits his head on the ceiling jumping for joy, and away we go racing to send ET home. Charles neglected to tell me he’d seen the movie before. Which is all well and good, but I turned to look at the Charles through my bleary teary eyes, my nose snuffling, and felt like smacking him. “You didn’t think to tell me that before I started crying?” His grin made me even madder. Like he was enjoying it. And it’s not like he even tried to use that as an excuse to make me snuggle closer and get his hand up my shirt. It started to occur to me that the reason he didn’t have any dates was not because he was a super nerd, but because he might be a tad sadistic.

We did go to the prom and went out the day after with a  group of friends to hang out at a park, but the damage was done. Every time I looked at him, all I could think about was how he let me sob uncontrollably when he knew damn well ET was fine.

So fast forward 30-plus years later, and as I was gathering the Free Friday Flicks group, people’s reactions to ET were fascinating. A number of people hadn’t seen the movie in 30 years, which I think must have taken some effort–how could you not have stumbled on it on TV, or during cable’s “Steven Spielberg week” or “Kids and Aliens” movie week, or some such. Other friends had no interest at all (what kind of philistine doesn’t like kids and alien movies?) Some didn’t want to come because they don’t like to cry in public. To which I answered, I’ll be bawling my head off, so sit next to me and you’ll look normal.

And that’s the thing. ET dying and Eliot’s heartbreaking shouts of despair still make me cry. Not a little, pretty much as hard as I cried that first time. Even though now I know he’s going to be OK. Which makes me think, maybe I shouldn’t have been so hard on Charles after all. Even if he had told me, it wouldn’t have stopped me from crying. But would it may have kept me from being devastated. Or would it? I was 17 at the time. Even now, 30 years later people have all kinds of opinions about ET and Elliot. So who’s to know? 30 years later I’m sitting among my friends and with my son, out under the stars, laughing, talking and still being moved by an alien and his kid friend. I’m not phoning it in, I’m phoning home.

Photo credits: Wikipedia

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