Everything I know about being a femme I learned from “Clueless”


When I was 13 I went to see Clueless in the theater. I was ecstatic because 1.) it was PG-13 and I could get in without a parent, and 2.) I was going with Kristy Sanford, the coolest girl in school. We were in drama camp together that summer and she wore baby T’s and had boyfriends and didn’t care I was less cool than her. The movie blew my mind. Was this what high school was going to be like? I had so much to look forward to, never mind the fact I grew up in Michigan instead of Beverly Hills and no matter how badly I wanted one, I’d never have a computerized closet that helped me select the day’s outfit.


Clueless is 18 years old this week, making it older than Cher Horowitz herself. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen the movie, but every time I watch it as an adult, I find something I missed in it when I was a teen. Like I could never understand why Tai was so impressed by the fact they had coke in the cafeteria. And seriously, I had no idea Christian was gay the first few times I saw it. But that didn’t matter that much to me because I loved that Cher did not seem to care that much about guys. She refused all of their advances, for the most part and was not about to go for some high school boys who “look like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair—ew—and cover it up with a backwards cap and like, we’re expected to swoon? I don’t think so.”

I still want this outfit


Cher had a lot of things going on in her life outside of finding a boyfriend. She was studying for a driving test, trying to renegotiate her grades, and makeover Brittany Murphy (RIP). And she did it all while looking fierce. I tried to emulate some of Cher’s looks when junior high was back in session and knee-highs with argyle sweaters didn’t go over well with my peers as they did with hers. Still, I idolized Cher. I had posters of her on my wall, including one that explained the vocabulary from the film like “Whatever” and “Full of Monet.”

To me, Cher was the ultimate cool girl and I wanted to be just like her. I didn’t know I was gay yet, but I did know that I was super into Cher’s being friends with Tai and Dionne (I still get irrationally angry when I hear about Stacey Dash‘s being a huge conservative Republican. As if!) and how she had the best intentions. She was smarter than everyone gave her credit for, winning debates with well-reasoned arguments that I totally understood and knowing exactly how to play her lesbian gym teacher Ms. Stoger. (Complain about “evil males” who break your heart!) She was pop culture savvy and witty and got to go to cool parties where The Mighty Mighty Bosstones played (this was obviously way cooler in 1995).


Sure Cher ends up crushing on Christian before she finds out he’s gay, but that happened to me twice before I learned my sapphicism. The fact she ended up with her step-brother Josh didn’t matter much to me because at least he was well-read and into Radiohead. It could have been worse. And at that time in my life, I didn’t know that I’d rather see Cher and Tai share a moment than either of them with anyone else. (Although it would have been a one-night thing, I’m sure of it. They just aren’t each other’s types.)


So on Clueless‘s 18th anniversary, I just have to be thankful that I can still quote the film in its entirety and that some of it has seeped into my own vernacular. And for better or for worse, some of the lessons she tried to instill in her friends, I took to heart, even though Cher is a virgin who can’t drive. (That is still way harsh, Tai.)

But it’s OK to be a virgin, it’s OK to fail your driver’s test the first time (I did! And I didn’t freak.) It’s OK to crush on gay dudes and to fight with your friend and to not want to do everything that everyone expects you to do. And most of all it’s OK to be clueless sometimes, as long as you’re wearing your white collarless shirt from Fred Segal.

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