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The Notebook: 10 unrealistic love lessons we learned watching Nicholas Sparks films

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Kayleigh Dray
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The Notebook – starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling

The Notebook – starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling – may celebrate its 15th anniversary this week, but the love story remains as timeless as ever (“if you’re a bird, I’m a bird,” and all that). That doesn’t mean, though, that the Nicholas Sparks adaptation is at all realistic…

“It wasn’t over. It still isn’t over.”

On 25 June 2005, The Notebook hit cinemas – and it has, ever since, been held up as one of the greatest romantic movies of our time. That’s a whopping 15 years of Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) being held up by fans as #relationshipgoals. 15 years of passionate kisses in the rain. 15 years of “if you’re a bird, I’m a bird”. And 15 years of tears over that bittersweet ending (and no, we are not talking about that controversial alternate ending on Netflix).

It is the love film to end all love films, essentially. Or so we thought until recently, when a psychotherapist urged fans to stop watching The Notebook.

“If you believe in [The Notebook’s love story], you start to think, ‘I shouldn’t settle for less’,” insisted Gurpreet Singh. “But most average couples are nothing like that. We are humans, we are fallible. Love is imperfect because we are.”

Well, quite. But nobody – and I mean nobody – has ever praised The Notebook for being realistic.

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Much like Safe Haven and A Walk To Remember, The Notebook was adapted into a movie from one of Nicholas Sparks’ many, many romantic novels – not one of which is realistic. In fact, all of Sparks’ works peddle the myth of romantic perfection in a big way.

Despite this (or perhaps because of this), the films continue to be wildly popular, with many of us dutifully heading off to the cinema to marvel at Sparks’ romantic prowess. Because… because he just gets it, doesn’t he? He just understands the intricacies and complexities of love like nobody else on this planet.

With that in mind, here are the 10 life lessons we learned watching his stories unfold on the silver screen…

1) Rain is sexy

The Notebook promised us that rain is sexy. It promised us. Hell, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams managed to make it seem as if their wet clothes had the same effect as popping a couple of Viagra pills – but they were, of course, lying (well, acting). 

Because we’ve done our research, you see. And rain is actually cold and wet… the bad kind of wet. It ruins hairstyles, makes clothes itchy and causes a strange smell of damp to linger about you wherever you go. Plus there’s the very real fear that you could drown if you attempt to open-mouth kiss during a very heavy rainstorm.

That didn’t stop us falling in love with the idea of a watery kiss. Indeed, Gosling and McAdams recreated — and further immortalised — their characters’ famous smooch at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, when they won the trophy for best kiss. 

Check it out:

“It was my pleasure,” Gosling said as he accepted award.

2) … but dead spouses are sexier

According to Sparks, women find men with dead spouses sexy. Overwhelmingly sexy. So sexy that, upon hearing about said dead spouse, we want nothing more than to throw ourselves at them and comfort them by pressing all of our intimate body parts against their… well, against their most intimate body parts.

Hmm.

Personally, we’re more likely to make someone a cuppa and help them talk through their feelings when they drop the “my life partner just died” bombshell on us, but maybe we’re in the minority here?

3) Cities are where romance goes to die

Heaven really is a place on earth, and it’s smack bang in the middle of rural America. Think about it; Message in a Bottle is set in Cape Cod, The Last Song plants its flag in Georgia, The Longest Ride gallops through Asheville, The Notebook is all about the austere coastal beauty of North Carolina, and both The Lucky One and The Best of Me make their home in Missouri.

What does this teach us?

That’s right, y’all; love can only ever hope to flourish in the countryside. After all, without a plethora of amber sunsets and lakes to stare at moodily as we contemplate our relationship, we’re doomed to spend our lives alone. 

4) Letters are the key to our hearts… and our underwear

Forget sexts, phone calls, and, you know, actual face-to-face conversations with your beloved; the only way a relationship is going to work is if one or both of you vomits your feelings out onto a sheet of paper.

It is for this reason that a handwritten letter probably beats oysters and chilies to the number one spot on the aphrodisiac top 10 lists. Just one whiff of that ink and, all of a sudden, you’re halfway towards the best orgasm of your life.

5) … but words are overrated

Why waste time with words when you can communicate all those years of love, and longing, and pent-up frustration with a single look

6) Material goods are key to long-lasting love

… but it only counts if he made it with his own rough-skinned hands, okay? Think Josh Duhamel in Safe Haven, sweetly crafting a bicycle for Julianne Hough. Which seems like a pretty big deal, until you remember that Ryan Gosling built Rachel McAdams a house in The Notebook.

Yup, we’re not kidding; he built her an actual house – despite the fact that she had seemingly ignored every single one of his pleading letters (“I wrote you every day for a year”) and was happily engaged to someone else at the time.

Don’t knock him, though, because it 100% worked. So, the next time your relationship is on the rocks, don’t say sorry with words – say it with property.

7) No summer romance is ever truly over

You may have been young, you may have been naïve, you may have dated for a single summer before moving away for good… but it’s not over. Hell, you may have spent five years apart, and settled down with someone else in that time, but it STILL isn’t over.

Why? Well, firstly because you’re only ever allowed one meaningful relationship in your life. And, secondly, because he probably wrote you letters every single day, then stashed them lovingly away in a box, so that he could take them out and read them and think about all the times you shared. Remember, like the time you ate an ice cream together? That was nice. Or the time you sad “f**k it!” to personal safety and lay down in the middle of a country road? Also nice.

So many times. You had so many times and you just don’t realise it.

8) Keep things as PG as possible

Yes, you’re going to want to have sex at some point (because, let’s face it, this is a Sparks movie), but try to keep any sordid fetishes out of it, okay?

Gentle back caressing? Yes. Stroking a strand of hair away from their face? Obviously. Pressing them gently up against a wall? Go for it.

Spanking, roleplay, dirty talk, oral sex, and the like? No, nay, and never. Don’t even think about it, or you’ll be written out of the story faster than you can say “crotchless knickers”.

9) Long walks = foreplay

To be fair to Sparks, we agree with him on this one; rambles through the countryside always boost our mood. We wouldn’t go so far as to say that all woodland paths lead to Orgasm Central, but hey, maybe we just haven’t had that (wait for it) ‘walk to remember’ yet.

10) Ghosts make great matchmakers

If you’re really struggling to find The One, try to befriend your friendly neighbourhood ghost (this genuinely happens in Safe Haven, we swear to god).

Anyway, Casper will point you in the direction of a sensitive, shirtless, widower – who will undoubtedly prove to be good with his hands. Winner. 

Images: New Line Cinema

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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