Suede Jackets, Wine Stains And A Heart Still Broken


Merlot may have stained Cindy Mancini’s suede outfit in Can’t Buy Me Love, but it was her beauty that stained my heart.

1987. The year I began to truly understand the world and all of its wonders. The year I awoke from an adolescent slumber to understand that nothing but possibilities await the hopeful spirit. The year I discovered my heart’s expansive, never-ending capacity for love. The year I found Cindy Mancini.

To most, Cindy Mancini was simply a fictional character from the film Can’t Buy Me Love. They would be wrong. In truth, she was irrefutable proof that hopeless dorks had a chance to win the love of the head cheerleader—as long as they could afford to buy her a $1,000 suede outfit after a classmate spilled red wine on her mother’s outfit at a super lame high school party. As an awkward 135-pound eighth grader with tinted prescription glasses and a proclivity for wearing leather ties to junior high dances, even the smallest bit of hope can buoy you for years to come.

I first stumbled upon Cindy and Can’t Buy Me Love during one of those free HBO weekends your cable company would occasionally throw your way in an attempt to bamboozle you into subscribing. I loved the movie from the get-go, bootlegging it on an old VHS tape and watching with an insane regularity only a sappy, RomCom-addicted loser could understand.

Immediately enamored by the story of Ronald “Ronnie” Miller’s masterful journey from high school nobody to popular man whore (and eventually back to nobody), I began scripting out my carbon-copied ascension into the rarefied air of popularity and female admiration. The plan was simple: mirror every last detail of Ronald’s path to greatness and reap the rewards.

Of course, there were more than a few sticky details, chiefly of which were:

  • Ronald had $1,000 with which he could bail out Cindy after her suede outfit debacle. Unfortunately, at age 13, I was broke, lazy and a terrible saver of what little money I did have. If a girl was to need rescuing after a suede-stain incident, there was no way I’d have the resources to help. Sure, I could sell off the Stray Cats cassettes I owned as a result of my mom joining the Columbia House Record Club, but that wouldn’t even pay for a single fringe on Cindy’s suede jacket. My resources were simply too limited.
  • It only took a little hair mousse and some ripped-off sleeves to trick Ronald’s classmates into believing he was cool. Alas, in 1987, there were no quick fixes in the hair or physique departments for me. To say I could be classed up by such parlor tricks would be disingenuous to the public at-large. In reality, in the halls of my junior high school, the very possibility of me ripping off the sleeves of my shirt caused several girls to request forced sterilization from the school nurse.
  • That motherfucker Ronald could dance. Despite his brother Chucky’s attempts to screw him over with some American Bandstand trickery, Ronald took what should’ve been a reputation-killing moment (him breaking out the African Anteater Ritual at a school dance) into a panty-dropping display of dance floor genius. No such moves existed for this rhythym-less buffoon, I’m afraid. Plus, as I mentioned, I wore leather ties to my dances. Who the hell does that?

With those irrefutable roadblocks planted firmly in my way, I did what most teenagers would do—I embraced the coward inside me and vowed to remain socially awkward, never take any chances that might result in romantic failure, and simply wait for once-in-a-lifetime love to come find me.

As with most things, though, time has a way of transforming our broken childhood fantasies into yesterday’s foggy memories. As the years passed, my love for Cindy Mancini slowly receded into the furthest reaches of my soul—locked away in an impregnable safe made of passion, guarded by a fire-breathing dragon born of hope, and only to be found with a map penned with ink made of my tears.

Now, five months after the untimely death of Amanda Peterson, the actress who so eloquently portrayed Cindy Mancini on the big screen, I continue to struggle to find closure with the possibility that certain ships have sailed—and with them, many of my most otherworldly hopes and dreams.

Sure, there is still a possibility that I might someday find a woman to bribe into loving me, but the chances that she will look even half as good in a suede-fringed outfit are astronomical at best. Until that day arrives, I will have to nourish my broken heart with a line from Cindy’s famous poem from Can’t Buy Me Love:

“Someday my wish is for him to hold me in his arms,
in a sea of deep blue,
together at last, together as two.”

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