We all learned valuable lessons from Napoleon Dynamite. For those who were privy to its influence, Napoleon taught those of us going through or into high school much needed survival skills: identifying dangerous animal hybrids, proper ways of feeding llamas, proper pronunciation of the word “quesadilla”, epic dance moves, and winning school elections. It was the ultimate deadpan experience. It was funny because it was stupid. We laughed with it because Napoleon just begged us to laugh at it. It seemed to mark the beginning of a new era of comedy; a discovery that would guide us to the hilarity and majesty of movies that were similarly awful yet not so relentlessly self-aware in their efforts. It was an instant cult classic, so much so that we failed to notice someone had already written the prologue to that chapter in cinematic history.
In 2003, a full year before Napoleon graced us with his dangit/friggin idiot/Gosh afro breathing presence in small-town Idaho, Tommy Wiseau unleashed an almost unnoticed cultural phenomenon upon the world; a cinematic achievement he’s credited with writing, directing, producing, and starring in. This Earth shattering movie? The Room. While many may have forgotten what that movie meant in the dozen years since its release, many- too many, even -still have no idea it exists.
It’s a complicated movie involving a successful banker named Johnny, played by the great Wiseau himself, who dotes on his wife, Lisa to a terrible fault. Lisa, in cruel soap opera fashion, and fueled entirely by sheer boredom, decides to cheat on Johnny and convince his family and friends that she’s the victim of domestic abuse. In the end, it’s all too much for Johnny, and with a gun in his mouth, he takes his own life.
Rich (or rife, who knows?) with the troubled tropes of true love, loyalty, passion, and cruelty, Wiseau’s vision also proves vitally educational. How ever he intended The Room to be viewed, Wiseaus’s story of love and betrayal serves as an almost instructional cautionary tale of adult love. So for those of you inept or unwilling to get that whole dating/love/hooking-up/struggling-with-commitment/call-me-maybe/Grown-Up/Adult Shit right, here are some life lessons handed down by Mr. Tommy Wiseau.
1. Learn How To Laugh at the Little Things
This is critical. Adulting is hard. Read a book about it. See? Even doing that is hard. Remember, you’re in the world of taxes, one night stands, screened calls, and text messages that just say “K”. Laugh a little. Or a lot. But not too much, in public at least.
2. Don’t Be Afraid of Talking About Sensitive Subjects
Remember when Mom and Dad said it’s rude to talk about these three things in public: Sex, Religion, and Politics? Yeah, Tommy Wiseau’s not your mom or dad- he could be! The Room showcases that kind of versatility, but here he’s saying, “It’s okay to talk about sex on the heels of money.” Sex goes with money doesn’t it?
3. A Little Class Goes A Long Way
Work is hard, and sometimes your first instinct while unwinding from a long day is to launch into a prolonged tirade of just how hard it was. But as important as it is to be able to discuss sensitive things like sex in a casual, unembarrassed way, it’s important to know how to maneuver around things like your income with a deft hand for well-paced conversation. Someone will ask you about the money you do or do not make. Those kinds of people are looking for an easy opening into complaining a little too much about their own lives. Nobody likes a braggart talking about crushing meetings, banging broads, or cashing checks. Those are the classless hacks that make life worth taking. Also, nobody has time for the all-too “Woe is Me and the Hand I’ve Been Dealt” piss and moan circus act in coffee shops. Those are the drama crazed sad saps that inspired the sincerity of YOLO.
4. Taunting is Still Sometimes Appropriate
There are two ways to take this lesson:
- Be courageous.
- Be cantankerous.
On the one hand, Tommy is here chiding you. He’s egging you on, daring you to be great. On the other hand, he’s just being an ass and letting you know that you can too! Staying classy is important here, though. Tommy Wiseau teaches patience, courage, passion, and humor. Becoming a successful adult is a tenuous balancing act of sarcasm and sincerity. Don’t overstep the line, but let your peers know you love them by jabbing them with the verbal elbow every once in a while.
5. Dating is All About Honesty
“What’s wrong, honey?” they ask. You’re cuddling on the couch. They’re sitting side-saddle. They have their legs draped over your lap. Their arms are wrapped around your neck, and it hurts. You want to tell them that this position in particular is really, really uncomfortable.
“Nothing,” you say.
Give a straightforward answer to these things. Sure, omitting seemingly meanless information is about as bad as straight-up lying in the big moments, but giving non-committal responses to simple questions that mean nothing are those volatile little gems that can go south in a hurry. So, if you’re tired, wasted, and in love, say exactly that. Don’t be a turd. Turds aren’t in relationships. They’re just pieces of poop on the sidewalk and at the end of special subway platforms.
6. Relationships are Tough
If you’re out of the casual dating phase and on to “something real”, then you know how hard it is. There’s the honeymooning/lots of sex part, then small fights, little lies, big fights, the long con lies that have the potential to end everything in a raucous fire, and ultimately, true, deep, deep love. But somewhere in between these phases of love, there’s a blindness. You might find yourself in one of those “I’m Just Happy To Not Be Sleeping Alone” kind of phases. If that’s the case, your motives are insincere. You might find yourself in a toxic situation and not even realize how long you’ve been there. Sometimes your partner’s just tearing you apart. You have feelings. Articulate. Enunciate. Speak.
7. Learn Money Things
Taxes. Bills. Paychecks. Direct deposit. Bank stuff. Sometimes the adult world is full of more numbers than you care to count. It costs stuff. When you were little you might have stuck your tongue out at the world and said, “It’s a free country!” But Adult you understands why some kids get locked in cars. Shopping doesn’t have to be one of those points of stress. You fight the fights you can win, and Tommy Wiseau makes shopping look easy. Because it is easy. I mean, really. Look at how easy transactions are because you learned money things!
8. Sometimes You Cook, Sometimes You Don’t
When you learn money things, you need to learn how to cook. It’s something special you should do from time to time, not just for your partner, but for yourself. Learning to cook is one of those defining building blocks of being an adult. Even the baby steps: boiling water, not burning toast, completely thawing chicken, checking to see if your milk is expired before you dump grossness into your last bowl of cereal etc. It takes time, though, and the beautiful thing about domesticity is that there’s room to improvise. Remember, Tommy Wiseau’s not your mom. He’s just a friendly, unwitting mentor to help you in your time of need. He knows how busy you are and that sometimes you’re just too tired to cook. Nobody’s going to berate you if you don’t want to. Sometimes it’s really okay for you to just order pizza.
9. Pet Names Are Cute
Baby. Honey. Lovie. Sugar Plum/Butt/Tits/Lips etc. Dating requires an anthropological approach to your significant other. You establish your own culture. You synch your appetites and palate to each other’s needs. You have a separate language. Tommy’s lesson here is not to force it. Lisa does, and it kind of sounds miserable. Fitting, because she’s a vapid succubus who breaks his heart, so don’t sweat finding or forcing a pet name upon your partner. At some point it’ll just happen. The words will come out, and you’ll have yourself a cute moniker, and when it happens, just go with it. Make it unique, or don’t, but here’s also a friendly reminder to keep it in the tribe. Don’t overuse it, especially in public. Your single friends might poison your drinks if you go entire nights at the bar addressing each other only as “Baby”.
10. Know Your Own Limits When It Comes to Intimacy
Everyone wants a little excitement in the bedroom, but know the boundaries, both yours and your partners. Maybe you or they are into something a little weird. Who knows? While nobody else in the world really needs to, it’s important that you have these discussions with your partner. Fooling around in a Shake Shack bathroom might either be off limits or on point. Letting your creepy, teenage neighbor watch is just the ticket. Three might be just right, and four might be the crowd. Making a sex-tape might be old hat, a bowel movement of a Jason Segel movie, or just the right amount of spice for your partner, but you won’t know until you talk it out. Don’t be crass. Be firm. Be mature. Be an adult.
11. Read Your Partner
Listen to them. Understand their needs and act accordingly. Be accommodating, but don’t get crazy with it. Make sure they feel wanted without compromising too much in the process. The key to a successful adult relationship is a mutual understanding of the necessary levels of affection. Maybe they like getting flowers. Maybe they like coming home and finding you naked with a medley of suggestive fruits on display. Maybe they just need a hug. Learn to recognize what they need.
12. Read Your Environment
It’s important to know your partner- what they like, what they hate, their middle name, allergies, severe phobias, medical history etc. It’s more important to know your own surroundings. Pay attention to context. Pick up on social cues. If you have secrets, don’t just shout them out in the open. Don’t be asinine unless the moment calls for it. Don’t threaten people’s lives within earshot of policemen. Don’t yell fire in movie theaters, subways, elevators, or Elementary Schools. Be cautious.
13. Refine Your Listening Skills
A lot of what dating and adulting are about is tact. You need to develop individual opinions, yes, but you need to be able to articulate in ways that aren’t abrasive or off-putting. The same goes for listening. Some people just can’t tell a good story. Some people tell really, really bad jokes. If they’re in bad taste, let em’ have it, but if they’re just struggling to deliver a good punch line, listen with compassion. Tommy Wiseau gives you a textbook example of how to do that, and here’s how it breaks down:
- Listen like you care.
- Give them the reaction you think they want.
- If it’s supposed to be funny, laugh like it actually is.
- Use their name in your reaction to draw them in on a very personal level.
- If it requires in-depth critiques and you’re at a loss, be very broad with your reaction.
Remember, a little class goes a long way. That can’t be stressed enough. Tommy Wiseau is a classy cat. Sometimes his emotions get the better of him, but for the most part he knows how to maintain composure. You would do well for yourself to do the same.
14. Never Give Up
Life can suck sometimes. Adulting is hard, but suicide, as we eventually learn from Johnny’s final moments, isn’t the answer. Your life is going to be hard. People will break your heart, they will question your values, they will try to break you down. At one point or another, we all experience some semblance of petty bullying, gut wrenching snark, or just trite vindictiveness. You Only Live Once. Don’t let other people get the better of you. Persevere.
“Wait, this sounds a lot like Tommy Wiseau’s first lesson,” you’re thinking.
You might be on to something. You might be learning. That’s good. You’re recognizing that life is full of patterns and redundancies. It’s full of hardship and chaos and just utter bullshit that you can’t even…
…deal with. See? Did you think that you “Couldn’t even?” No, you didn’t. Because you’re not 13-years old anymore. You’re an adult now.
Much like The Room, adulthood and the journey into it, is a culmination of circumstances both comic and tragic that challenge your very existence. Those challenges make us who we are, even when we fail to excel beyond them. Sometimes the grind is so comically heavy that we have no choice but to laugh our own asses out of the room. Sometimes it’s great; sometimes it’s just painful and effing awful, sometimes it’s so bad it’s good. Thank God you have Tommy Wiseau here to guide you through it all.