Like A Stepladder: How Can I Tell If I’m Really In Love?

Feelings and chemistry usually help.

Previously, On Allison’s Written Words…

The Month of Love is heavy with songs in the key of love (courtesy of Time Life Music) and licensed character Valentines any self-respecting nostalgic adult would have loved to receive from classmates.

How Will I Know? (Just feel it!)

Songs and Valentines, however, only say so much (as do sad songs and Sasson).  It is one thing to fall in love, but how do you know if you’re really in love?  Well, allow Respectable Sitcom Actors from 1986 (and a doctor) guide you toward knowing your feelings, and if they are legitimate, and not just high school crushes!

It’s a journey filled with jump cuts, a 1980s love song, Ted Danson trying to relate to teenagers, a girl who is “forever in the dark” about love, and Jason and Justine Bateman sitting a little too close to each other.

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They’re only sitting close because they’re co-hosting.  Don’t get the wrong idea.

Now, the fact that I’m only just getting around to seeing this in its entirety (I saw something about it on The Cinema Snob a few years ago) is surprising.  I love Jason Bateman (always have), so you think I would have tried to see How Can I Tell If I’m Really In Love? alot sooner.  Yeah, I’m pretty sure it has something to do with being weirded out by him sitting way too close to his sister in their segments.  Oh, and I only just tracked down the video on YouTube.

It Just Takes Time…And It Grows

Image: Cult Cinema Cavalcade

How Can I Tell If I’m Really In Love?  is a 1986 teaching tool video about love, sex, infatuation, and as the title states, how to tell when you really are in love.  Featuring explanations by real high school students from University High School in Los Angeles, California, the video is interspersed with a Sex Education lecture by psychologist and author Dr. Sol Gordon.

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The run time also includes quick clips featuring hosts Jason Bateman, his sister Justine Bateman (both relevant actors with sitcoms – Jason on Valerie, Justine on Family Ties), and for some reason, Ted Danson (who was playing the ultimate womanizer, Sam Malone, on Cheers at the time).

So many wardrobe changes.

I’m assuming Danson is supposed to be the Ultimate Voice of Reason, the adult of the situation.

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The video was clearly designed with teaching sexual education and having an age-appropriate relationship, with relatable people telling relatable stories, and discusses love, love versus sex, obsession, infatuation, maturity (and the opposite), pickup lines, what boys say, what girls say, and the moment you know you’re in love…and when you’re not.

The moral of the story about love: sex is never a test of love. And there’s more than one way to spell “Allison.”  The other ways are the wrong ways!

First He Didn’t Like My Hair, Then He Didn’t Like My Clothes…

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I’ve been down that road (as an adult!) and it isn’t appropriate or healthy then either!

Like the Wendy’s training videos I’ve discussed on Pop Culture Retrorama, the focus here is to teach without talking down on teenagers, but also make the teaching and topic interesting.  That means music video-style moments, fast-paced scenes (sometimes a little too fast-paced), and other teenagers.

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Including ones with mustaches.

Some of this works, and some of it, especially the quick segments featuring Danson and The Batemans, do not.  The segments featuring teenagers talking about love are interspersed with a lecture by Dr. Sol Gordon, a psychologist and renowned speaker, author, and sex educator.

And to explain Ted Danson’s appearance in this film, this fact on Internet Movie Database answers that question…

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Ted Danson participated in this film to fulfill community service obligations he earned due to a large number of unpaid traffic and parking fines incurred in the Los Angeles area. (Source)

Oh, so it was mandatory and obligatory and not…I’m here to be an adult who cares.  Gotcha.  Explains the phoned-in feel of his jump cut scenes.

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Although I’m convinced he’s reading from Sam Malone’s “Little Black Book,” which should be “Big Black Book.”

And then there’s the music.

At the time ” Holding Out For a Hero” was a popular song, and the music in this video certainly tries to capitalize on that popularity.  Songs about love, acronyms, love obsession, and an Electric Youth-style theme song about if you’re really in love populate certain scenes.  The acronym song is especially hilarious!

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Are you really “EZS,” Jason?

“I’m In The Dark!”

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While so much could be said about the production quality (specifically, the editing), the actual education scenes were excellent – I could have watched an entire video of Dr. Gordon discussing sexual education.  His delivery style is engaging, and clearly, the University High School students are enjoying what he has to say.  The topic of sexual education isn’t the easiest, and to try to discuss it with an audience that seems to know everything, it needs to be engaging and non-confrontational.

I was one of those know-it-all “cool phase” type of teenagers, though I paid attention during sexual education because, quite frankly, I didn’t know it all.  It went without saying in the Venezio house, but my mom reminded my brother and I the first time we participated in this type of education (done in fourth grade with a session for girls, and a session for boys, never co-ed) to be mature about it.  She reminded us that the other kids would laugh – I was told to do the opposite.  I didn’t need to be told, but I still listened.  And yes, I behaved maturely about it.  I had a great reputation as a student, and I would never have tried anything that would make the teachers think less of me.  The topic was part of growing up, so approaching it in a humorous manner is…not really growing up now, is it?

Although I will admit, the first time I ever laughed about something along these lines was a parody of it in National Lampoon’s Senior Trip, when the science class watches a “1950s” film about sex.  In actuality, it wasn’t even the subject material I laughed over – oh no.  I laughed over the girl (Suzie) calling her boyfriend “Fast Eddie.”

Upload via tankgirl6969 (the clip is at the very beginning of the video)

“Poor Suzie!”

But hey, the “I’ll pull out” excuse runs rampant in this, as it does in How Can I Tell If I’m Really In Love?.


I admit, if we had watched this in school, I would have been attentive.  I always was when I knew we were going to watch a movie, but a movie with Jason Bateman would have had my attention already.  But the style – conversational and not confrontational – certainly helps.  The cheesiest moments are well-intended, and the fact that Justine Bateman played a large roll in the production of this video (she was about 19-20 at the time – Jason was about 16-17 at the time) helped.  A younger person having a big hand in this type of production really helps.

Because let’s face it, if Ted Danson were teaching this alone, the whole thing would have had major creeper vibes.

Watching How Can I Tell If I’m Really In Love?

As I said, the only reason I didn’t see this sooner was because I couldn’t find it.  I’ve known it existed for a few years, but hadn’t been able to track it down.

Until today.

Cinema Snob’s Brad Jones did a great job capitalizing on the production values for this video, but until you’ve actually seen it without commentary, you will never totally understand its well-intended discussion of the subject matter intermingled with unintended awkwardness.

Upload via 80sVideoTrix

And Now, You!

Have you ever seen How Can I Tell If I’m Really In Love?, or any of the sexual education videos of this nature?  Do you feel videos like this were understandable/easy to relate to when you were this age, or are educational materials like this out of touch?

Aside from the obvious 1980s look, does the discussion hold up today, or have things changed too much since 1986?

Next week, one we’ll take one more shot at love for the Month of Love.

Jason and Justine Bateman will not return, and neither will Ted Danson.

*Breathes sigh of relief*

Have a great week!






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