In the summer of 1986, I was engaged to Mitch who was in the Marine Corps. My best friend at the time, Lisa, was dating a guy who was in the Army (for the life of me, I can’t remember his name). We double-dated a lot, and the guys would rib each other good-naturedly about each other’s military branch whenever we were together.
So of course when Top Gun came out, the guys wanted to see it. It didn’t matter that the movie wasn’t about the Marines or the Army; it had cool planes, male bonding and Kelly McGillis. But Top Gun wasn’t just for the guys; Lisa and I got to see Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer with their shirts off during a volleyball game scene.
Our good times, though, were overshadowed by my realization that I did NOT want to get married. I was only 20 years old – what was I thinking? But my parents had taken out a freaking loan for this wedding and I was trapped. My mom was spending every spare minute of the day planning this thing. I went along with it because I wanted to be on my own.
Marybeth and I had planned to get an apartment together, but then she ran off to the circus. Mitch was the first guy to ask me to marry him, and I said yes without weighing the consequences. Don’t ask me why I didn’t just get my own place; common sense wasn’t my strong suit at that age. I thought I couldn’t handle living alone.
But still, I was always able to pull a Scarlett O’Hara and “think about that tomorrow” so that I could have fun. Lisa and I worked together, so we’d have lunch and gush about our guys. Lisa was completely NUTS for the love song in Top Gun, “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin. Me? I thought Berlin sold out. From “Sex – I’m A…” and “Masquerade” to that crap? Please. But I’ve never been one for sappy stuff.
I liked the “Great Balls of Fire” scene myself. I liked Goose much better than Maverick, and the relationship between Goose and his wife was real, something I was hoping for myself someday. Top Gun made being a military wife seem attractive, although the thought of being a widow scared me. But Mitch was just a grunt, and there were no conflicts at the time. His TDY was right in DC with the Marine Corps Color Guard and part of the Silent Drill Team, which was so cool to me.
My grandmother always said I fell in love with the uniform, not the man. She was very wise. I just didn’t realize it at the time.
So Top Gun gave me a pretty unrealistic view of what military life was really like, but it sure was a fantastic movie. The four of us had a lot of good times until Lisa and her guy broke up dramatically at a party we went to. Lisa went out with a few of Mitch’s friends until she met her future husband Richard, another Army guy.
Top Gun is being re-released to the movie theaters soon, and I’m probably going to go see it. My oldest daughter recently joined the Navy, so it would be fun to see it with her. If Lisa and I were still in touch, it would really be neat to see it with her. We were so young and so ridiculously into the military guys. We both became military wives, but our lives took completely separate paths. I wish we were still in touch because I’d love to know how she’s doing now.
And of course, we all know that Tom Cruise is completely insane, which is too bad. He’s not much of an actor , but he sure is pretty to look at.
So go see Top Gun when it comes back out in the theater, but do yourself a favor – listen to Jerry Lee Lewis sing “Great Balls of Fire” on the way to the movie instead of “Take My Breath Away.”
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