PSA: Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky are one of the most adorkably cute couples to hit our screens since Jughead and Betty became a 'thing' in Season One of Riverdale. (Don't @ me—I love teen TV. It's a thing.)
From Peter (Noah Centineo) going to the other side of town to buy Lara Jean (Lana Condor) her favourite "yoghurt drinks" to that kiss on the lacrosse pitch at the end of To All The Boys I've Loved Before, I have watched—and enjoyed watching—this movie more times than a 31-year-old woman should probably admit.
This time around in To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, there are no contracts, no fake relationships—yep, Covey and Kavinsky are the real deal. But with all the hand-holding, Valentine's Day gifts and staying up late to talk about sex (mainly because Lara Jean doesn't want to have sex and feels insecure that Peter and Gen apparently used to do it "lots" when they were together), real relationships also come with real feelings, and, sometimes, the very real potential of heartbreak.
Plus, anyone who remembers what it's like starting out with someone new knows that a real relationship can dredge up insecurities you never even knew existed—especially when there is an ever-present ex-girlfriend lurking at every turn...
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD...
OK, Gen (Emilija Baranac), Peter's ex-girlfriend, is literally EVERYWHERE throughout this movie, which in itself is a constant reminder to Lara Jean that while Peter is her first boyfriend, he's had all his 'firsts' with someone else.
Adding to that, Gen's plotline for the first half of the movie seems to be focused on bursting the Covey-Kavinsky love bubble; notably, she taunts Lara Jean about where Peter takes her on their first date, because of course that's where Peter used to take Gen.
"So, I saw on your Stories that you went to Cardonas this weekend? Classic Kavinsky. You know, by the time we broke up, I actually thought I was going to die if I had any more chile pepe. Pro tip: If you do want to fit into your jeans come summer, you should probably start ordering salad."
And surprise, surprise, people—in this iteration of TATBILB, Peter is STILL speaking to Gen, which he keeps secret from Lara Jean. And to make things worse, Lara Jean's friend, Christine (Madeleine Arthur), even shows her a picture of the two exes "looking close". (Side note: there actually may be a half-understandable reason why their hanging out—I'll leave that to you to decide.)
Then there's the whole Valentine's Day palava. All Peter's friends tell Lara Jean to expect big things come V-Day—namely an a cappella group singing to her in class, because Peter always gifted this to Gen. Lara Jean then decides to bake treats for Peter, and hand-craft him card—which, IMHO, is a work of art.
Instead, Lara Jean got a (OK, sweet) locket necklace from Peter, who also read Lara Jean a poem she assumed he had written for her. She was later crushed to find out that Peter's 'poem' was actually originally composed by Edgar Allan Poe.
And yes, while I'm well aware that this reads like your typical high-school movie plot (ahem, because it is), watching the Gen-Peter-Lara Jean drama unfold and Lara Jean feeling overshadowed by Peter's past relationship with Gen, I felt a little sick and, weirdly, almost nostalgic. Because I've been here before...
I'd just left high school and was seeing a guy who was a couple of years older than me. He was all the right things at the time; he'd leave notes in my car when he knew we were going to be apart for a few days. He'd hand-draw roses for me every month we were together to mark our 'month-iversary'. I still remember the smell of the lead pencil smudged in the creases of each folded-up love letter he gave me.
He was the Peter Kavinsky brand of dreamy (less jock, more surfer) and painfully unaware that getting texts from his ex would grind my gears.
He swore the texts were innocent, and that she would just message him about things they used to talk about because she was out with her friends, drunk. But it felt like she texted him all the time...
The term 'insecurity' in itself is defined as uncertainty or anxiety about one's self; a lack of confidence. I can't pinpoint exactly why these texts made me feel so insecure. I mean, just because you're seeing someone doesn't mean that their past, or your own, can be completely wiped from ever existing. The past ultimately shapes the present. The past can pave the way for your future decisions.
Context and circumstance aside, it can be tough, and emotionally taxing, trying to be the 'cool' girlfriend all the time. 'Cool' with your partner's ex still being in their orbit. 'Cool' with your boyfriend and their ex sharing the same friendship group. 'Cool' with hanging out at the same parties, acting like those side-eye glances don't exist.
In Peter's case, nothing overtly shady was going on. If anything, Peter's reasoning for talking to Gen in a way does play to his caring, thoughtful side as well as speak to what some of the hardships he has personally been through. Although there is definitely something to be said about your partner hanging out with or regularly texting their ex without telling you about it. Or keeping it a secret altogether.
I guess the thing same could be said for hanging out with a guy you used to like and not telling that person you have a boyfriend. Oh, and then not tell your actual boyfriend that you're seeing them as much as you are—hey, Lara Jean...