“How Do You Know?” is a 2010 romantic comedy starring Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon with Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson.
Paul Rudd’s character, George, is trying to decide whether to go to prison for his dad (Jack Nicholson). To decide, he needs to find out whether the girl he loves Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) would rather be with Matty (Owen Wilson), who she’s currently with, or him. So, he gifts Lisa Play-Doh for her birthday. Play-Doh? Not exactly the diamonds or new puppy you were hoping for, but romantic nonetheless with a little (necessary) explanation. George says, “This is only half the gift. It doesn’t work without the story,” and he tells the story of how Play-Doh came to exist.
The “Play-Doh” that’s fun to play with and oddly satisfying to squish started as a pliable, putty-like substance concocted by Noah McVicker of Cincinnati-based soap manufacturer Kutol Products. The putty was initially intended to clean coal residue from wallpaper.
After the transition to natural gas and washable vinyl-based wallpaper, demand for the cleaning putty tanked. McVicker’s nephew, Joe McVicker, joined Kutol to save the company from bankruptcy.
Kay Zufall, Joe’s sister-in-law, was a nursery school teacher whose students loved creating art projects with the wallpaper cleaning putty. She convinced Noah and Joe to manufacture it as a child’s toy.
Joe and Noah wanted to call it “Rainbow Modeling Compound.” Kay Zufall and her husband came up with the name Play-Doh. Good move, Kay.
Back to the RomCom. George tells Lisa, “I have kept [this Play-Doh] for a long time as proof that we are just one small adjustment away from making our lives work.”
For Lisa, this small adjustment was to break up with Matty and fall in love with George.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed about the things you need to do to move forward and equally, if not more, overwhelmed when you don’t even know what (where or who) “forward” is. By framing it as “one small adjustment,” moving forward is less intimidating.