Versions of this post lived in my Drafts folder a long time. Writing about one’s childhood crushes is multiply fraught. The topic of sexual attraction is challenging, especially these days as we try to evolve our attitudes about it. Getting personal skates the line between recording my scrawl and TMI. The risk of objectification is also a problem.
But those childhood crushes were formative and abiding in my youth. They began at an early age, a long bridge to when I started dating (real beats imaginary every time). Honesty to my past seems to demand I include some mention of them in any account of my life.
So this is to toast those early loves (real and imagined).
My marriage turned out to be the end of a long road that, as you’ll see, began when I was in kindergarten. There are many ghosts standing along the mile markers of that road. After the divorce I didn’t have it in me to add more. (I’m increasingly just done with drama.)
[One problem I have with this post is that it feels self-indulgent AF. My second-guessing self has insisted we scrap it, but I’ve long wanted to make an offering to those heartbeats of my past.]
[[And with the road is comfortably behind me, so why disturb ghosts? But, ah, ha, says my ever argumentative self, that’s exactly why it ought to be recorded. Isn’t that the point here? Then the rascal goes on to point out that the photo of Judy Robinson is one of the last unused images from my possible headers folder, and what can I say?]]
Okay, fine. I try to do what the voices tell me to.
It does begin with my kindergarten teacher. (Her name is lost in the mist of memory.) I do remember I dreamed about being at the beach and saving her from drowning.
Which is odd on a couple of levels. I didn’t learn to swim until many years later. (Third grade, maybe? I was old enough to take the city bus to the YMCA with my same-aged cousin. Back then kids had way more latitude and freedom.)
So saving her from drowning is odd enough, but so is the whole beach scene. At that point we lived in New York city, and my parents rarely went to the beach (they were transplanted Midwesterners and didn’t know from the ocean). The one time I do recall the beach I was taken by a friend’s family.
And they lost me in the crowd. Or maybe I lost myself.
I wandered around checking out stuff. (I’ve always lived a bit inside my own head.) At some point someone identified I was unaccompanied and took me to a “lost and found” playground until someone would claim me. As I recall, I was fine with it all; a playground and new kids to play with. (Again, way different time!)
But how did that become a dream about saving my kindergarten teacher from drowning? Very odd; a long standing puzzle. That I remember the beach incident means it impressed me, although I have no memory of being upset. More that it was interesting and new.
That dream makes it obvious I had a crush on my teacher. I still remember fragments of the dream (and the beach). It’s classic hero-saving-the-damsel.
[Although, at this point it’s more remembering remembering. The actual memories well over-written by “remember the time” memories.]
Since then, I’ve loved, liked, lusted after, cherished, befriended, respected, worked with, worked for, fought with, played with, disappointed, delighted, angered, pleased, dined with, dated, lived with, and even married, women. (Well, one woman in the last case.)
Although I did “marry” the fair-haired Michelle in 2nd grade. We exchanged (Cracker Jack) rings. She used the one I gave her in an art project — a caterpillar made from an egg carton segment. I was so proud. But it wasn’t serious. We’d both moved on by 3rd grade. (She was the first age appropriate crush; it turned out I kinda had a thing for older women.)
In 6th grade there was the dark-haired Jan. I remember her because she was a pre-echo of my eventual high school girlfriend, also Jan (also dark-haired). That wasn’t until we moved to California. Grade school Jan was just a classmate I had a crush on.
There were two neighbors I spent time with: Wendy and Julie. I used to play house with Wendy, but it was with Julie I had my first sexual experience (which is all I’ll say about that). Julie was my sister’s friend, so she used to come over to our house a lot. She’s the first person I ever called my girlfriend or who said I was her boyfriend.
These were my grade school years in Minnesota. I also had a terrible crush on both my college-aged baby sitters, Peggy and Pam. My parents traveled sometimes, so whoever it was would spend several days with us. I was absolutely head-over-heels in love with Peggy.
I think a lot of my central attractor is based on her. She was smart, capable, outspoken, kind of a jock, a good leader. Also black hair and a strong face. Both grade school Jan and high school Jan kinda resembled her.
A high point of my childhood experiences with the opposite sex was selling Peggy on the (untrue) idea that my mom always kissed me (on the lips!) before I went to school, so… I was in heaven that day.
When I returned to Minnesota in the late 1980s I happened to run into her (at a memorial for my uncle, so not otherwise a joyous occasion). I told her about the crush and the kiss. She was surprised and flattered. (And I was still totally crushing, but she was married.)
I’m glad she was surprised. Youth can be embarrassingly transparent about crushes. (It’s kind of cool to find out you were as slick as you thought you were.)
We moved to California in the middle of 7th grade, and that rocked my world. It took me a few years to really get back on my feet. (I hated California at first, but came to love it. I actually like change, but I have to work it.)
High school was what high school always is: wall-to-wall adolescent insanity. I presented as a nerdy geek until I got into theatre classes in 10th grade, and then I was a theatre geek. Still a nerd in the ecosystem, but a much cooler nerd.
Which was a big advantage because, as a perceived nerd, I had no chance with the cheerleader, pop, or jock, types, but as the guy who made the tech magic happen, I had an in with the actress, singer, and dancer types.
Who, I preferred anyway. Capable doer types.
Here in high school I was beyond childhood crushes (and dealing with “adult” ones, ha), so I won’t dwell on a fairly normal adolescence. Suffice to say I was never a player. I had many more friendships than conquests (and very few of the latter). I discovered early that women make great friends, and friendships are what endures.
From an early point I was chasing love (and friendship), not bedpost notches. Found it, too. A whole bunch of times. I could just never hang on to it. From this vantage point, I can’t help but wonder if I’m just naturally a kind of lone wolf.
The picture of Judy Robinson leads the post, but it could just as easily have been Samantha Stevens. It was always a tie for me. They’re the first of a long parallel road — crushes on imaginary characters.
I suppose, seeing as how I named two of my dogs Sam(antha), the witch wins by a nose.
[I should also factor in how much I liked The Craft and, more recently, Siempre Bruja, or that Sabrina is growing on me, and, yeah, the witches definitely win over gals who are forever lost in space.]
Almost always crushes on fictional characters on the character, not the actress. Both Judy and Sam were level-headed and capable. (One had tech; one had magic.) I really like level-headed and capable in a human.
Another early one was Supergirl (her red underpants; as a youth, oh my). She was the only comic book crush, so it wasn’t a costume thing. (Although, Jessica Rabbit many years later, and what is it about Turanga Leela?)
Superman was the comic book hero I mostly followed, so it’s a kind of a character thing. I liked the whole Super family, especially the dog. (There is also that I never got that into comics; I was more into books.)
There was also April Dancer, The Girl From U.N.CL.E. I already had a thing for spies, and it’s the whole capable and kicks ass when necessary thing that I find hugely attractive (hence my love for the Resident Evil movies).
As the road unwound, my “type” became kinda obvious. Not the Barbie Dolls or Fashion Models, but the Doctors and Scientists (and Spies and Cops). Women who work for a living. Funny women with character, intelligence, and strength. (It’s blowing my own horn, but I think I have good taste in women. I blame my upbringing.)
In no particular order, the medical pros: Major Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit), Dr. Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth), Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), and Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein). That’s actually kinda weird, since I hate going to the doctor. (I’ll admit, the last one was a bit on the glam side, but still so my type.)
I also have long abiding crushes on Kate Jackson and Angie Harmon — rare cases where it’s more the actress than the roles. Jackson was a Charlie’s Angel and Mrs. King, while Harmon was an ADA and a Boston homicide cop. For me, these two out shine the rest.
In my younger days, definitely Mary Ann. As an adult I realized Ginger would be a lot more fun to hang out with. Mary Ann is too likely to be a vegan teetotaler who didn’t get the joke.
[I hope no one takes any of this too seriously. Old men get to ramble about all their lost loves and youth in general. “Those were the days, my friend,…”]
There is a highly regarded 1977 movie by François Truffaut (and an indifferent 1983 remake by Blake Edwards). It’s called The Man Who Loved Women. The story is about a man who genuinely loves women — everything about them. For him it’s not about conquests; he simply finds women irresistible.
I completely identify with that point of view. From an early age I’ve had an abiding love for women. I’m not going to apologize for that. I also respect and like women. I’ve long seen them as amazing partners on life’s road.
I find them thoroughly fascinating in so many ways, and I’m very glad I share a world with women. Life would be rather dull and pointless without them!
Stay lusty, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.