Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crushes and Such

The giant eyes. The stylish red scarf. The upturned collar. The fancy gloves and the fast car. The fact that he was a demon on wheels who would be chasin' after someone. I wanted that someone to be me.

My first crush was on Speed Racer. It didn't matter to me that he was technically a cartoon character. The fact that his lips were merely two-dimensional didn't bother me a bit. Kissing was gross and boys still had cooties, but something about Speed made my knobby 5-year-old knees go weak and my little heart pitter-patter beneath my Garanimals. Speed was my first love. Distant. Unobtainable. Probably gay. Seemed right to me.

Then love became...exciting and new. And I went overboard for Gopher on "The Love Boat." Look at that image. Put some floppy ears and waxy black nose on that guy, a 1-800 number for the Humane Society below his bow tie, and you'd be sending in a donation before reading the rest of this paragraph. Gopher was everybody's buddy, but no one's lover. The sad and dejected one. The one that needed someone to take care of him. At 10 years-old, I was pretty sure that someone should be me.

That was until El DeBarge (pictured wearing a yellow bandanna) gave me instructions, in a falsetto voice, to love him in a special way. (What more could he say? He told me to love him now!) My friend Heather and I would play her DeBarge record over and over again, listening intently to the lyrics that El wrote just for us, no doubt. I was able to look past his pencil-thin mustache and dripping jheri curl. He oozed 1980s confidence and sex appeal, and that appealed to me just fine. Soon, though, I'd see that El DeBarge was lacking. I'd dump him in no time for a little girly-clothed dude who seemed in favor of humping the air, his microphone, his guitar, and (as I was starting to get how things worked) hopefully me.

Again, overlooking the pencil-thin mustache (what the hell was up with those?) I became feverishly obsessed with Prince. Pictures were torn from magazines and taped on my walls. Buttons were pinned to my jean jacket. Album covers were studied for hours on end, my fingers tracing his nearly life-like miniature frame. Prince was the first crush to take a run on my mental gerbil wheel and stay there for days on end. Sorry, I can't come out to play. I'm thinking about Prince. What was that you said? I wasn't listening. I was thinking about Prince. Is Prince part of this science unit? If not, than I don't want to study it. I only want to learn about Prince. Prince. Prince. Prince. Prince. The dot above the letter "i" in his name could be made into a perfect heart, one which expressed my undying love and devotion. I did have some difficulty in imagining my married name, since he only had one name to spare. Bridget Prince? Didn't seem right. Could he have my last name? Prince Hengen? Seemed like discarded German royalty. Screw it. I could just love being his wife.

Or Billy Idol's. Or Michael Jackson's. Or River Phoenix's. My crushes started to multiply in numbers and before long, my gerbil wheel was so full and active that I barely had room left in my brain for simple self-care. Teeth brushing seemed nearly impossible as it required multiple steps that were not about planning the wedding of me and Adam Ant. Or Matt Dillon.

Before long, my crushes extended to real live people sitting one or two desks over from the classroom. How could I be expected to learn to balance a checkbook with Geoff Merker and his starchy white shirt two rows over? Or Tim Kelly and his converse hi-tops in the next pod? I couldn't possibly concentrate on French with Neal Caine parlez-ing Francias in my ear or with Keith Florez's pinkie bumping into mine in the middle of a science lab. The world was electrified by boys and they were everywhere.

Fast forward 25 or so years. My home has tasteful pieces of art hanging from the walls instead of photos torn from Teen Beat magazine. My classroom has posters about vocabulary and the love of reading instead of one of Adam Ant, the ink bleeding below the surface from too much contact with the oil in my kissing stick. Hanging on the back of my door, however is a "READ" poster depicting a flirty Ewan McGregor holding a copy of "The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter." I joke in class that it's hard for me to teach sometimes with Ewan over there on the door, obviously making the google eyes at me. "Stop it, Ewan!" I'll say. "I'm in the middle of a lesson here! Oh, you are too much!" The boys in the room appear confused. Unsure. Even a little uncomfortable. The girls, however, giggle and eye each other. They have no idea who Ewan McGregor is, and I know this. I also know that at home on their walls are torn pictures of Justin Bieber, half-clothed Twilight dudes, and other fresh-faced teen idols who I couldn't name if my life depended on it.

She gets us, they think. She really gets us.

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