My exhibition of childhood crushes continues…
Honestly, I think there would have been something wrong with me if I hadn’t ended up with a crush on someone from The Outsiders.
The movie came out in 1983, but I don’t think I saw it in the theater (honestly, if my mom wasn’t cool with me seeing Footloose, do you think she’d allow me to watch a movie about gangs?). I must have seen it at a friend’s house, after it came out on video. I was in eighth grade, and my hormones were off the charts; unfortunately, I was saddled with braces AND a headgear, which made many things a challenge (eating, speaking, appearing normal). Boys were a definite no-go.
But there was always The Outsiders, and Ponyboy Curtis in particular. I liked him because he was played by C. Thomas Howell, who looked like this at the time (so, you know, duh), and because he was not just a “greaser,” as society had unjustly labeled him — he was a sensitive greaser. He was a writer; the narrator of the whole story, in fact. And he read poetry.
My fervor over Ponyboy and the movie encouraged me to seek out the book The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton — who, I was surprised to learn, was actually a woman. I was surprised because the book was narrated by a boy and populated almost completely by male characters; that all that male energy could come from a woman’s imagination really opened my mind to new possibilities in my own writing. Also, Hinton’s book led me to seek out the poetry of Robert Frost. I didn’t really appreciate the true meaning of “Nothing Gold Can Stay” then, not when I was thirteen and desperately waiting for everything to change for me. But it certainly resonates with me now.
And things did change pretty quickly for me that year. My orthodontist finally relieved me of my headgear, which made me feel a little less like The Girl in the Iron Mask. And that newfound freedom gave me the confidence to try new things. Like interacting with actual, non-fictional boys. As it turned out, developing unrequited feelings for real boys was more tragic — and in my hormone-addled teenaged mind, much more romantic.
Next time…even when you’re nearly twenty-something, you’re not too old to crush on a TV character.
Contest update: I can’t announce any winners for my contest for teachers and librarians, as I never received any entries. 😦 But I’m still offering free, signed, personalized copies of Mr. Prickles to five lucky fans! Here’s how you can win.