The Crush is Out There

The conclusion of my exhibition of childhood crushes…

The 1990s recall certain special memories for me. Graduate school. Grungy clothes and music and bad haircuts. Living in a sketchy part of Allston, MA (now the semi-gentrified “Allston Village”) in an apartment infested with mice and cockroaches. And my unbridled crush on FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder from “The X-Files.”

Of course, he was never Fox Mulder to me. He was always Mulder, as he was to everyone on the show, especially his partner (and as we later learned, life partner), Scully. Mulder was handsome and brilliant and funny, he was driven to expose the Truth, and he would die for Scully. In fact, I think he did die for her in one episode, and was eventually reanimated.

Also, let’s take a moment to talk about “The X-Files” and what an incredible, landmark show it was (through season seven, at least). As you might know, I love a good crime story, and I love creepy, weird stuff, and this was a show about agents investigating creepy, weird crimes. It was clever, it was irreverent, and it could be dark as hell (for examples of all three, look to my favorite episodes, Season Three’s “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and Season Four’s “Home,” the latter of which finds a refreshing use for Johnny Mathis music).

So I went a little crazy for Mulder and the show. I still have every TV Guide and Rolling Stone “X-Files” cover issue. I named my cat Scully. My boyfriend at the time and I referred to each other by our surnames, as if we were always in the process of investigating a case. I was at the theater on opening night for the “X-Files” movie, and still have my ticket stubs. I even attempted to watch “Millenium,” the “X-Files'” insufferable spin-off.

Though my crush on Mulder eventually fizzled once he left the show, I did maintain my obsession with all things dark and creepy and weird. And I spent the remainder of the 1990s drawn to guys who reminded me of him — though I soon learned that the real-life combo of handsome and brilliant and funny doesn’t necessarily include (and all too often precludes) nice.

CONTEST UPDATE: The winners of my Mr. Prickles V-Day contest are Karen Giezyng and Madison Stingray. Congrats! I have three more FREE, signed, personalized copies of the book to give away, so here’s the deal — the first three people to email me a list of all six of my Crush Files crushes will win!

Crushy-something

My exhibition of childhood crushes continues…

When I was in college, my housemates and I were obsessed with the show “thirtysomething.” And I, in particular, had a thing for Michael Steadman (center, above, wearing late-80s pleated pants and rockin’ suspenders).

Michael (as played by Ken Olin) is undeniably handsome, sartorial choices aside. But he’s also a man, with manly problems, even if he does tend to angst out over them a little too much. I loved that he had a cool job in advertising, a beautiful family, great friends, a fixer-upper (Arts & Crafts) house, and a vintage car. And I liked that he had grownup responsibilities and problems and emotions. I wasn’t experiencing much of that with the boys I knew in college, who were all about “keeping it casual” and “hanging out” and “hooking up” and baseball hats and JCrew barn jackets and beer cups. Of course, I didn’t realize that “thirtysomething” was all pretty much an airbrushed fantasy of adulthood. I didn’t really understand what it meant to be an adult until I was well on my way to “fortysomething,” and I had to learn most of that the hard way. I’m still not sure if I’m doing it right.

But Michael Steadman and the show in general made me want more for myself. And I did end up with a wonderful, creative husband, a gratifying career, great friends, a fixer-upper house, and even a vintage car. So I guess that’s “something.”

Next time…I develop a crush that’s really “out there.”

CONTEST REMINDER: If you want to win a signed, personalized copy of Mr. Prickles, the deadline is this Friday — learn how to enter here!!

Stay Gold.

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.

Two-Dimensional Love

My exhibition of childhood crushes continues…

And here’s where it gets weird. In the aftermath of my heartbreak over Shaun Cassidy’s nuptials, I sought solace in cartoons. And I became obsessed with one cartoon in particular. It was called “Battle of the Planets,” and it featured five teenagers with superhuman powers who policed the universe in a spaceship called the Phoenix. It was a cross between Star Wars and “Power Rangers,” only animated. I later learned that the show was an adaptation of an anime series called “Gatchaman”; an American production company edited and dubbed the Japanese footage to make it accessible to kids in the U.S. I’d never seen anime before, and I was immediately hooked.

Of the five super-teens, there was only one girl (shocker!); her name was Princess, and she wore a pink mini-dress, white thigh-high boots, a white cape, and a white helmet shaped like a bird’s head. This was already my fantasy of how I wanted to dress every day. And she rode a motorcycle, which seemed pretty badass.

While I wanted to BE Princess, my heart belonged to Mark, the team’s commander. He was handsome and serious (a dangerous combination, I would learn, later in life), and heroic. Plus, he also dressed like a bird, but without the pink dress and thigh-high boots. Thankfully, there was a little bit of romantic tension between Princess and Mark, which added some heart-fluttering drama to the whole saving-the-world-from-space-villains storyline.

I obsessed over Mark and his avian hotness in solitude; no one at school watched the show, and it didn’t air very long on our local TV station, WPIX. But it turns out I wasn’t alone; I recently googled “Battle of the Planets” and found a legion of admirers. If only the internet had been available when I was in third grade. Then again, maybe I was better off.

Did it feel wrong to give my heart to a cartoon? Not at the time. But a few years later, I realized that the character of Mark had been voiced by none other than Casey Kasem. Whenever I hear him counting down the Top 40 now, I feel a little funny.

Next time…I reveal my crush on an outsider.

Two reminders: The deadline is TODAY for this contest for teachers and librarians! And check out this contest for everyone! (And not to give anything away, but at this point, if you enter, you have a REALLY good chance of winning. Ahem.)

Shaun.

My exhibition of childhood crushes continues…

Shaun Cassidy was the first boy for whom I really went gaga. And why wouldn’t I? He could sing (at least, to my seven-year-old ears), he could act, and he seemed way cooler and funnier than his brother on The Hardy Boys, Parker Stevenson. Plus, LOOK at him. I couldn’t get my own hair to feather so perfectly.

Shaun also introduced me to a life of crime, as I tore a centerfold poster of him out of an issue of Tiger Beat from our local Stop & Shop, and hung it on my bedroom wall. Clearly, I would have done anything for him. I even made a complete fool of myself with my friend Danielle, as we listened to my Shaun Cassidy records (Shaun Cassidy and Born Late) while singing into microphones my (ever-encouraging) mother made for us out of golfballs screwed into dowels, spray-painted gold. I didn’t even think his half-brother David was particularly attractive. Next to Shaun, he may as well have been Danny Bonaduce.

According to my Official Shaun Cassidy Scrapbook (aka my then-Bible), Shaun was born in 1958, which meant he was thirteen years older than me. That was okay. I planned to bide my time, until I was eighteen or nineteen and the age difference wouldn’t matter as much — and be, you know, legal. Unfortunately, Shaun wasn’t willing to be quite so patient; he broke my heart (along with millions of other girls, I’m sure) when he got married in 1979.

I can’t hate Shaun for treading on my dreams; after all, he did transcend his teen idol status by becoming an amazing producer and writer. And he wasn’t half-bad when I saw him on stage in Blood Brothers with David Cassidy, back in the early 1990s. I may not still carry a torch for Shaun, but I’m impressed that he turned out to be more than just a pretty face. It’s one of a handful of times I exhibited good romantic instincts.

Next time…I reveal my crush on someone who lacked, er, dimension.

Two reminders: A contest for teachers and librarians! And a contest for everyone! (And not to give anything away, but at this point, if you enter, you have a REALLY good chance of winning. Ahem.)

Crush-nstuf

Valentine’s Day is upon us! In honor of the holiday, I thought I’d recount some of my early infatuations for you. Some are painful, some are hilarious, but hopefully, all will be entertaining.

The first crush I remember having was on Jimmy from H.R. Pufnstuf. Mind you, I can barely remember a thing about the show, other than Jimmy and his stunning bowl cut. (And from what I now know, references to bowls were a mainstay of the Pufnstuf world.)

I tried to write Jimmy a fan letter, which was a challenge for me, because A. I didn’t know the mailing address for Living Island, where he resided on the show, and B. I was three or four, and still didn’t know how to write. Thankfully, my grandfather was on-hand, and OF COURSE he knew Jimmy’s address (which I now know was made up) and helped me write it on my homemade envelope. I’m pretty sure I made the stamp, too, so the mail carrier at the time must have been thrilled.

Unfortunately for Jimmy (and the USPS), my feelings for him were short-lived. There was a new show on TV called The Hardy Boys, and from the first time I saw it, I left Jimmy’s bowl cut behind for the feathered coif of a certain 1970s über-hottie.

TO BE CONTINUED

Two reminders: A contest for teachers and librarians! And a contest for everyone! (And not to give anything away, but at this point, if you enter, you have a REALLY good chance of winning. Ahem.)