When I was a kid, I had crushes on Hawkeye Pierce, Davy Crockett as played by Fess Parker, and Davy Jones. (I was a weird kid, especially since this would have been the early to mid ’80s.) My sister had crushes on Spock and Alex Trebek. (Ditto my sister.) I saw a tabloid headline once expressing shock and disdain that Bill Clinton had admitted to having a crush on Barbara Eden in the ’60s, and I was curious how many straight men they could find of his demographic who didn’t. My best friend and I had the Charlie Versus Emilio Debate; other women of my demographic were debating which New Kid was the best.
Celebrity crushes seem built into our culture, to the extent that I’m now a little worried that asking my boyfriend about his has brought forth no results, either actors, characters, or singers. Like, who can’t bring up a daydream about Winnie Cooper or something if nothing else? I’m also curious as to how far back the concept goes back. Like, were our neolithic ancestors swooning over the heroes of their mythology? I think we might even have evidence of fan art of Hercules. Arguably, most of the famous plays of the classical era were fanfic.
I kind of wonder if it’s built into us as a safe way to explore. There’s considerable debate, I’m sure, about how monogamous our ancestors were, or anyway pretended to be, not to mention how they treated the sexuality of adolescents. Being inordinately fond of most of the Clan of the Cave Bear series and owning Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams doesn’t qualify me to have that conversation. But being able to have a crush on, say, that painting of Vishnu who totally isn’t the same as real Vishnu, of course, don’t be silly, but isn’t he dreamy? That gives you some room to stretch those feelings.
And if you’re unhappy in the marriage you end up in—surely not unusual in human history—well, I almost feel as though Tab Hunter’s career was largely built on the intersection of teenage girls exploring their sexualities and middle-aged women repressing theirs. They could go see a movie where he wooed an older woman and think, “That could be me. Of course, it isn’t, because I love my husband and I love my family and I would never leave them, but who knows?”
And, of course, there is the debate about how monogamous a species we really are. Just because we’re pair-bonded, however you define that, doesn’t mean you can’t be attracted to someone other than your partner. I love my boyfriend, and I’d never leave him. And goodness knows Charlie Sheen is no great shakes these days. But there are all kinds of other attractive men out there. And the advantage to being interested in the ones I’ll never meet is that I’ll never have to make the choice. It’s not as though Paul Gross will be knocking on my door to ask to take me away from all this, you know?
But if he did . . . .
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Note: I am alarmed that Google didn’t even suggest the right Davy Jones even after I scrolled through all of its little tab options.