Let’s get a few things straight about my crushes. They are frequent, long-lived, intense, and pathetically hopeless. Sometimes I develop crushes on people I actually know. (I understand this to be relatively normal behavior.) More often I develop crushes on people I don’t know. This makes sense statistically. Being shy, I don’t know many people; there are over 6 billion folks I don’t know, if that gives you any perspective.
"Sounds reasonable," you’re saying to yourself. This is my blog and you will say what I want you to say. "Why, I have a crush on Johnny Depp, and I don’t know him!"
Yeah, you and me both, honey. You, me, my mom, this lady who works in circ, this guy friend of mine who’s not even gay, and bloody well every person on the planet. Celebrity crushes are a common phenomenon. Though it bears mentioning that my crush is, to be precise, more focused on pirate captain Jack Sparrow than on Monsieur Depp. Arrr!
Celebrity crushes are one thing, but what I’m trying to say here is that I have the capacity to crush on anyone: man, woman, deity, anthopomorphization, spiritual abstraction– you name it, I’ve crushed on it. He/she/it could be alive, could be dead, could be fictional. I develop crushes on supreme court justices. I develop crushes on authors if they’ve written books I liked. I then develop crushes on the characters in those books.
This goes a long way to explaining why I’m a character-driven reader, doesn’t it?
I suspect I have trouble separating reality from fiction. How about we demonstrate this with a story?
The Tooth, The Whole Tooth, and Nothing but the Tooth
I can’t recall believing in Santa Claus and I saw through the Easter Bunny ruse at a very early age, but the Tooth Fairy had me snookered. Every time I lost a tooth, I found money under my pillow. (Or one time, memorably, a plastic baseball bat.) I believed in her. I mean I really believed in her. I prayed to her, I kid you not. In my grasp of the facts, she looked suspiciously like Tinkerbell and lived on a distant star.
Toward the end of my tooth-losing career, though, I became suspicious. On my second-to-last tooth, I wrote a letter to the tooth fairy to ask her if she was real. I thought it was a clever idea, but I didn’t want to publicize it, lest someone sabotage my plan. The only person I told was mom.
When I received a handwritten note from the Tooth Fairy, a note that was not in Mom’s handwriting, my faith was restored.
But– o ye poisonous, traitorous thought! — doubt festered in me. Could it be possible? –oh I hated to think it– could it be possible that Mom, my own mother, could be playing me for a fool?
I had but one baby tooth still clinging to my gum. It was my last chance to prove or disprove the Tooth Fairy Theorem. I was in second grade.
When I finally tongued out that last bastion of my juvenile toothset, I breathed not a word about it, not even to mom. Guilt plagued me. I should be sharing this triumph with her, not walking around with my hand clasped over my mouth. But I had to know.
And– oh blessed Tooth Fairy, forgive me my human frailty! — she came, she took that tooth, she left me a dollar, and she wrote me a note! Despite my weak faith, the Tooth Fairy still loved her gap-mouthed child.
Years later– and I do mean years, though wild tigers could not compel me to confess how I old I was– I confronted mom and asked her the truth about the Tooth Fairy.
"Nope," said mom. "Not real."
…so you see that, even at a very young age, I was inclined to form meaningful relationships with people who did not, in fact, exist. This explains why I loved the Star Wars movies. I first saw them when I was ten, old enough to know better but unable to resist forming relationships with Han, Leia, Luke, and company. I knew– I knew— they weren’t real, but I prayed to God (though not the Tooth Fairy) to let the Millennium Falcon land in my backyard and whisk me away to Hoth. I practiced using the Force, albeit without much success.
For context, remember that I didn’t have much in the way of what you’d call friends.
I eventually concluded that Han, Leia, and Luke didn’t want my company. It was devestating. I replaced this conclusion, somewhat later, with the only-slightly-less-painful realization that fictional characters weren’t going to hang out with me. They just weren’t.
I have still not fully recovered from that realization. You begin to see, then, why I still form attractions to people who simply will not reciprocate my love, all because of the lousy roll of the die that caused them to be pretend and me to be real.
(This has spilled over into real life, too. You won’t catch me being attracted to available, attainable, decent folks. Nope. In high school, for example, I wanted the guy who was simultaneously quarterback/valedictorian/voted-best-all-around.)
So we have established, in laborious detail, why it is that I give my heart to impossible conquests like Tony Scalia. I can’t help myself. It’s kind of sad, but I’d like to think it’s charming, too, in a hopeless sort of way.
What truly disturbs me is the character of these men I obsess over. (I do mean "men." Lesbrarian though I may be, it is typically men who wring my heart.) They are all smart, and that in itself isn’t bad. The most attractive thing to me is intelligence. That’s not lip-service. That’s what sets my heart a’flutter.
No, the disturbing part is that I turn to silly putty over bad guys. Wicked-smart bad guys, but bad guys. Look at Mr. Rochester, my first true love. (There’s an excellent essay, by the way, on the eroticism of Charlotte Bronte, titled "Reader, I Shagged Him.") He imprisoned his wife in the attic and he treated Jane like shit.
Look at Scalia. He wants to tap your wires.
Look at Howard Roark: he hates you. He’s destructive. He wants to rape you.
Look at Hannibal Lecter: he hates you. He’s destructive. He wants to eat you.
Look at Ivan Karamazov: he hates you. He’s destructive. He wants to kill you.
Look at Yevgeny Bazarov: he hates you. He’s destructive. He wants to kill himself.
These are not the sort of men I should bring home to mom– though honestly, after that stint she pulled with the Tooth Fairy, she deserves one of them for a son-in-law.