How pop culture affected my classroom crushes in the late 80's and early 90's
Recently, I found myself bored at work (not an abnormal occurrence) and decided to cruise some Facebook profiles to get a look at a girl I had a crush on in Junior High. Why? Well, I was curious to see how things had panned out for her after 12+ years and if I would still find her attractive without the rush of young teenage hormones coursing through my veins. What I found elicited a response that I won't reveal to you at this point in the article, but the experience got me thinking about all the girls I had crushes on growing up in the late 80's and early 90's and how pop culture affected my attraction and interactions with them. What I found was interesting to say the least, join me won't you? Let's take a trip to Hoju's Land of Many Crushes.
Author's Note: To be fair, I had crushes going all the way back to age 4, but for the purposes of this article I'm sticking with schoolyard romances or lack thereof.
Crush #1: Cynthia
Kindergarten, Age: 6
There are a few very distinct moments I remember from Kindergarten: watching a baby chick hatch from an egg, the end of the year Hoe-Down and staring at Cynthia. She sat in the front row of our designated seating chart (masking tape squares on the carpet) in the farthest left spot of the grid and her blond hair glimmered like She-Ra's golden locks under the humming fluorescent lights.
I never knew much about Cynthia, other than she usually had her hair in a ponytail and she was less annoying than other girls. No, we never talked, but I did sing to her under my breath quite a bit. Perhaps I had hoped that she would hear my heart crooning for her and that this would make her want to spend her recesses with me playing Thundercats. I would be her Lion-O and she my Cheetara. That never happened, but still I continued to sing.
Perhaps even at that young age I was sensing the hopelessness of my situation since my love ballad of choice was a song I had heard on re-runs of The Monkees TV show called "Forget That Girl", which contained lyrics like:
Forget that girl,
She'll only make you sad someday.
Forget that girl,
She'll never make you happy.
Stay away from her, my friend,
Stay away from her
Yeah, not the most uplifting love song. Anyway, I graduated from Kindergarten having never spoken a word to Cynthia (she moved), but based on what happened when I did get the guts to talk to the girls I was admiring, that may not have been a bad thing.
Crush #2: Vanessa
4th Grade, Age: 10
Perhaps I was caught up in the joys of Handball and digging for "Indian Clay" in the sandbox, but from 1st grade through 3rd I don't really remember being interested in girls. At least not so much that it inhabited my daily thoughts.
It could be that my weekly viewings of Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was giving me my pretty girl fix, but by 4th grade that show was off the air so again I turned my gaze to the girls of Culverdale Elementary.
Vanessa was an African-American Princess that was big on personality. I mostly remember her laugh and that she always seemed to be having a good time. So infatuated was I, that I decided to make my affections known by going forth on a quest that would show the lengths to which I was willing to go to in pursuit of this fair maiden's hand.
My journey led me to the castle of Bullwinkles, where through trials such as skee-ball and well, pretty much just skee-ball, I would attempt to earn enough prize tickets to buy her a ring. Following an afternoon sending wooden orbs rolling into oblivion I earned enough to buy Vanessa a plastic ring with a pink jewel and safely guarded it until I was ready to present it to her along with my devotion.
Seeing as we hadn't really talked all that much (but at least we'd played tetherball a time or two) I suppose my plan was a little forward, but young love is a powerful (stupid?) thing. As we exited for lunch I stopped her, got down on one knee holding the ring (so embarrassing...) and said, "Vanessa, will you go out with me?" Within an instant she was on the move, shrieking as I chased after her yelling, "But we can be like Lisa and Screech from Saved By The Bell!"
Had I taken a second to consider the example upon which I was basing our supposed romance, I would have realized that Lisa and Screech were not an item. In fact, Lisa was always running away from Screech's creepy advances. So what I should have shouted was, "See? We're exactly like Lisa and Screech from Saved By The Bell!" I got as far as the tetherball courts where we had first met before I gave up the chase and decided to salvage whatever shred of dignity I still had left. I have no idea what happened to the ring.
You would have thought this embarrassment would have been enough to make me swear off the pursuit of the fairer sex, but I was too foolish for that. There was more disappointment ahead.
Crush #3: Christina
5th Grade, Age: 11
Christina was a really nice Vietnamese girl (apparently I had a thing for exotic looks) that I actually talked to quite a bit. She always wore frilly dresses with those white tights and shiny shoes with the buckle. Basically she looked like Chun-Li crossed with Vicki from Small Wonder. Like I said we had a quit a few conversations when there was a lull in class and this may have been where I mistook kindness for romance.
Valentine's Day was coming around and I thought rather than hand her a generic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles V-Day card like I was doing for everyone else, I would surprise her with candy hearts. Now you may be saying, "A box of candy hearts, big deal. A lot of kids do that." But you see, I didn't go for the standard box. Instead I bought the biggest size of candy hearts the supermarket had to offer, which ended up being a cookie-tin sized plastic container in the shape of a heart.
While everyone ran out to recess that day I stayed behind and put the behemoth on her desk with a card so she knew who the massive heart was from. I then ran out to compete in the daily swing-jump competition. You know, the one where you swing as high as you can and jump off? I didn't get much height, but I was king of the dramatic landing.
Anyhoo, as I returned to the classroom hoping to see Christina's pretty smile shining my way, I instead saw the giant plastic heart taking up space on my desk. I then looked over at Christina to see what the deal was and she gave me a glance as if to say, "What were you thinking?" Defeated, but also a little upset, I decided to get the whole story as we headed out to lunch.
Christina explained that she just didn't feel that way about me and that she was "in a relationship" with a friend of mine. How did I miss that? This is a guy I played NBA Jam with on a regular basis after school and Christina had never been around or even mentioned.
I later learned that in 5th grade terms, "in a relationship" meant a hand-holding buddy that you sat together with at assemblies. So I pretty much let my heart rest from that heartbreak for the duration of elementary school and onto Junior high I went.
Crush #4: Carrie (Name changed to protect the not-so-innocent)
7th Grade, Age 13
Moving to a new school I thought my chance for romance would improve and in my humanities class I found the girl who would be the object my desire for the next 2 years. We had an interesting relationship, I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world and she thought I was pawn scum. She wasn't shy about it either, I think that's what endeared me to her all the more: the chase!
Carrie had just moved to California from New York and had all the attitude you would expect. She reminded me of a young Lucy Lawless and being that I was a big Xena fan it's no surprise that I set my sights on Carrie.
She even became the inspiration for my first sappy love ballad about a girl titled, what else, "Carrie". Sincere but completely contrived lyrics included:
It's plain to see that I pretty much wore my heart on my sleeve and she knew it. So Carrie had a lot of fun messing with me. In one of our surprisingly many conversations I let it slip that I was also an admirer of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, formerly of Saved By The Bell and by that time playing bad girl, Valerie on Beverly Hills 90210.
Carrie told me that Tiffani was her step-sister and that she often went over to hang out with her at her Dad's house in Malibu. I couldn't believe! Wait, I mean, I TOTALLY believed it. Here was the real-life girl of my dreams being related to the TV girl of my dreams and she even offered to get me an autograph if I brought in a picture. I immediately ordered a headshot from Tiger Beat magazine or something, but when I brought it to Carrie she had upped her price from FREE to $25.00. Smitten as I was I was all ready to cough up the dough, but Carrie eventually told me it wasn't true just to get me off her back.
So she came clean about not being related to Kelly Kapowski, but then came up with the story that her real step-sister was a little girl named Brittany Ashton Holmes, who had played Darla in the 1994 movie Little Rascals. Yes, I had seen the movie, but why did she think that would impress me? Maybe that story was true, but who cares? Sure she was a liar, but that didn't diminish my feelings for her. If anything, I was excited that she cared enough to lie to me.
One night while I was spending then night at a friend's house, my buddies thought it would be funny to give her a call while I was in the bathroom. I guess it would be considered the jerky guy's version of Truth or Dare. As I exited the bathroom and they told me that they had left a message for Carrie on her answering machine telling her how much I liked her. Well, I was mortified, but at least the truth was out there. What I wasn't prepared for was the backlash on Monday morning.
Arriving at school I was already dreading seeing her, but then I saw her actually seeking me out with all the fury of a Little Xena exclaiming, "Don't you ever call my house again. My Mom said she'll call the police next time!" So yeah, after that I was done. I still thought she was pretty, but I didn't need to fawn over a psycho whose Mom was prepared to go way overboard to prevent a kids harmless crush from being expressed.
High school was a much more successful time for romance, but frankly, who wants to a read a happy story? We're a nation rallied around reality TV where we enjoy watching people fail and be miserable, which brings me to the present day. (Not the failure or misery part...look, I'm just trying to wrap this up, okay?)
In my boredom searching for Carrie on Facebook (her real name has such a unique spelling there could be only one) I came across her profile and recognized her right away or what I could only imagine was her mother. Seriously, she looked like she was 40 years old. All of her pics were shots of Girls Nights Out where she was partying with girls that looked to be 26 or so, but there she was looking like a cougar on the prowl. It was jarring to say the least and I can only assume that like Little Orphan Annie, it's been a Hard Knock Life for Carrie.
I have to say I learned something from every crush. Sometimes it was that "crush" is exactly what happens to your heart and others it was that you want to pick your potential love interests very carefully. You've all been there, you know what it's all about. But let me leave you with a little piece of advice: if the person your crushing on takes it upon themselves to charge you $25.00 for an autographed picture of their famous relative, you probably wanna raise your standards just a little bit. Live and learn.