Dear Doug McKeon,
Just typing your name into this document has given me a tingly feeling all over. As the kids say these days: "Squeeeee!" I feel like I’m 13 all over again.
You won’t remember me, and in fact we’ve never actually met, but you were a big part of my interior life in the ’80s, and I’d like to belatedly thank you for helping me survive those awkward teen years and pointing me toward a future of admiring smart, lovely, tousle-haired blond men.
When I was in ninth grade and other girls were hanging pictures of Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise and Ralph Macchio in their lockers, I was all about you, Doug. I first spotted you in the movie “On Golden Pond,” where you played the smart-ass kid dumped for the summer with Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn. It didn’t matter how many Oscar winners were in the cast, for me, the movie should have been titled “On Golden Pond With the Cutest Boy Ever (And Some Cranky Old People).”
I’ll confess that I actually hadn’t thought about you in years, Doug, until just last week, when my husband and I were catching up on the first season of “Masters of Sex.” Soon after I cued up episode 9, your name flashed across the screen in the opening credits. In the split second it took for it to register, three decades of hard-won maturity were washed away, and my heart beat in anticipation like it did back when I would scan teen magazines for any tidbit about you (you love ice hockey and the color blue!). Man, it was all so different then, without 24/7 access to your every thought on Twitter and Instagram or the ability to watch you all day long on YouTube. You were kept at a respectful, tantalizing distance, available to me only when a new movie came out or you showed up in a TV special.
I can’t exactly say what drew me to you — it may have been that you looked like a real kid, not gelled and air-brushed like the other boys in “Tiger Beat.” I mean, come on, it’s so obvious to have a crush on one of those pretty boys! I loved the fact that no one else in my school would even think of making an “I [heart] Doug McKeon” pin at the homecoming-fair crafts booth. I didn’t have to share you with anyone.
But truth be told, it was probably a matter of being in the right place at the right time. When I saw that movie, the teen hormones were starting to kick in, but as a bookworm kid who always looked a couple of years younger than my age and had no clue what to say or do with the actual boys in my school, I was years away from anything resembling a date or a boyfriend. And there you were, perfectly adorable and nonthreatening, with no chance at all that I would meet you and be disappointed.
Because I didn’t truly know you (is your favorite color really blue?), I could project all my perfect-boyfriend fantasies onto your sweet face, which I so carefully cut out of magazines and glued into a spiral notebook. Isn’t that what teen celebrity crushes are all about? You get all the yearning and admiration without any of the messy conversations, misunderstandings, and awkward physical encounters a relationship with real boy would involve.
I sent you a few fan letters over the years, and got a photo or two in return. Then when I was 16, I read that you were graduating from high school, and I used my baby-sitting money to buy the biggest card I could find. I dropped it in the mail and went off to summer camp. When I came home a few months later, there was a pile of letters on my bed, and tucked somewhere in the middle was a brown envelope with my name — clearly hand-written by you. You sent a very pleasant note thanking me for the graduation card and telling me about a movie you were filming. I remember lying back on my bed and thinking, WOW. For the five minutes it took Doug McKeon to write this letter, he was thinking about me. Life does not get any better than this.
Of course, life did get much better. I grew up, got married (to a blond, like you), had two kids and only thought about you when the topic of teen crushes came up.
But then suddenly, there you were on my TV screen last week, playing a middle-aged priest on “Masters of Sex.” A priest! Your hair is thinner and you’ve put on a few extra pounds, but you still have the same eyes and distinctive voice that I fell for all those years ago. It was like running into the high school quarterback and discovering he’s become a pleasantly middle-aged accountant.
I did a quick IMDB search to see what you’ve been up to, and it looks like you still act now and then, but focus on writing and directing. You post pictures on Facebook of your lovely wife (who, I have to say, looks a little bit like me!) and three boys, and apparently still harbor a deep affection for the New York Rangers. I’m relieved to know you’ve escaped the kid-actor curse and have gone on to lead what seems like a productive, happy life. I thank you for never getting involved in a scandal (ahem, Rob Lowe) or saying something really stupid in public that would force me to reassess all those hours spent contemplating the deep conversations we would have on our first date.
And thank you, truly, for taking those five minutes 30 years ago to write that letter and make a hard-working high school girl’s day. You were truly a teen dream.