My First Love

Something in the Way He Moves

Like all first loves, George Harrison lives on inside me

Photograph by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

George Harrison—the quiet, intense Beatle—left a lifelong imprint on me.

As a kid, I projected my naïve fantasies onto him: He and I were madly in love, although we didn't get married. Marriage didn't appeal to me back then because it was too traditional. Yet, I cheated on him. I sensed that I had a wild streak and a lot of oats to sow before I settled down. My fantasies reflected this. George forgave me and loved me more than ever, because he was sensitive, kind, passionate and understanding.Marriage didn't appeal to me back then because it was too traditional. Yet, I cheated on him. I sensed that I had a wild streak and a lot of oats to sow before I settled down. My fantasies reflected this. George forgave me and loved me more than ever, because he was sensitive, kind, passionate and understanding.

The man I've been married to for many years resembles George, with dark, soulful eyes that can turn mischievous in an instant; a slightly crooked smile that slowly becomes luminous; and, a droll, understated sense of humor.

A while back, I wrote and published a comic novel, "Urban Bliss," in which the main character, Babette Bliss, is married to a charming man who looks a lot like George Harrison—and is actually named "George Harrison" but hails from Iowa. I identified with Babette and her fierce love for her quirky, smart and—very important—emotionally vulnerable husband.

My current movie star crush, the dapper, elegant Pierce Brosnan, reminds me of George (vivid gaze, sly smile, soft-spoken even when playing James Bond).

Recently, I watched a documentary about the lesbian standup comic Tig Notaro. The moment the film began, I was drawn to her. She seemed so familiar. About halfway through the film, I knew why: She looks like George Harrison. Same shy, hesitant smile; tender yet playful expression; and, oh yes, that wry, subtle sense of humor.

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In a famous 1987 New York Times essay for her "Life in the 30's" column, Anna Quindlen analyzed the nature of "Paul Girls," "John Girls," etc. "George Girls," she wrote, were "self-contained, serious, with a touch of the wallflower and a bit of the mystic." Well, that was definitely me (except for my aforementioned wild streak, but I was sure that George was pretty wild, too, beneath that cool and collected exterior.)

My Beatle (unlike too-cute, mainstream Paul, angry John and sad Ringo) would "get" my seriousness, my need to balance solitude with being social, my yearning to be a good, moral person, to balance the material and spiritual worlds.

I loved George's powerful concentration when he played guitar. I loved the soothing, erotic way he sang, "Something in the way she moved me" and the sensual way he drew out the word "lover."

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When my daughter was small, the teacher of our Mommy & Me yoga class played "Here Comes the Sun" each week, as we stretched and balanced, hand in hand, smiling at each other, gaining energy from George's optimistic words.

I loved that George never tried to hog the spotlight from the other Beatles, and that later, he collaborated on songs and albums with friends he dearly loved, like Eric Clapton and Ringo. I needed my "crush" to have a healthy ego, to like sharing the stage, because I've spent my life breaking free of the narcissism and egomania of my family of origin, with my tyrannical father and depressed mother.

Over time, I grew to appreciate George's complexity even more, his struggles as the "dark horse" who never allowed Paul and John to pigeonhole him as the less-creative Beatle, and who eventually showed the world just how creative he really was when he stepped out on his own.

I loved George's humility as a student before the Indian musician and master sitar player Ravi Shankar, and how he boldly integrated classical sitar into his own music, stretching way beyond the days of "Don't Bother Me" and "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" (both of which I still listen to and enjoy).

I respected that he quietly mortgaged ("pawned," as he put it) his London home to raise four million dollars to produce Monty Python's controversial and funny film "The Life of Brian," about a young Jewish man who gains a reputation as a messiah.

I admired his great concern for the world's poor and hungry, as shown by the Concert for Bangladesh that he and Shankar organized, the first-ever benefit concert of such magnitude.

I appreciated that George married and stayed with Olivia, who was not a celebrity, and who seems well-grounded and content not to chase after fame. I like their down-to-earth-son Dhani, who looks remarkably like his father and is a talented musician in his own right.

On the day George died, I was devastated. I was stunned and deeply moved to receive a phone call from an old college boyfriend with whom I hadn't spoken in many years. "This must be a hard day for you, and I want to be here for you," he said. My therapist called, too, to say, "I know how important he was to you."

Like all first loves, his legacy lives on inside me—his music, intelligence, humor—and I see it in the good friends I've made, the art I endeavor to create, the choice I make each day to be as generous and kind as I know how to be.

   
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