My earliest recorded crush was when I was a pre-schooler and fell madly in love with David McCallum, aka Illya Kuryakin on the "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," the hottest show about the Cold War in the mid-1960s. The gorgeous blond McCallum was also my first celebrity stalking experience when he appeared as the special guest at the Berwyn Pet Parade in Berwyn, Illinois, circa 1966. Although I don't have too many clear memories of the parade or seeing my beloved Illya, I do recall thinking that having a crush was a whole lot of fun.
It made my heart pump faster and each day a little brighter, especially Tuesdays, the night "U.N.C.L.E." aired. At the tender age of five, I realized crushing on somebody made me feel more alive and the world seem a little more sparkly.
Once I was in kindergarten, I started crushing on boys in my class in addition to my constantly growing list of celebrity heartthrobs (Ted Bessell as Donald Hollinger on "That Girl," Bobby Sherman of "Here Come the Brides," Paul Newman, and, inexplicably, "McHale's Navy's" Tim Conway, the one crush that still puzzles me to this day). I don't remember most of the boys I was "in love" with, but a few names are burned in my memory bank forever. Pat. Dennis. Tom. Mike. There was never any rhyme or reason to any of it. A boy in my class might look cute during a kickball game or maybe he helped me with a science project and boom! I was a goner.
One memorable high school crush I shared with my best friend, Martha. We were both crazy about a disc jockey who had an afternoon radio show on WLS in Chicago. While a job requirement for a DJ has always been a deep, velvety, seductive, top-40 voice, most do not have faces that come close to the images their voices project. Our DJ crush was an exception to that rule, being a tall, broad-shouldered, blue-eyed blond.
With no real plan in mind other than seeing our crush in person, Martha and I regularly took the train into the city, walked over to the radio station and took the elevator to the proper floor where we could stand outside a plate glass window watching Mr. Wonderful in action.
The DJ occasionally came out to chat with us and mildly flirt, asking where we were from and what our names were. Occasionally, he might mention us during his show, with veiled comments about "attractive young ladies visiting from the northern suburbs."
From the perspective 30-plus years has given, those mild flirtations seem somewhat questionable and slightly creepy, considering the age difference between our gawky teenage selves and the suave practically middle-aged disc jockey who chatted us up while "Afternoon Delight" played in the background. Back then, however, it was neither inappropriate nor creepy. It was exciting and wonderful. The fact that our crush noticed us not only boosted our shaky adolescent self-confidence, it also helped us return to our often dreary high school existence with something much more interesting to think about than algebra.
When I was 18, I met my husband-to-be and, naturally, immediately developed an enormous crush on him. The biggest crush I'd ever had. So huge, in fact, that I decided that I couldn't live without him, switched college so we could be together and married him at 20.
I thought marriage would end my crushes but to my surprise—and delight—it didn't. I continued to love celebrities (Robert Redford, Sam Elliott, the entire male cast of "Knots Landing") and every so often a real life crush would pop up and blossom as well. The dentist who gave me my first crown. An adorable UPS delivery guy who wore shorts even in January. A whole retinue of co-worker crushes.
I learned that co-worker crushes are the best since, like back in my school days, they made going to work much more fun and, also like during my school days, in my heart of hearts, I knew they were never going to go anywhere. Having a crush as a married person is built-in protection over anything truly dangerous happening between my crush and myself because while my pulse might pound faster whenever I ran into the current object of my affection in the break room, I always knew that I'd never do anything to hurt my husband or our marriage.
I came to understand that crushes are the dessert you occasionally allow yourself—Cool Whip on a piece of pecan pie—whereas marriage is the main course, the meat and potatoes that sustains you. Maybe that's why crushes are so much fun. Your rational mind knows they aren't going anywhere and also knows that you don't really want them to go anywhere. It's your irrational mind that loves them so much.
Thank God we mainly get married using our rational minds. Otherwise, I imagine my life might have consisted of me moving from one crush to another, probably ending up looking like a highway after a multi-car pileup. My marriage, traveling at the speed limit in the safe right hand lane, has been far safer, smoother and really much more enjoyable.
It occurs to me every so often that I'm probably not alone with this crush business. There's a high probability that my husband has harbored a crush or two of his own over the years. If he has, good for him—but I don't want to hear about it. That's something else I've learned about crushes. With the exception of the crush I shared with Martha back in high school, they are really something that is best savored by yourself. Talking about a crush can not only leave you vulnerable to office gossip and speculation, it also dilutes the thrill of it all. And once a crush loses its thrill, it's pretty much over.
I sometimes wonder if I'm ever going to stop getting my absurd crushes on the most unlikely people. We lose a lot of things as we get older. I'm hoping crushing isn't one of them.