The summer of '42
I had lunch with a friend yesterday, let’s call him Bob. To say Bob’s a friend might be stretching it, depends on how you define the word. Our kids went to preschool together and my wife was friendly with his wife in those days. I see him every three or four years, but I do like him very much so I guess he’s a friend. Anyway, as the lunch began he asked me if I was aware that he had been divorced for almost three years. Well, no. This was more than mildly surprising, although considering the limited amount of our interaction probably should not have been. When I got back to the office I called my wife to tell her the sad news. Also because I wanted to be the one who got to convey the gossip.
Wade: Bob and Jennifer are divorced.
Rayda: (long pause) Bob’s available ? How does he look?
Wade: (thinking, Oh yeah): His hair is thinning, really has gained a lot of weight, wears his glasses all the time now.
Rayda: So Bob’s available……
I had forgotten that my wife had a not so secret crush on Bob. She thought that he looked like Mel Gibson (before Mel became a foul mouthed drunk and started making movies in Aramaic).
All of us have crushes. Most people don’t admit to them. I have had one for years on the film actress Jennifer O’Neil. Perhaps not so much on Jennifer as the character she played in the Summer of ’42 (a coming of age tale set on Nantucket at the beginning of World War II). In the film, a vacationing teenager who is on the island with his family , falls in love with a young bride whose husband has gone off to war. To make a long story short, the husband is killed and in a very tender moment, in the midst of her initial grief, the young woman sleeps with the boy. When the movie came out in 1972,this was felt to be a beautiful scene, we called it poignant. Today it is called statutory rape. This was long before we knew how many thirty year old Math teachers were sleeping with their 13 year old students. In 1972 it would have never crossed anyone’s mind that the moment between Hermie and Jennifer was anything a but life affirming rite of passage for the boy and a comfort and solace for the woman.
As I say, as Jennifer aged, I was never very impressed with her. I did find out that I was not alone in my devotion to her character. I saw her interviewed once and she said that a day never went by when some middle aged lady did not come over to her and say “My husband is in love with you”. I have not had a crush quite like that again, although for years I have had a thing for the Aveeno girl. It has never gotten very far because just about the only time I see her is when she pulls her hands over her face to wash soap away on the commercial. That’s not a lot to go on.
I know that everyone has these crushes because people let things slip. During a showing of the movie “High Sierra” my father let it slip that he had always had a thing for Ida Lupina. The woman who cuts my hair says that her grandmother always made her watch the T.V. show Barney Miller because she lusted after Hal Linden. The great columnist Russell Baker said in his autobiography that as a child he was shocked to hear his grandmother say “That Rudolph Valentino can slip his shoes under my bed anytime”. Even my own mother keeps an autographed baseball of Brad Ausmus in her living room. When asked if that was because of his skills as a ball player, she smiled and said “partially”. I strongly suspect that my friend Bennett has a thing for Reese Witherspoon (sorry if I outted you Bruce).If Bennett can have a crush, anyone is so capable.
In an episode of the sit-com “Friends”, Ross and Rachel keep a list of five people that they each allow the other to sleep with if given the opportunity. The story becomes totally unrealistic when we learn that Isabella Rossellini is on Ross’s list and he spends the episode pursuing her. It is O.K to have a list, but there are some women that have too much grace and class to be put on such a list without making that list tawdry. Isabella is one of those people, as was her mother Ingrid Bergman, also Jackie Kennedy. Princess Diana was a borderline call. Also, you should not allow friends to be on the list. I define friends as someone you like, even though you may only see them every three or four years. Got that Rayda ?