In conversation with a friend recently, we mused on literary and televised influences that informed our subconscious desires. (Some giggling may have been involved. Sue me.)
Listen in if you dare…
“I never wanted to play the girl’s part. You know, the one who is rescued? When I was watching Robin Hood, I didn’t want to be Maid Marian. I wanted to do the rescues!” She all but howls this; her inner child demands center stage.
Mine is no less strident.
“I could imagine myself as a heroine. The one who arrives on the scene, to where an accident has happened, and I would perform C.P.R. or lift a car off someone to save lives.” I think for a minute, and add, “I guess I’m lucky I didn’t grow up to be an Angel of Death or some other attention-seeking, trauma causer.”
We gleefully confess our sins.
She would rather be the main character than play second-fiddle. I would much rather write the great novel than love the author from the stalker-y bushes. In short, we both prefer being the hero to worshiping one.
The conversation meanders, as it tends to when one of us is on our second—or is it third?—cup of tea and the other has had less than four hours sleep. (We alternate who plays which roll in all our gab fests.) We digress with the subject of why we like what we like to read.
My friend’s love of serious literature and multifarious mystery apparently has some real-life horror underscoring it.
“I think I was warped too young by watching Helter Skelter.” She says. “I saw it when I was about nine.”
“Is that a horror film?” I ask. But in my head, I’m scrounging to place the reference. I’m about to say, ‘I’m pretty sure there is a Goosebumps book with a similar title,’ but, before I can expose my total ignorance, thankfully she interrupts me.
“No, it’s the movie retelling of the Manson family murders.” She adds, “I think that’s why I read suspense-filled stories. Scary stories by Alfred Hitchcock and stuff by Edgar Allen Poe.”
I’m slightly appalled and yet, also, having an ah-ha moment.
“I was reading Little House on the Prairie while, you uh,” I stumble for a comparison, “…looked for classics on the dark side.” I give a feeble laugh.
“The tell-tale heart wants what the tell-tale heart wants.” She says.*
The contrast in our reading preferences then and now suggests one of us has definitely matured more than the other.
We segue to comparing notes on childhood crushes. If romantic preferences were book titles, hers would probably be something like: The Wrong Man.**
“I always liked the wrong guy.” She admits. “If he was the star, I wasn’t interested.”
<Insert cheesy dream sequence squiggles here.>
“You know the show Magnum P.I.?” (Obviously referencing the 80’s version, not the recent, anemic remake.) She explains, “I liked Rick.”
“Who was Rick?” I have to ask, never having seen the show, then or now.
“He was the guy who wasn’t Magnum.” Seeing my lack of comprehension, she clarifies further, “He was the shady character.”
The confessions keep coming. Maybe she’s always known, or maybe, like me, she’s admitting something about herself that hasn’t before been put into words. Our issues have stereotypes.
We take turns matching each other scourge-for-scourge in the self-deprecation department.
“Oh, and in the Six Million Dollar Man, I liked Oscar Goldman—the old guy on the show.” My friend continues, emphasizing the age of the characters.
I, of course, can only remember Lee Majors, so I google the reference and find a picture (see above). “He wasn’t that old.”
“Old for a teenager to be drooling over him.” She is adamant, so I don’t point out the guy was pretty handsome in his own right. (I’m in my fifties now. He’s down right hunky to my way of thinking.)
I take a moment to reflect on my own sub-par heroes. I could relate, sort of.
“Well, you remember the show…not car 54…not black and white…but the one with paramedics. I keep thinking Area 51 but that’s not it.” I’m convinced there is a number in the title.
“Emergency!” My sage friend prompts (in a thymely manner.) “It was simply called Emergency.”
“Yeah. Well, I professed to like the blond guy. Not the one who was the swarthy, hot star.” It’s confession time. “And…and…I liked the blond guy on C.H.I.P.S, even though Erik Estrada was more my actual type: dark hair, dark eyes, Latin flavor.”
[Sidebar: for those of you who don’t know, I married a swarthy, dark-eyed, handsome guy of Hispanic heritage. I eventually figured my kinks out.]
I sum up my thirteen-year-old ego with crushing honesty: “I choose to like the guy I figured I could get. He was less popular therefore he might be…I don’t know…more desperate. Easier.”
“And I always go for the old dude.” She commiserates. “I have daddy issues.”
We exchange mournful observations on our youth with chagrined half-smiles.
“Okay. Moment of truth here.” I say, inspired to pick at the emotional scab some more just to see what oozes out, “If you had to pick someone from the A-Team…who would it be?”
“Easy. The old guy…the one with white hair.” She flails for a name. “You know, the one in charge.”
It seems her inexhaustible well of 80s character actors has run dry. I Google it. George Peppard played the role of John “Hannibal” Smith.
“For me it was the crazy guy. ” I say. That I pick ‘Howling Mad Murdock’ is as indefensible as it is telling. I’m confessing to sins of bad taste like I’m at a slumber party and I’ve chosen Truth over an unnamed Dare. “I liked that he was constantly taunting Mr. T into a rage.”
I think we could have gone on forever—and in forensic detail—about what these confessions say about us. That my friend longs for the companionship of an older, presumably wiser, man to partner with. That, even as I matured, I chose the oddballs, the misfits, or downright wacky personality types to match my inner convictions that, if I am not exceptional, I can at least claim to be different.
I cut the conversation off with a mundane plea:
“We can talk about this more, but I have to pee.” I say.
“Let’s not.” She says this with deadpan bluntness, but then she’s laughing as she moves to shut the connection down.
“I may turn this into a blog post.” I warn her before she can.
She rolls her eyes; she’s heard this threat before.
“Live long and prosper.” I utter the Star Trek catchphrase as I give my traditional, geeky salute—fingers splayed in a Vulcan greeting.
Her answering, “Whatevs,” is lost to the digital waves as Skype shuts down.
I’m giggling as I type up our conversation—tweaking my words to be pithier and funnier than reality. Misquoting what I wasn’t fast enough to think up at the time or remember accurately later. She’ll forgive me…as long as I omit her name. It’s why we’ve remained friends for so long: plausible deniability.
Confessions—inner most thoughts shared, with a nudge toward the fanciful, the scorned revelation, the embarrassing stench of truth. This is something I believe actually strengthens friendships—not only the shared history, but the history we choose to share. That, no matter how far apart we are in background, upbringing, potential or taste, we are common in our embarrassment of some aspect of our childish views of the world. And that we can be more forgiving of it now that we’ve reached middle age.
Despite our differences, and our confessions, when it comes to reading, watching, or writing about our heroes and the personal foibles we reveal in those confessions, we can all agree on one thing, as Colonel “Hannibal” Smith might put it:
“I love it when a plan comes together.”
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*She definitely did not say that, but retrospective retelling screams for a good quotation.
**There will be a discussion group to debate the merits of a book title based on my crush preferences. The choices are: No Man, Know How and The Man Less Traveled.^
^Trying to be clever, I un-originally came up with: The Man from Nowhere and Nowhere Man, only to discover these gems were already taken. (This is an example of the exceedingly-rare footnote to a footnote. Treasure it accordingly.)
***I do not confess to my Fantasy Island obsession–for both Ricardo Montalban AND the guy playing Tattoo. Thank heavens I have that much self-respect.