Maybe it's also why I find myself, in my fifties, still enjoying crushes on various celebrities. Like Kimberly Sabatini, it started with The Hardy Boys and Shaun Cassidy when I was about twelve. From there, I moved to Tom Selleck as Magnum. Simon LeBon in Duran Duran.
As I aged, I noticed my crushes did, too. For a very long time, I was enamored with Fox Mulder -- not so much David Duchovny, the actor who portrays him, but the character. I admired his unwavering determination to believe something, or in something, that couldn't be proved. I respected how not even almost universal ridicule could deter him from that mission. As someone who's never had many friends, it impressed me how he didn't mind going it alone -- even preferred it.
I like to think my Fox Mulder crush developed because I had grown up. When I was twelve, it was all about a great smile or amazing hair and in Tom Selleck's case, dimples. But now, it's entirely about character. In fact, a good number of my crushes today are on fictional characters like Levi Cooper from Kristan Higgins' The Best Man, Noah Hutchins from Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits, and -- don't judge -- Avery Cates from Jeff Somers' The Electric Church. Hey, he's a hit man with a personal code of honor.
But every once in a while, there's a photo or video that catches my eyes, puts a little gasp in my breathing. These days, it's Gilles Marini and Sam Heughan. Sam has the great honor of portraying a famous character, that of Jamie Fraser (Outlander). No small feat, as Jamie is the King of Men.
My interest in Gilles was born in fiction. Before I published my debut novel, SEND, I was writing contemporary romance. I have an unpublished manuscript called Borderlines that features a British investigative reporter named Thomas. Developing characters is my favorite part of the writing process. Naming them, uncovering who they are, what they want, what they fear... it's kind of like playing God. Thomas is a very real person to me. I know what kind of cologne he wears, how he takes his coffee, what size shoes he wears and what sends shivers down his spine. I suspect it's like this for all authors. Our imaginations are pretty vivid.
Yet actually seeing your character, alive, in 3D, talking, moving and breathing? That packs a shock. And that's what happened to me. I found Gilles on Dancing With the Stars and couldn't take my eyes off him. He was my Thomas right down to the shape of his mouth. Two big differences? Thomas has light brown eyes, almost gold and a British accent. Gilles' eyes are deep brown and he's French.
(One of the very best things about fiction is nothing's carved in stone. Thomas already happens to speak fluent French. I can easily change those two characteristics....)
Anyway, I followed Gilles for years and then got to meet him in person when he appeared here on Long Island. If you'd like the details, click here. When you're twelve, you dream of getting to meet your favorite celebrity some day but deep down, you know it'll never happen.
But when you're fifty? You know it could but you also know it could change everything. Because yes... most of the fun of a crush is in assigning all of these imaginary traits and characteristics to the object of your affection. If you discover that boy with the perfect smile and glorious hair is allergic to dogs and hates chocolate, you're done. Finished. Nothing to see here... move along to the next crush. Meeting a crush in person removes all elements of fantasy.
Yet that didn't happen when I met Gilles. He is every bit as amazing and wonderful and yes, swoon-inducing as the character I made up.
My crush on him has not waned.
Not one bit.