Of Dark Alleys and Childhood Romance

I woke up in the middle of a dream this morning. Somewhere amidst the sound of my daughter knocking on my bedroom door with extreme urgency and the dog whining and nudging my hand to get me out of bed, I remember seeing a face in my dream that I haven’t seen in my dreams since I was in Junior High. I briefly exchanged assurances with my daughter about how I would give her a ride to school since she’d missed the bus and then I sat up and felt like smacking my forehead to see if that would cause brain function to restart.

For the love of God, why was I dreaming about Wil Wheaton?

I admit it, when I was my daughter’s age, and come to think of it… Wil Wheaton and I are about the same age, I had a huge crush on the guy. For this crush, the blame rests entirely upon my father. He was a major nerd before geek culture became a la mode. Instead of working on computers, real nerds worked on cars and read Science Fiction and I know it’s really hard to think about now, but there really was a time when there weren’t computers. Those of us that grew up in the 70’s and early 80’s are probably the last generation that will remember what it was like to not be able to use Google to give us the answers to everything. In fact, I suspect we are the last generation that actually knows how to use a real encyclopedia. No, I don’t mean Wikipedia. I mean books with paper in them and ink scattered across the pages that are bound together with glue and string.

I am grateful for my father’s teachings in all of these many things now, but there’s something inherently wrong with being a girl geek. I think that I got teased worse than geeky boys did. I mean, my first crush was Optimus Prime and my second crush was Rick Hunter for crying out loud. None of the other fourth graders thought that was normal. Some of my friends tried to hook me up with a real boy and then when I was in fifth grade, I relented because I was told it was my last chance and “went with” a boy for a weekend and then promptly said, “Go away.” Ink and paint was so much easier to imagine for me and they weren’t real so there were no strings.

Of course, only in retrospect does it occur to me that I had an attitude about romance similar to that of Captain Kirk. I mean, the man always got the girl when there was a girl to acquire, but he never stuck around long enough to see if anything good would come out of it. For this… I feel that I must blame my father. All of that early exposure to Star Trek pre-disposed me to liking guys that said cool things, but had slightly dorky hair and were really smart. You know… geeks.

So when I was, I don’t know, somewhere in junior high, I graduated from Transformers to Star Trek: TNG. Yeah, Commander Riker was hot, (we didn’t say ‘hot’ then, we said ‘cute’), but I had a friend who was Jonathan Frakes cousin, or at least claimed she was, and she said he was a jerk, so Wil Wheaton it was! He was more my speed anyway because he was close to my age. He was also smart and well, a normal kid. He was actually quite tame compared to my previous crushes. I mean seriously, a giant robot that materializes weapons on his hand and beats the crap out of other giant robots isn’t exactly what one would call take home to the parents material. And let’s not even get started on the fact that Rick Hunter had the hots for Min May at all. It was so much better when he hooked up with Lisa. I never understood his attraction for Min May, I mean for crying out loud, she only sang one song. ONE SONG!!!!

I let go of Rick Hunter when I saw Wesley Crusher on Star Trek for the first time. He was just the sort of guy I go for. Nice, polite, exceedingly normal with an underlying intelligence that you saw just waiting to burst through the surface. This is the sort of guy I still go for today and any of you that have had the opportunity to meet my husband will note that that’s exactly the guy I married.

What I have learned in the wake of this dream and all of this epiphany about my youth is that, in a way, the crush on Wil Wheaton was a small piece of coming of age for me. It signaled the end of my interests in the imaginary and the beginning of my consideration for real live boys. This hasn’t made my life any easier. I’m still a geek and I’m still a girl and I still don’t fit in in very many places. The awkward tween inside of me still writes depressing poetry and tries to come up with how it’s possible to kill yourself with a safety razor, but the adult that I have become is so much more vibrant and alive than that little kid ever was. There are times when the little girl inside me is depressed and miserable, but before I can give into her, I always find myself turning a corner and seeing something that brings me back to how I got where I am and why I’m so damned happy here.

It’s possible that the dream about Wil Wheaton was my mind’s way of turning a corner. In fact, if you think about it, it really has nothing to do with him at all. It’s all about me and everything that is going on inside me right now. And somehow what I am left with is this feeling that I really do miss being a kid with a goofy crush on a child actor a mere two years my senior. In spite of the fact that I have tried to shut this stage of my childhood out of my life because junior high was filled with more bad memories than good, I find myself wanting to let that girl out of the box again so that she can play and daydream for just a little while longer before the bullies show up at the end of the alleyway.