At one time or another I had most of the crushes expected of a straight, teen girl growing up in the 1990s. My rather ridiculous Leonardo DiCaprio phase resulted in my owning a VHS copy of William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, tearing pictures out of teen glossies, and regularly updating a fan website that has thankfully disappeared into the internet ether.
When not outing my ownership of said site on publicly read blogs of note, I tend to reveal my secret to friends after we’ve had one too many. This confession usually results in belly laughs and more drinks. Sometimes it leads your best friend to jokingly whisper “Are you turned on right now?” into your ear while the two of you watch The Great Gatsby in a crowded Brooklyn theater.
I wasn’t, you guys. Don’t worry.
But the expected crushes do little to reveal much about you.
After what felt like eons of waiting, I entered my teen years in 1996. I spent large blocks of the summer that followed the passage of that milestone reading the Delia’s catalog and attending a fancy, summer program. Gone were the normal kid summers spent going to day camp at the YMCA. From then on all summer activities were to be chosen based on whether or not they would be deemed worthy by college admissions boards. But there was still time for some of the kid things. I broke an arm roller skating and learned how to play pool in a Physics class. I developed a crush on a boy named Billy Brewster and got grounded for wearing a crop top without my mother’s permission. But I’ve strayed from the point. In an effort to distract you I’ve brought you down a sunny lane filled with sweet memories. What else occurred in the summer of 1996?
None of it would have happened if not for the biggest film released that year. Actually none of it would have happened if I had simply seen Jurassic Park before I saw Independence Day. But I had discarded my fascination with dinosaurs in my single digit years, and I was still, quietly, afraid of any film that featured even a hint of fear and gore.
Jeff Goldblum plays a scientifically inclined contrarian in both films, but his character in Jurassic Park was all charm and smarm. Since my asshole phase was off waiting for me in my late adolescence, I tended to scoff and sigh at such things and would have found myself pretty disgusted. In some ways the manicured boys who looked up at me from the pages of YM and Seventeen also made me scoff. I was searching for the awkward and the nerdy, unpolished and prone to moments of exasperation. Intelligent imperfection in a very tall package. An outsider. And not that cookie cutter, leather jacket wearing outsider that so often dominates teen films.
With the Nerd Renaissance still years off, it was a weird little crush for a weird little girl to have. It wasn’t as all-encompassing as many of the crushes that followed, and with time it faded as such things often do. Eventually I stopped scoffing and sighing at my magazines and steamed wholeheartedly into that asshole phase.
A few months before I moved to Los Angeles, I found myself being asked by a co-worker about what I liked in men. It’s a common enough question to be presented with when you’re a single woman in her early 30s. The expectation is that your answer will be ridiculous and, in that way, explain why you find yourself alone in a world where everyone around you is pairing off.
I’m known for being standoffish so silence and a shrug would have sufficed. Instead I considered things closely.
Engineers, I guess. Scientists of some sort maybe. But not necessarily. Just someone who is smart but, like, in a different way than I am smart.
I had circled back. I was once again a nerd searching for her nerd counterpart.