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Fiction and Crushes and Fictional Crushes

This weeks’ Friday Five is a rather to-the-point inquiry by Melissa:

“Who are your top 5 fictional crushes?”

So, I’m thinking about this and I realize something: it’s been a rare occasion when I have had a “crush” on a girl in a book. Girls in movies, girls in TV series, my goodness yes, but not girls in books. That’s not very common at all. So I shall include TV and film in this when formulating my answer.

But now another thought occurs to me: there is another way of reading this question. Reading it strictly, grammatically, the adjective “fictional” is a descriptive for the noun “crushes”… meaning, false crushes on possibly real people. That’s an interesting possibility, and I must have at least one story to tell on that front (certainly a few, in fact). So let me see, here, what shall I write? Hmmm…

  1. If anyone remembers the TV show Growing Pains, I had a really huge crush on the sister, Carol (more pics here). She was smart, nerdy, a little older than me, and so much more reasonable than the rest of her family. She also was always at loggerheads with her moron brother, Mike, who reminded me of most of the dipshits at school that I was at loggerheads with. So maybe I felt some nerdish solidarity with her. But I also thought she was intensely attractive.
  2. On the Cosby show spinoff A Different World, a situation comedy about black college students, there was a character named “Freddie Brooks”, who was this artsy, spacey, extremely sexy young female character played by the actress Cree Summer. Oh my goodness I was crazy about her. I watched the show pretty much to see her. Pics are more scanty, and some of them look a lot different than I remember, but there are good ones here and here. But the thing is, you know, her photo doesn’t tell the whole story (a photo never does, right?) You’d have to hear her voice, which was deep and growly and so perfect. Funny… she apparently does cartoon voices on shows like Rugrats now. Weird. Anyway, the picture to the right is nothing like how I remember her, she was a lot softer and new-age-ier in the TV show, but the woman in this picture looks pretty good too.
  3. The female protagonist in Bruce Sterling’s Island’s in the Net somehow was worthy of a fictional crush, I found. Maybe it was the incongrous picture of a woman in a skintight leather catsuit on the cover, all cyberpunk and wild-looking; but the character herself was more of a soccer mom, who, finding herself in a tight situation, got smart and got tough. It was one of those, “If she weren’t fictional, and if she weren’t married in that fiction, I’d give it a try, well, if I were a few years older, anyway.” I read it a few years ago, though.
  4. I once convinced myself I had a crush on a girl. I didn’t, mind you. I wasn’t attracted to her, I didn’t want even in the slightest to kiss her, and yet I spent as much of my free time as I could with her. I was pretty certain that she was interested in me, and that was flattering, but my headspace was all wrong. I’d just broken up with a girlfriend, and I wasn’t ready to be with someone else, but I was determined to be ready, because I’d wasted a long time waiting through a long-distance relationships with that ex-girlfriend and felt like the wasted time needed to be made up for. How silly. But anyway, yeah, I once convinced myself I had a crush on someone when I didn’t, and it was a shock when I realized that this was what happened. Nothing had really happened between us, thank goodness, and I made sure nothing did thereafter, but I still felt a little badly for her, actually, until she mentioned someone new in her life. That wiped away all the guilty sheepishness. Whew.
  5. In a poem by Rimbaud, titled “Au Cabaret-Vert, Cinq Heures Du Soir”, Rimbaud described a barmaid as follows:

    …la fille aux tétons énormes, aux yeux vifs,

    —Celle-là, ce n’est pas un baiser qui l’épeure!—
    Rieuse, m’apporta des tartines de buerre,
    Du jambon tiède, dans un plat colorié

    Du jambon rose et blanc parfumé d’une gousse
    D’ail,—et m’emplit la chope immense, avec sa mousse
    Que dorait un rayon de soleil arriéré

    In the poem, the narrator (we can think it Rimbaud) has arrived at the Cabaret-Vert after eight days of walking on bad roads, and has that feeling that any of us has when an ordeal like that is finally over. He sits down, and “the girl with the huge tits and bright eyes—The kind of a girl that no kiss could scare off!— cheerfully brought him his bread and butter and lukewarm ham on a colorful plate, the ham pink and white, scented by the garlic that it was rubbed with; and the girl then filled his enormous mug with foamy beer that glowed golden from the late-day sun.” (Or something like that. Apologies to the ghost of my favorite gun-running ex-poet.)

    Now, the translation I have in my Rimbaud Complete falters on one very crucial point, which is this: in the original poem, Rimbaud uses the definite article, “la fille”, “the girl”, but Wyatt Mason translates this as “a girl”. But it’s downright wrong, and here’s why. Back in my pub-frequenting days, in Montreal, my friend Jack and I occasionally discussed the barmaids at various places. We would never say, “There’s a barmaid at such-and-such a place who has long frizzy hair and chicken legs,” or “a barmaid with a big butt and a cute smile over at McGibbins.” We said, “You know, the one with the sexy dimple and the long, curly hair.” There’s something very crucial, very important about the kind of familiarity that is contained in that article, in the relationship to place and to the experience of being served by a particular pretty girl, which to me is missing when you translate the article as the indefinite “a”. When I first read the original, I thought, “Ah, this is the narrator’s first visit to the place, he notices the cute barmaid, and you know, he will be back again, often. But then, when I read the French, I realized, this place is already familiar to him; he knows the barmaid, he is back from a journey and getting beer from the same girl; he’s seen those simply tapestries he mentions before. He’s in that place, to steal thw quote from the theme song of a show about people frequenting pubs, “where everybody knows your name.”

    Disregarding the fact that Rimbaud was gay, I still find that this poem creates enough of a resonance for me to conjure up the faintest of memories of the various barmaids, both in Montreal and in Korea, who have summoned up barmaid-crushes in me, from Odyssey and Zen Bar in Iksan, and from McGibbin’s and perhaps a couple of other places in Montreal. It’s a delicious thing to have this sensation summoned up all by just a few lines of a poem, the barmaid crush which almost certainly has something to do with being served by a pretty girl, and which isn’t necessarily a crush I would ever follow through on, given the chance. It’s a strange sort of thing, but whatever it is, Rimbaud captures enough of it to remind me of the feeling.

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