Maybe it’s all those telenovelas I grew up on, but as a kid I was really good at harboring crushes. I’m not talking about those routine “oh-he’s-so-cute” eyebatting sessions adolescence requires at least a couple of. Anyone can have those; they require no skill. No, I’m referring to the breast beating, Greek tragedy, decade-long ruminations over a single person’s complete and utter desirability because you are a SENSITIVE, TORTURED SOUL and they are a SENSITIVE, TORTURED SOUL and deep down ONLY YOUR SENSITIVE, TORTURED SOULS COULD POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND THE OTHER.

My awareness of my sensitive, tortured soul came when I was six and a half. I was socially inept and wrote stories about bathrooms with cameras in them. It was only natural that I should develop my first crush then, on a boy in my class named “Joe.” Joe was really smart and really funny and his mom was the Violent Femmes’ chiropractor, but more importantly, he had style. While the other kids in first grade had nasty, scraggly rat tails and gym teacher mullets, Joe’s rat tail hung gracefully over his nape like it belonged there. It practically flipped other rat tails the bird. I could tell this first grader was a cut above.

Joe begrudgingly let me sit at his table sometimes over the years, and even though it was usually to make jokes about my teeth or how fat I was, I valued those moments. While my closely-monitored media diet consisted largely of public television and Univision, Joe’s parents let him watch R-rated movies and MTV and he had an older sister, so I got to learn stuff. I liked living vicariously through his preteen cool.

I’d like to clarify, before continuing, that I am probably not a stalker. This epic crush only lasted until high school, at which point I found new people to fawn over. But I do know of Joe’s whereabouts, if only because Milwaukee is a damn small place and even smaller when you’re arty.

So, for the past ten years, Joe has been the front man in a number of pretty high-profile bands. He even slept with one of my good friends in high school (which I found both hilarious and unfair, especially after she turned out to be gay). Because of this, I’ve been able to chart the progress of my first crush over the years and evaluate what it says about me.

These days, Joe looks like a portly lumberjack Jesus, like the kind of person who smokes too much and drinks too much and probably doesn’t smell very good. He has really good stage presence. I’m not sure I would like-like him, but we’d possibly get along. Or maybe we wouldn’t.

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