I could tell a story about my unique and beautiful relationship with each of these cover boys, but I’ll tell just one.
When I was 11, the fantastically white trash neighbours who lived next door moved out and a new family moved in. We adored the family that lived there because our family was also WT, but just a little less trash, so our bonkers front yard filled with broken cars, a barely functioning above-ground pool and cats (so many cats!) was largely ignored by the neighbourhood while the boy next door pulled shenanigans.
Luckily, when he and his dreamy brother moved away, an even more fantastically dysfunctional family moved in. They were glorious! The family consisted of two cranky smoking parents, twin blonde daughters whose names began with the same letter and three boys whose names began with a different same letter. The youngest boy was rambunctious and everyone said he looked like a real-life Bart Simpson, because it was the late-80s, you see. The middle boy was quiet and polite. I wrote my first poem about him. Its title was Love. The eldest boy was a half-brother, the result of some teenage romp the smoking mother had before she settled down with the smoking father. This boy was magnificent: slim and tall and plump lipped. A blonde, cruelly beautiful girlfriend had shaved one side of his head; the unshaved side covered one eye that I never saw. Maybe it didn’t exist!
I was obsessed with this boy from the moment I got over my brief crush on middle-brother until I discovered the Internet when I was 16 and also discovered it was totally cool to love ladies. He did not care for my bod, but was always very sweet to me, which actually led to more humiliation than would have resulted if he had simply ignored me. During my obsession I wrote my tender mono-eyed love many poems, one titled True Love, because my feelings had deepened. I also composed a many-paged love letter that I foolishly asked my brother to deliver. Instead of the confession being passed along, it was instantly opened, read, and laughed at by our siblings. When I peeked out my bedroom window like an awkward princess in a tower and witnessed my shame, my brothers and his youngest brother huddled around my painstaking verse, guffawing with wicked joy, my Gallant Knight’s eye caught mine and he silently snatched the letter out of the giggling boys’ hands and returned to his house alone, while I slid down the wall of my bedroom and pushed play on my Paula Abdul cassette. I can’t remember one word contained in that precious document, but a part of me still hopes he read it, and still remembers that at one time, a sweet eager girl adored him.
Sometimes the mother of my Sweet Love would visit with my mother. They would sit at our kitchen table to smoke and gossip. During one visit, they moved their cigarettes and sweet tea outdoors, and Smoking Mom left her purse hanging from a kitchen chair. I was a tremendously well behaved child, but suddenly overcome by my irrational desire, I dove into her wallet, released My Tender True Heart’s school photo from its plastic confines & scurried to my bedroom with my stolen treasure clutched in my palm. I couldn’t look at it though! I couldn’t have such intimate eye contact with my Darling Man-child. He never looked away, just stared at me soulfully, slouched impatiently in his grey flannel. “What was he thinking?” I wondered. Even though I couldn’t interact with the photo, I also couldn’t bring myself to toss it; the thrill of committing a crime in the name of (true) love was too delicious, the evidence must remain. So I hid it carefully behind a pin-up photo I had hanging on my wall, above my light switch, of Tommy Puett. I don’t even remember what show Tommy Puett was on (Life Goes On, maybe? I dunno.) He was just a space filler, surrounded by more important faces: Saved By the Bell cast members; Johnny Depp; New Kids on the Block; Mariah Carey; Winona Ryder, but behind Puett’s stupid face hid my True Love, and now that mullet-clad boy is a part of my heart’s history.