Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Donny, Tony, Duran Duran ... and James Spader? Teen fantasies still serve a purpose.

When I was growing up in the ‘70s, I, like most girls my age, had a collection of posters. In fact, I had an entire wall that was surfaced in cork so I could poke thumbtacks to my heart’s content and not worry about harming the perfect robin’s-egg-blue paint that adorned my walls.

As I recall, I hung giant pictures of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and Tony DeFranco; a poster of Peter Frampton featured the questionable song title “I’m In You” printed above his shaggy blond head, and that one resided just above my headboard. Later on, in college, I used my half of the dorm room to pay homage to Duran Duran – fragile-looking little guitarist Nick Rhodes was my favorite – and Robert Smith of the Cure. And when I had my own apartment, I hung a giant Howard Jones poster on the back of my door, and tried in vain to find a comparable representation of the guys from Tears for Fears.

Unfortunately, I got rid of those posters as my tastes changed; what I wouldn’t give now to have that mint-condition likeness of Donny, leaning against a building in a groovy outfit that included purple socks and a jaunty beret to match. But the posters long ago settled at the bottom of some long-forgotten landfill, and I’m left wondering if it’s appropriate for a woman of my age to once again affix cork squares to a wall so I can indulge my fangirl passions.

What I’m getting at, really is this: I want a poster of James Spader.

Not the James Spader of my formative years, the one who played Steph in “Pretty in Pink” and the creepiest guy in “Less Than Zero.” I want a poster of the bald James Spader as he appears in The Blacklist – wearing a fedora, and looking a little puffy and world-weary from having to kill bad guys all the time to protect maybe-his-daughter-maybe-not Lizzy from the likes of international terrorists and her own husband.

What does this mean? I’m not sure. I’m happily married and not delusional, so I haven’t set my sights on James Spader as I’d set them on Tony DeFranco in junior high (hey, he’s Italian, I’m Italian; our families would have approved); most people my age stopped being “cute” a long time ago, so, fedora aside, the guy  looks like the branch manager of your bank.

But then again, for most of us, as we age, our tastes keep up; while I don’t see Justin Bieber as attractive, there’s something in the balding Spader that takes me back and makes me feel … well, not so old. My husband looks at his celebrity crush, Meg Ryan, and doesn’t see that her plastic surgery made her look like Batman’s Joker; he sees Annie from Sleepless in Seattle and probably thinks back to a hopeful time when the possibility of finding a perfect romance with a virtual stranger seemed entirely plausible. I look at the 53-year-old Spader and see myself as 20 and wearing pearls and a sorority pin, giggling as I made drunken snow angels in the middle of a blizzard.

I’m wondering if looking at a poster of Spader might cause me to take an even longer trip in the Wayback Machine; to pretend I’m Demi Moore and sneak cigarettes with the hope of making my voice deep and husky, and to watch “About Last Night” and “St. Elmo’s Fire” while taking notes on how to make a spiral perm look just-so. I wonder if I’d deconstruct “Pretty In Pink” and "The Breakfast Club" as I did in the old days, knowing I should prefer the jock but really did have a hankering for troubled, slightly grimy Judd Nelson.

I’m expecting too much of a poster, but I’m wondering if it might transform me, even for a little while, to a time when I dressed like Madonna (“Borderline”-era Madonna, not “Like a Virgin” Madonna) and really, truly thought Rolling Stone would swoop me up and send me on the road to write about Billy Idol or the Bangles. I wonder if it might take me back to a time when I thought I’d leave some sort of professional legacy.

A saying I like to repeat warns us all that while others might not remember the things we say or do, they’ll remember the way we make them feel. My posters, my silly celebrity crushes, made me feel – as warped as this sounds – as if anything was possible. Not only could I meet Robert Smith, but the rest of the world was also waiting for me and my fingerless lace gloves and my typewriter and my pithy, witty words.

Thirty years later, I don’t see the world the same way; I love the life I created for myself, but I’m also sad for what could have been, had I been a little braver. “Why haven’t you ever written a book?” a friend asked me yesterday. My real answer: Because I've been afraid. Somewhere along the line, I stepped inside a corporate box and stopped thinking I could be anywhere else.

But into the night, late, I wonder sometimes: Does that have to be true? They say 50 is the new 40 or 30 or something …. could there be a second act out there for those of us who took down our posters a long time ago and began collecting crock-pot recipes?

After running some 5Ks in the fall, I created a small bulletin board in our kitchen. Onto it, I pinned my race bibs, a couple of political buttons and bumper stickers, some quotes I found meaningful, and the receipt from my first pair of real running shoes. When I look at it, I almost see … I don’t know … possibility. Promise. Something that takes me back, but also might move me forward.

I still can’t quite explain why this would be, but if the board were bigger enough, a poster of James Spader might look pretty good, right smack in the center. And he’d tip his fedora, and who knows? Maybe I might find the courage to think back to that girl with the fingerless gloves, and wonder if she still might be able to shake things up a little.

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