When I was nineteen, I had my first crush on a real man. Before that there’d been heartthrobs – John Wayne, Donny Osmond, Clint Eastwood, Mr Rochester. Heart throbbing was that delicious sensation of insatiable longing for the unobtainable. A crush involved a real man.
Nobody says, “crush” any more. So passé. Nobody confesses to infatuations anymore. Nowadays, women and men don’t skulk in the shadows. Pursuing desire, knowing what you want and reaching for it, is the expected way. But then today’s social dance towards intimacy is a whole other conversation.
So I fell deeply into this crush for T, a young man a few years older than me, gorgeously handsome. Every woman in my family, and friends agreed on that point – he was truly dishy. They all sussed that I felt more for him than I ever, ever admitted to.
I was not shy, not retiring in manner, but when it came to flirtation and seduction, I was as switched on as a door mouse. He was suave, cool, beautifully turned out, but never talkative, not to anyone. He affected me. I would inwardly quiver if he came anywhere in my general direction, feel wobbly, squirmy.
As I reflect on this nearly four decades later, what I omit to tell you, the crucial part of this narrative is that I never spoke to him. Not once. Never. Though others tried to pave the way for us to connect, we never did.
But why dredge up these memories now, you ask, all these years later? Thing is, I met him again. In a shopping centre we bumped into him, my sister and I, and they began chatting. I said hello, smiled, then listened and looked, and felt.
He’s still handsome, but heavy now. Hearing him converse was listening to a stranger. I strained, my inner tendrils reached and arched and sought, but landed on nothing. Nothing stirred. He touched nothing in me.
Had he felt anything for me – lukewarm or ardent – all those years ago? I’ll never know, and it can’t matter. But the malaise of my nineteen year old self, her confusion and strangling reticence give me pause. And though it sounds glib, I know, not drenched in psychological complexity, I suspect that what kept her choked up in silence before this man, was her entrapment in an overweight body. I was fat then.
It’s extraordinary really. But when the body is shut tight, then seduction, seduction is an impossibly closed book.