Bronn and Tyrion from Game of Thrones.
When it comes to growing up, there are plenty of things we expect – and are happy – to leave behind in adolescence: scented body glitter, orthodontic braces, frantically scribbled notes in red pen on feint-ruled paper that say things like, “And Vicky said Chris had had a haircut, but HE'D KNOW, wouldn't he?!” (actual quote), and the horrible lump in your throat when Mrs Ihle yelled at everyone for not knowing enough geography facts.
These are the payoffs for making it out the other side of high school and into the relative safety of adulthood; the stuff you can think about while leaning back in your chair and shaking your head at the good old bad old days.
If I had known, however, that the unbearable agony of crushes on unattainable people would continue long into my fourth decade, then I would have had a stern discussion on the topic with Father Time (and for what it's worth I hope the whole conversation would have looked a bit like the The Future Council in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and feature most triumphant guitar solos).
I have vivid memories of the day in 1995 that my parents caught me practising signatures in my school diary ahead of my upcoming wedding to E.R. star Noah Wyle; I went red like a Looney Tunes thermometer and shouted “SHUT UP I DO NOT!!!!” (or words to that effect) when either Mum or Dad asked if I liked him.
That was my first major celebrity crush beyond vague feelings of affection for the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, in the late '80s, and I am sorry to report that not much has changed.
I have been staying with Mum for a few weeks while on a break and when she spied me Googling images of Kit Harrington as Jon Snow this past weekend (“wish I was a direwolf puppy lol”) and said, to the family dog, “Ooh, she's in love, Coco”, I bellowed “I AM NOT, I AM JUST LOOKING AT HIS COSTUME!!” Just so you know, I also read Playboy for the articles.
The joke's on her, as it turns out my real Game of Thrones crushes are Tyrion and Bronn (have you seen this great compilation of their best jokes -- hey, where are you going?), but my point is: when does this agony stop? Surely crushes should be put away with everything else mentioned in the lyrics of Lulu's To Sir With Love once we hit our early 20s.
You could argue that a celebrity crush is healthy (ish), or at least healthier than real-life unrequited love, because it allows you to focus all your most teenaged and intense emotions on someone who, unless they Google themselves regularly and are well-versed in their various fan-dubbed nicknames, will never see any of your emoticon-laced musings.
British relationship counsellor and author of the grimly titled I Love You But I'm Not in Love with You Andrew G. Marshall said of celebrity crushes a few years back, “The thing about celebrities is that they are a perfect focus for a fantasy and tend to fit into archetypes. A celebrity crush is a safe way of exploring the options you didn't take in life."
And while I'm not sure that I ever really had the option to date either a swarthy mercenary or a quick-witted member of an in-fighting royal family in real life, I suppose mooning around thinking about Bronn might mean I'm less likely to respond (and later regret doing so) to a message from that dude on OkCupid who actually does own swords and has a way with grammar that would impress Hodor.
Fortunately, I know I'm not alone, since plenty of my friends - female and male - have their own chosen celebrity crushes (since I got into entertainment journalism, one of my oldest friends is constantly asking that I pass his regards on to Scarlett Johansson; I write his love letters up on this invisible typewriter). It's no worse than daydreaming, really.
And, when it comes down to it, I suppose keeping myself amused by imagining my eventual wedding to [insert flavour of the month here] is better for the psyche than lying prostrate on the floor weeping about being desperate and dateless.
Imagining dates with famous people might be unrealistic, but it's certainly easier on the soul than wondering why you're still single. As poet and Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”
So maybe 13-year-old me, who didn't get a date until at least three years later, and her diary full of “Mrs Wyle” doodles was onto something after all.