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[Why Sade? Closest I could find to my dream-life muse, and most appropriate video I could find]

Getting a bit long in the tooth to be rattling off about Crush #1 again, right? After all, yesterday was the twenty-ninth anniversary of the fight that led to a crush that led to some sort of falling in love for the first time. The three-month period between March 4 and May 30 of ’82 shaped the ways I saw girls and women from the age of twelve until my early thirties. The crush on Crush #1 and its inevitable side-tracking as my then stepfather knocked my mother unconscious in front of me helped shaped my feminism, my womanism and my sexism.

In all of that, I’ve learned that I was wired for this weirdness. Because as a person of deep thought, a boy surrounded by sexism and misogyny, and a lonely and semi-ostracized preteen, the sum was much greater than these contradictory parts.

To think that this all pretty much started because I picked a fight with Crush #1 at the end of class in seventh grade. Almost all of my extracurricular incidents that year began or ended in our homeroom with our homeroom/English teacher Mrs. Sesay. I know that she’s a principal somewhere these days, but back then, her lack of behavioral leadership skills in the classroom led to more verbal abuse and fighting than a group of gifted-track kids should’ve stood for. Anyway, the incident began because Crush #1 asked a question about a subject that Mrs. Sesay had spent the entire week going over, a concept that Sesay would test us on that Friday. I laughed out loud — thinking that I was only snickering — after Crush #1 asked that question.

Thinking nothing of it, I began to pack up after the 2:15 pm bell rang. Crush #1 came up to me and pushed me from behind.

“You’re an ugly, arrogant asshole!” she said with the distaste of a ballerina being asked for money by a junkie.

I called her “stupid” and then said something else stupid. “You’re an idiot!,” Crush #1 yelled as she threw two punches into my chest and a third at my jaw.

The fight lasted about fifteen or twenty seconds, but after landing a punch on her left boob and nipple, I stopped fighting, already descending into the land of the idiot romantic. All while Crush #1 kept hitting me, then being pulled away from me by a couple of her friends. One of them, the recently deceased Brandie Weston, called me a “pervert” as they exited the classroom.

I know that I wasn’t the first boy in history to start a fight with a girl who I’d come to like or love, but I do think that boys who do that have a lot of weird in them. Mind you, I hadn’t quite hit puberty yet, so my testosterone levels weren’t high enough yet to be the cause of my brain malfunction. No, my very sexism and her fierce sense of tomboyish feminism was why I liked her in the first place, and drank deep from that well for the next three months.

The Memorial Day ’82 incident with my mother changed what was an otherwise innocent crush and love into something weirder and more meaningful. I think that’s why it has so clearly affected how I’ve seen girls and women over the years. Crush #1 defended herself, my mother tried and couldn’t. Crush #1 was cranky and usually personable, my mother polite and as close-minded as a clam in deep water. Crush #1 would be fine whether she knew I liked her or not, my mother a damsel-in-distress that needed someone with sense and care to help her.

The weeks following that Memorial Day I made a decision to put my mother first. The side effect of that decision was that I’d spend the next fifteen years or so using Crush #1 as my template — and my mother as the anti-template — for understanding women, for befriending, dating or not dating women, for women I’d put on a pedestal from afar and for women I’d merely sleep with. In the end, I’d resent myself and my mother for that decision. And another six years trying to understand why.

Thinking about it now, it still amazes me how much of what occurred between ’82 and ’96 was part of an unconscious decision process. But since the end of ’89, I’ve gotten a reminder about once every six weeks. Crush #1 has been a part my dreams and nightmares, a muse that would surface some of my wiser thoughts. She’s a reminder that the twelve-year-old in me isn’t dead, just dormant.

The muse reminds me of how little I do know about women and romance, even after eleven years of marriage and more than two decades of various relationships overall. And that the struggle between the various strands of feminist, womanist and sexist thought in me remains just that.