My first crush was wildly inappropriate. I was in fourth grade. He was in his thirties. I was a naïve North Dakota farm girl. He was a Confederate blockade-runner with a sardonic sense of humor.
But the biggest obstacle to our love was the fact that he wasn’t real. Rhett Butler existed exclusively in my mind and in the pages of Gone with the Wind. I became lost inside that book the moment I opened it and I didn’t return to the real world until it ended with those terrible words. “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”
He didn’t mean it of course. How could he leave Her/Me with our emerald eyes and passion for life? But as I got older and a less little naïve, I began to wonder if a man who ran off to visit Belle Watling every time he got into a fight with his wife was really an ideal hero. And that’s when I developed the crush that would inform my outlook on members of the opposite sex, both real and imagined, for the rest of my life.
Mr. Darcy would never visit a house of ill repute. He would never leave Scarlett on the road to Tara with a sick woman and a baby in the middle of a war zone. If Scarlett dressed up in curtains and came looking for money, Mr. Darcy would gently take her hand and say, “Madame, I cannot bear to see you abase yourself in this distressing manner. Go and live at my estate at Pemberley until reconstruction and your financial misfortunes have ended.”
Mr. Darcy was the crush to end all crushes. If you’re a parent, and you don’t want your daughter to date, ever, give her a copy of Pride and Prejudice. She will reject every boy who crosses her path for the next decade. No fifteen-year-old boy can compete with Mr. Darcy.
Let’s face it. Few grown men can compete with Mr. Darcy.
Mr. Darcy stayed inside my head for a long time. Colin Firth eventually came along and gave him more concrete facial features. But it was his character and his values, rather than his outward appearance, that inspired my love. He was trustworthy, honorable, and perhaps most importantly, able to admit it when he was wrong.
I married someone with the same admirable qualities. Maybe that’s the purpose of a crush. They’re romantic breadcrumbs on the trail of love, leading us onward, from youth, to maturity, to our final destination; happily ever after with the right person.