Ned: I don't really want to write about my first crush.
Shawn: Why not? I bet it would be an interesting story.
Ned: You're right it would be interesting, but I'm afraid.
Shawn: What are you afraid of? You don't seem to me like the kind of guy who is intimidated by fears. Anyone who has lived the life you have can hold his head up high.
Ned: Well Shawn that just goes to show that you've seen the me I want you to see.
Shawn: But I want to see more. That's why your first crush story might be a good idea to tell. Hey, I'll
respect your privacy. It's not like I'm going to go publish a blog about what you tell me.
Ned: Thanks for that. I know I can trust you. After all I created you from the guys I've trusted and loved and yes, crushed upon.
Shawn: Was I your first crush?
Ned: You're way too young for that, but you could have been if I'd met you back in the seventh grade.
Shawn: Was that when you first crushed?
Ned: You really want to know, don't you? Well I'll tell you what I can. It's kind of silly really.
Shawn: Quit worrying, just tell me, if you want to that is.
Ned: Well his name was and is Kent. He lived in my ward but since I hardly ever went to church, I hadn't seen him for a long time. Maybe I'd seen him, but I hadn't noticed him. He must have been a couple of years older. So when I hit seventh grade he was a ninth grader and I really hadn't seen him, or noticed him like I said, for a couple of years.
So it was fall and it was my first couple of days of junior high. I enrolled in a Seminary class and I was walking to class at the Seminary building. I'm about 25 feet from the front door and the door opens and Kent walks out. It was one of those moments that almost takes on a surreal, slow motion feeling when I look back on it. He's alone. He's carrying his books.
The first thing I notice is not that it's Kent but that there's his tall, incredibly handsome 9th grader walking out the doors. And then I notice it's Kent, the guy in my ward. He's the same person, but he's not little anymore, but he's way different, he's tall, dark and handsome, just like the cliche that now didn't seem so corny all of a sudden.
He's got thick curly hair and the most wonderful brown eyes, and he's laughing and happy and moves like a gazelle. He's easy and confident in his stride. He likes himself and I instantly like this new Kent I'd hardly even noticed before.
I couldn't take my eyes off of him and it really was the first time I'd ever noticed such a strong feeling about another guy, other than maybe when I dreamed about Jesus.
Shawn: Did he talk to you? What did you do?
Ned: I really don't remember. He might have said hello. Or maybe it's just that our eyes met. Or maybe not even that. He might not even have seen or acknowledged seeing me. I just know I saw him and I thought "Oh my gosh, that's Kent and he's incredibly wonderful now. I can't believe how tall and handsome he is. He didnt' just look good, he looked great."
Shawn: And, yes, so what happened?
Ned: I went to class. I didn't talk to him and I tried to not think about him, but it was useless. Something about Kent not only caught my eye, but it branded itself into my gut. You remember the old TV series "Branded?" It had this song, "Branded, scorned was the one who ran, what do yo do when you're branded and you know you're a man."
Shawn: No clue about that. It never made it into the reruns.
Ned: I sometimes forget my advanced age especially when I think about Kent.
Shawn: So what else? Did you guys get to know each other? Was he like a big brother to you?
Ned: No, nothing like that. I was too intimidated. I may have seen him many times after that, I don't know. But the scene that I remember is just what I told you.
Shawn: That's it. No story. No more details?
Ned: That's all that happened. Just a few seconds on the way to Seminary. But it was powerful and memorable because it was the first time I thought, "Wow, I really like boys." I'd had elementary school girlfriends, but they were just fun and pretty and I liked talking to them. But with Kent the feeling was instant and strong and unforgettable. Are you familiar with the musical "Sunset Boulevard" and the song "With one Look"?
Shawn: Sorry bud, you know I'm not really into show tunes. If you ask me about basketball players and sports stats I can get into trivia with you. But tell me anyway. What were you going to say?
Ned: Well the song is sung by Norma Desmond. She's an aging star of the silent era and she's remembering and describing how audiences reacted to her beauty and talent. Here's what she sings:
With one look I can break your heart
With one look I play every part
I can make your sad heart sing
With one look you'll know all you need to know
With one smile I'm the girl next door
All the love that you've hungered for
When I speak it's with my soul
I can play any role
No words can tell the stories my eyes tell
Watch me when I frown, you can't write that down
You know I'm right, it's there in black and white
When I look your way, you'll hear what I say
Yes, with one look I put words to shame
Just one look sets the screen aflame
Silent music starts to play
One tear in my eye makes the whole world cry.
Shawn: Umm, that real nice Ned, but I don't get it. What does that have to do with your first crush?
Ned: Well Kent didn't even give me one look, or if he did I don't remember it, but just seeing him, just being within a few feet of him had that kind of emotional power that Norma is singing about. Those few seconds didn't break my heart, but they revealed my heart to me. I'd found guys interesting before, but suddenly there was this compelling element.
I'd heard about guys going through puberty and suddenly noticing girls in a different way. Girls who hadn't been that interesting before suddenly became different, wonderful, noticeable. The world changed. Like in the Wizard of Oz when the sepia becomes Technicolor.
Shawn: I remember when the Wizard of Oz used to be shown on TV, like every year, sure. But it's such a long movie, I'd say, "Oh here we go again." If it was good weather, I'd go outside and try to find someone to throw a football around with or shoot hoops or play catch with a softball and my favor mitt. Man I loved that mitt. But I do remember my sisters were really into the Wizard of Oz.
Ned: So in the film, the color pallet changes from black and white to color.
Shawn: Yeah, you said that already, so why is that such a big deal? I'm trying to follow you here Ned, I really am.
Ned: Well when I saw Kent that first time when I was in seventh grade the color didn't change. I didn't break my stride. But inside something definitely changed that was just a dramatic as black and white changing to color.
Shawn: To be honest with you Ned, I still don't get it, but I can tell it's important to you. It does reminds me that I do remember dancing with girls when I was in junior high. They did seem differernt to me and I can remember with one it was pretty cool cause were dancing close and I started to get a hard on and then when I went to take a piss later there was this little wet spot on my boxers, precum. Pretty cool I felt like I was quite the stud. Was it like that? You physically reacted to him?
Ned: No, not there and then. I was going to Seminary for crying out loud. I wasn't dancing with him. I wouldn't even have thought of dancing with him. But yeah, probably later when I thought about him, when I was lying in bed at night, I might have started to get hard. But I wouldn't let myself think about those things, not in real life. But in my dreams, yeah. It wasn't with girls, and that was when I started to know I wasn't like most guy, because for me the excitment was with not with girls but with someone like Kent, not Kent himself, he was untouchable, but someone like him, someone in my imagination, and it was a guy not a girl.
Shawn: OK well that does fit a little better with my idea of how a first crush might start out.
Ned: There's something else I want to tell you. Many years later, decades later, I was walking through an office buildlng and I saw Kent's name on the door of this tiny little office off in the corner in a dark hallway and it brought all this back instantly.
I could see through the glass door that he was in there behind his desk. So I knocked, and he looked up and motioned for me to come in. I introduced myself and he remembered me from being in his ward all those years ago. I asked him about his family and he asked me about mine. I was in there maybe five minutes max.
Shawn: What was that like?
Ned: It was strange. He wasn't at all like I had remembered and idealized him. He'd lost his most of his thick curly, sandy brown hair and what was left was thinning and gray. His face was puffy and he wore thick bifocal glasses. He had big color photo of his wife and kids by his computer. When he stood up to shake my hand he was no longer taller than me and what I'm sure used to be washboard abs had melted into a gut hidden behind a tired white shirt and a tie that should have been donated to Deseret Industries.
My beautiful handsome Kent had turned into a middle aged man with gut--not a big beer belly, but a gut nonetheless--just like the one I carry around.
And when he touched me--the handshake that is--there was no magic, no electricity. It was just a handshake, it wasn't firm and manly, just kind of soft and half hearted like years in that little, cramped office had drained all the vitality out of this once virile young man who was now just an old married man like me, doing his best to provide for his family, working a job he probably wasn't exactly in love with, but he did love his wife and kids and so it was all OK. He was being true to his loves and his loved ones and I had to respect him for that.
Shawn: So basically meeting him was a disappointment?
Ned: Not entirely. I know I keep comparing this whole thing to the movies, but do you know that scene from Hook where the boys in Neverland are trying to figure out if Robin Williams really is a grown up version of Peter Pan.
Shawn: Sorry Ned, it's another movie moment I seem to have missed. Ask me about the NBA or the NFL and I'd be right there with you. But go ahead, tell me anyway.
Ned: Well here's the setup and the line is from this little kid named Pockets, one of the lost boys who don't believe Peter Banning is Peter Pan, but Pockets touches his Peter's face and looks into his eyes and finally recognizes him and says "Oh, there you are, Peter!"
It was like that in Kent's office, I didn't touch his face, of couse, but as we talked I looked into his eyes and behind the thick glasses it was like "Oh, there you are, Kent!" But of course I didn't saying anything.
Shawn: So you guys became friends as adults?
Ned: Not really. I mean we'd say hello if we saw each other, I've seen him a couple of times and we have said hello. But no, he's not my good pal or anything.
Shawn: So do still have a crush on him?
Ned: Again it's yes and no. There's very little chemistry between the adult Ned and the adult Kent. I mean he's a nice guy and I don't dislike him, but I'd never seek him out. But that moment as he walked out of the Seminary building, that moment when I knew without a doubt that I really, really liked guys, that moment is still very real and alive. So yes, in that sense, 13-year-old Ned still has a crush on 15-year-old Kent. It's not just a memory. It's still real in a cinematic sort of way.
Shawn: Are you glad you told me?
Ned: Yeah. Thanks for listening. You know someday when we have more time, I'll have to tell you about some other crushes I've had and one I have right now.
Shawn: Let me guess. It's probably for this tall younger man who cares more about sports than old movies.
Shawn: My guess is that one of your current crushes is on this entirely straight young father you'd like to talk to, and sometimes do talk with, but you often feel shy when you're around him. He's pretty comfortable with you, but you're not so comfortable with him. It's like you're afraid that if he knew the real you, you think he'd have nothing to do with you. That's my guess, but it's just a guess.
Ned: Not bad, Shawn, not bad at all, but hey I gotta go. Thanks for your time, though. It's always good to be with you. Tell your sweet wife and kids hello for me.