Monday, May 25, 2015

Why I'm Thankful for My Over-the-Top Adolescent Crush on Leonardo DiCaprio

Last night I watched Titanic for the first time in my adult life.

He saw that in a Nickelodeon and I COULD QUOTE THE WHOLE THING STILL.
The last time I'd watched it I was somewhere between the ages of 15 and 20.

The first time I watched it, I was 11. And was in love with Leo. I mean like, I LOOOOVED him. Ask any one of my friends from childhood and they will tell you that I was obsessed. I was in love with him in Romeo and Juliet (obvs), so when Titanic came out and he started speaking in words I didn't need a Shakespeare-to-adolescent translator for, and then he was all dreamy and not murdery and his highlighted bowl cut was so beautiful I JUST ABOUT DIED. Add a newsies-esk outfit and the charm of 10,000 men and his "make each day count" attitude and his selflessness and love and bravery and I was done for. I remember, I left the theater with my sisters and mom, sobbing "Why does he have *sob* have to die *sob* in every movie I see him *sob* in?" I was inconsolable, but mostly, I just remember leaving the theater thinking, I know exactly what I want in the man I marry. All the Leonardo things. Especially the Jack Dawson variety. I WILL hold out for that. My heart will go on for that.

I spent years living with this mentality. My only super intense real-life crush in middle school was on a boy I met in my Sunday school class in sixth grade (he was in eighth grade, so, you know, mature) who honest-to-God looked just like Leonardo DiCaprio, but with braces. We made flirty eyes with each other across the classroom and I pretended it was the aquarium in the bathroom of the Capulet's mansion. I could basically hear the Romeo and Juliet theme song playing.

You don't even know.
He was so mysterious--the only thing I knew about him was that he played hockey and went to private school. Sigh. I saw him in passing three times, total, and that was that, but I spent three years hoping to run into him because he LOOKED LIKE LEO and Facebook hadn't been invented, so I couldn't look him up and feel all my dreams shatter when I realized that he was just another awkward pubescent boy posting vaguely angry statuses about the Cubs and Halo 3.

Aside from fake Leo, every boy in my middle school, with their fart jokes and their dirty adolescent mouths did absolutely nothing for me. Every boy I met, compared to Leonardo DiCaprio, was not good enough. Leo didn't just set the bar, he was the bar.

I've always thought that this probably wasn't the healthiest way to get through middle school, and I've been surprised my mom didn't stage an intervention of some "my daughter has flipped her lid" kind. But watching Titanic again last night, I realized that maybe it actually wasn't that bad. Hearting Leo meant that I didn't really spend a lot of time trying to impress the boys I went to school with, and anyone who's ever gone through public middle school knows that this isn't an easy feat. I didn't care what they thought, because they were all sooooo lame compared to Jack Dawson. Jack was brave and kind and fun, and he could Irish dance in the third class social hall and make Rose really think about who she was and what she wanted. I wanted someone like that.

Their relationship and that movie as a whole spoke to me during a time when I felt powerless--I was old enough to know some of what I wanted, but too young to have much control over anything at all. Middle school is a weird time for all of that, you know. So knowing there was this idea, this, as my friend Laura called it, "Male version of the 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl'" (you know, let's dance in the fields and I totally don't wear makeup but I'm so crazy and fun) out there, who was fun and free and brave and selfless and cute and innocent and charming and endearing--was a game-changer.

I can't. 
I needed to know that outside of the boys in my school,  most of whom were spending their time trying to figure out how to get to third base, there was a possibility of a boy that would be as amazing as Jack Dawson.  Someone as thoughtful. Someone as kind. Someone fun. Someone who didn't make boob jokes and showered regularly. Someone who wasn't mean to the kids who weren't "cool." This kept me going. It kept me hopeful. It put my head in the clouds in a time when I desperately needed my head to be in the clouds, because being an awkward middle schooler without a dream of something better is just not an option. Instead of feeling like I needed to impress boys that were immature and rude and mostly just, you know, 13 years old, I'd scoff and say, "Ugh, Jack Dawson would never do that." I felt like it was important to hold out for the real deal.

Honestly, I think that idea remained in the back of my mind for my entire single life, and I am so thankful for that. 

So, I would like to take this moment to thank you, Leo, for being that dreamy guy I needed. I wish you'd gotten on that FREAKING RAFT WITH KATE, but still. You were a champ.

Last night, watching Titanic with my girlfriends and re-living a bit of our childhood, I felt very close to my sixth-grade self. I felt like I was able to tell her that her life was going to turn out really well, and that she'd end up with someone even better than Jack (although sixth-grade me would not have believed this, because IMPOSSIBLE). And that she'd be happy, but that life would be hard sometimes, but God would be just as faithful as he was when she was a kid.

And also, I'd want to tell her that Jack Dawson is right--you should make each moment count. That's not something that needs to change when you get older.

Oh, and I'd tell her to never go get her haircut super short between the summer of sixth and seventh grade. It was just the worst haircut in the world. Two years of bad haircut. Don't do it, little Ashley. Do you trust me? Don't DO IT.