Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Futures I Thought I Might Have: Jonathan Taylor Thomas

I, like a good many women in their mid to late 20's, spent a good part of my adolescence embroiled in a passionate, one sided love affair with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I liked to think that I had more of a right to him than other girls in that, I felt I had "discovered" him. While lots of other ladies were still tearing out the glossies of Jonathan Brandis (RIP) and watching Seaquest for their jollies, I had fully boarded the JTT train and was busy making my mom tape Home Improvement for me every week. By the time that the rest of my classmates had hopped on that train, I felt that I was the conductor. And that, yes, as a reward for sharing his unimaginable beauty with the world, he would be mine.

I did a lot of odd things for the love of one JTT. I made my mother search all over the greater Tri-Cities area for feta cheese, as I had read that was his favorite food and it, at that time, was not readily available in a rural VA grocery store (she found it, in a huge package, at a Sam's Club). It soon became my favorite too (and now, reading that, I want some). I purchased every Bop and Big Bopper and Tiger Beat imaginable in duo--one to leave together, to gaze at, dreamily, and the other to tear out the pictures to place inside of my Lisa Frank trapper keeper folders. Most funnily, when Man of the House (a movie starring Chevy Chase and JTT) came out, and I found out our local radio station was offering a Man of the House gift pack, I made my poor, embattled mother sit outside of my gymnastics class, frantically punching in the numbers on her new bag phone so that she could be caller number nine. She managed to win (probably because no one else wanted a prize pack that included a movie ticket and a Duck Head t-shirt from the Watson's sale rack), and she came running into my class excitedly, yelling, "I won it! I won it!" When we finally got to pick up the shirt, it was a copy of one that JTT wore in the movie. NOT THE ACTUAL SHIRT. However, I was convinced that it was still imbued with some indelible JTT-ness and decided to never wear it, and to let a large, forgotten teddy bear rock the look instead. I slept with that bear for a long time, and got pretty angry when my grandmother finally washed the shirt.

I imagined that JTT would find me utterly amazing. We were both smart, I figured, and I think I read somewhere that he liked to read. I imagined us reading together, and being very charming and eating a lot of feta cheese and shrimp pasta since that was my favorite dish. He also liked the outdoors, so we would hike some, and I would bring him to the falls that were close to my home and he would love it and we would kiss passionately on all of the bridges. We would snark a lot together about Jodie Sweetin, who I irrationally hated, so affeared was I that she and JTT might find a common thread of being on family centric ABC sitcoms and discover a hidden love. But mostly, I loved JTT with a love that can only be felt by pre-teen girls--shallow yet pure, adoring yet naive, happy yet frightened.

For some reason today, perhaps boredom, I got this hankering to see what old JTT is up to. IMDb and Wikipedia pages were startingly bare, with nothing doing since about 2005. A simple Google search brought up some pages, most of them linked to whether he is gay or not. Finally, I happened upon a page which says with absolutely no authority that he is now producing movies in Vacouver under another name. Since I'm not completely insane, and since I don't care that much, I decided to leave it at that.

But I like that idea of him, living (slightly) anonymously in Canada. Being old now, I can't imagine living with that kind of fame, of having your name permanently attached to another person living in a time long, long ago. I think of myself when I was younger, of my buck teeth and braces and head gear and fine dishwater blonde hair. Sure, he was a much cuter kid. But superficially perhaps, I don't think anyone really "likes" who they were at that point in their life, trying to sort it out what it means to be a grown up or a kid or whatever else you woke up feeling like this morning.

My daughter is now this age, this crazy knock-kneed age where nothing is what it seems. Yesterday, we took her and the other kids to see Cars II and to grab some sushi and ice cream. She came out of her room wearing a new tank top and a pair of (short!) plaid shorts we bought at Aeropostale over the weekend, size 0. Her hair was long and she had gotten it pin straight by some miracle (a real miracle since she doesn't have a straightening iron and her hair is difficult to put it mildly). She was wearing big, dark sunglasses. The only vestiges that belied her age were a tiny zebra pendant she bought at the zoo last week, and a pair of pink sequined Chuck Taylor-esque sneakers. I couldn't stop looking at her--there was a certain care she had taken with her looks, a certain je ne sais quoi, something that I don't think I fully got until I was out of college. She had tried to cultivate that look, worked to get it perfect. I kept telling her how amazing she looked, because really she did, and she just smiled at first, and then got sick of hearing it and shot me The Look.

But on the way home last night, I really got worried about this world in which we live. In my time, back when JTT reigned and there were no cell phones or Twitters or Rihanna's, being unperfect was some sort of a token, something that you couldn't escape, like Pogs or the flying toaster screensaver. For Gabby's generation, there is an emphasis on perfection at all costs, at all times. I was telling Matt last night, when we were kids, I felt music gave you an outlet--"You feel alienated? Awesome! So do we!" For Gabby, I feel the prevailing message is one of "You didn't look perfect when you rolled out of bed this morning? WELL FUCK YOU TOO!"

Now, I don't know if my daughter feels this pressure. We have talked about it some, in those roundabout Mommy/Daughter my-mom-sure-took-too-many-women's-studies-courses talks, and it is not something she owns up to, not to me, and probably not to herself. But seeing her yesterday being so perfectly lovely made me feel, yes, proud and happy in that Mom-ish kind of way (though not nearly as happy as when she brings home straight A's every quarter, or when she wins the school's Art Award), but also frightened. And worried. I want to take her aside, back to 1995, when everything was just a tad bit less plastic, when perfection was found in a Smashing Pumpkins chorus, not on the face of a 12 year old.

I don't wish that I was married to JTT or living with him or even knowing more about him. I am quite happy with my strange, nerdy husband, with his comic books and his glasses and his deft ability to make a reference to Russian literature and another to Spongebob in the same sentence. But I do wish for that innocent feeling of 1995, of that feeling of a world that is real and understandable, of 12 years old meaning blind crushes and the beginnings of bad skin, not a beginning of perfection.


  1. You know our mothers thought the same thing, they wished they could take us to a time before MTV and 976 numbers and pagers. Each generation does it, and the strong always do survive :)

    Omigod, JTT, he was never on my radar. Posts like this make me realize the difference in our ages. While you crushed on JTT, I crushed on Corey Haim and Kirk Cameron!

  2. Wise words, and I'm sure you are correct. My mom was eternally freaked out by my Hole albums, and actually threw one out of a moving car window after Courtney growled something about sucking a guy's dick. He he.

    My stepsister LOVED Kirk Cameron as I remember. Have you ever seen Fireproof? Rent it sometime, and get a big bottle of wine. You will find it hilarious.

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