It started with Evan.
Long, long ago (the 70s), in a galaxy far, far away (New Jersey), Evan was my best friend. Together, we prepared and served gourmet plastic steaks in my Playskool kitchen. We plotted against the Eager Beaver Diaper-Clad Toddler you read about in Mmm…Pie. We picked outfits together – Danskin hopscotch-motif top and pants? Strawberry-adorned sundress and matching bloomers? We acted out suburban dramas with Fisher-Price people. Who would pick up the dry cleaning, Blue Marilyn or her good-for-nothing husband Bald Green Bob? OMFG – was that a WEEBLE with Purple Susan at The Silver Bucket the other night?! Did her two-inch boyfriend know?! Did she know that Weebles wobbled but didn’t fall down?!
Now, based on some of the aforementioned activities, it might cross your mind that Evan was gay. I can see why you’d think that, but he wasn’t. I’ll tell you what he was, though: entirely imaginary.
That didn’t stop me from becoming completely unable to think or talk about anything else – except maybe candy. And this drove Lew absolutely crazy – in fact, it drove him to homicide. One day, going 55 mph on the Parkway, he threw Evan out of the car, never to be “seen” or heard from again. Which I’m sure had noooo lasting traumatic effect on me.
Gone was the first of my many obsessions: a series of long-term fixations that I could not control. From him I moved on to Ziggellette, a small, soft doll so named because of her resemblance to Ziggy. Hailing from the Fluff ‘n’ Stuff at the Woodbridge Mall, Ziggellette had several mangy strands of mustard-colored yarn hair, a bulbous, three-dimensional nose and the words “LOVE ME” written across her red torso. She told silly jokes, sang sillier songs, and served as my alter-ego, often expressing the things I could not bear to. I took her everywhere.
Then came the fire.
Jan, Grandma Ethel and I were sitting around the kitchen table when we began to smell smoke. In a panic, Jan attempted to rush us out of the house, but I refused to leave the premises without Ziggellette. Racing down the hall to my room, I discovered the unfortunate source of the smoke. It had been my sister’s turn to play “Hide Ziggellette,” and it appeared she’d chosen to put her in a lamp so that her oversized head hung out over the shade and her floppy derriere rested against the lit 100-watt bulb. The bulb had already burned a quarter-sized hole in Ziggellette’s nether regions, but I was sure she could still be saved. I raced back to the kitchen and threw her in the sink, where her bean-filled body let out a sad little sizzle. She was lost. Lew did come home a few days later with Ziggellette II, and I loved her like my own, but it was never quite the same. (Side note — Ziggellette II stayed with me until Philly. There, she was either mauled by an unnamed Wheaten terrier or stolen … I have my suspicions but no DNA evidence. In any case, RIP Ziggellettes I and II.)
So, on to a new obsession: Charlie’s Angels. It isn’t hard to see how I, a short, picked-on and bucktoothed suburban Jew, would develop girl crushes on these ample-bosomed, totally glamorous and kick-ass women. What wonderful role models! What a realistic show! I hoped my boobs — I mean I — grew up to be just like them.
Thankfully, they were safe from my family’s tendency to kill the things I cared about, and this particular obsession ended bloodlessly when the channel 5 syndication line-up changed.
Enter Duran Duran (see 1984), possibly the most intense, mocked and long-running of my obsessions, followed by Conan O’Brien (see NBC Order and Team Conan), Pistol Pete Sampras (see Sleepless at the Service Line), and of course, Ollie (see Ollie’s CV).
It’s obvious that these obsessions have served as an escape for me, and/or provided me with something to focus on when there was nothing else. They give me something relatively painless in which to lose myself. I’m like a 12-year-old with a crush on that kid from Social Studies.
In some cases, it’s also pretty obvious why I choose – albeit subconsciously – a particular subject. But for the most part, I’ve never understood why this happens to me, or why one thing captivates me and another doesn’t. Why Ziggellette and not Potbelly Koala or LeMutt? Duran Duran and not The Police or U2? Pete Sampras and not Andre Agassi? And why does it suddenly overcome me for no apparent reason?
It has actually been quite some time since my mind went down the old road of obsession. And you might think that, as an engaged middle management woman on the wrong side of 35, I’d be mature enough to avoid that road going forward. You’d be wrong.
A few weeks ago, my future SIL Christine and I engaged in a book trade. I gave her Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Committed” and she gave me … wait for it … “Twilight” and its sequel, “New Moon.” I couldn’t have been surer that I had zero interest in the teen angst of a high school junior torn between a vampire and a morphing werewolf in Bumblefuck, Washington. It seems absurd even as I write those terms.
Christine had felt the same way, but assured me I would get hooked like the rest of the world. I remained skeptical.
The next thing I knew, I was up every night until 2 a.m., unable to put down the story, Googling vampire legends, figuring out where Volterra was, and deciding whether or not I was on Team Edward or Team Jacob (tough call — and I also find Carlisle strangely attractive).
Vampy McVamperstein and frick on a bloodsucking, daylight-fearing stick!
Add “Olympic Coven” to the list.