Sorting through a pile of childhood stuff my mum brought round the other day I found a fan letter I’d written to Jack Nicholson when I must have been about 14. It was very earnest with a Shakespeare quote because I’d read in an interview that Meryl Streep had sent him one and he’d loved it. She also had an actual friendship with him rather than an imaginary nothing, but that didn’t seem to matter to me. I don’t know what hers said, but mine went “I would be that I am had all the maidens in the firmament twinkled on my bastardising”.
I explained the quote carefully because I didn’t want him to think that “bastardising” was a reference to him never having met his dad – I just meant that he did his own thing regardless of what “all the maidens” might want him to. Something along those lines anyway. I never posted it, though, so I’ll never know what he might have thought of the letter I wrote and re-wrote endlessly in my head. I don’t remember telling anyone about my Jack worship. I just scoured the Radio Times, Smash Hits and Empire Magazine for pictures and taped an interview from Radio One I listened to so many times the tape recorder overheated and melted it.
Apparently quite liberal with my affections, I cheated on him with other crushes – a bedroom wall-to-wall with Mel Gibson, a sideways glance at a couple of my brother’s friends, an hilarious history teacher, and a feeling that somewhere out there was something brilliant that would come along and we’d have this life together that I could almost imagine but not quite. (I’m still waiting. The imagined life has gone through many incarnations, but if I could remember what I wanted then, I’d probably find I’ve never strayed much from the teenage longings I couldn’t quite articulate.) I had a friend who wanted to have her English teacher’s babies and another so obsessed with Keanu Reeves she actually thought he’d marry her and cried whenever she saw pictures of him with a girlfriend. The teacher was dull as dishwater and Keanu, having peaked with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, was already pretty past it.
There were a couple of girl crushes, too. I was still hazy about what being a lesbian actually meant so I don’t think it occurred to me that there might be anything sexual about the girls – they just had a certain something. I remember being terrified when one came into the restaurant where I was waitressing and I had to take her order. She turned her lovely face towards me and this horrid tight-lipped nasal squawk came out. It ruined the whole thing and I’m not sure I could pick her out of a line-up now.
Jack, on the other hand, still has whatever that certain something is and I read recently that he’d like to have one great love before he dies. I don’t pore over pictures of him like I used to and there’s the occasional bit of reality in my love life (its nonexistence or a man driving me so bloody crazy I wonder if anything in the whole world is worth it), but I wouldn’t turn him down. I’m still touched whenever journalists refer to his vulnerability in interviews. Sad, I know, but I don’t care. I’ve heard it said that we never get over our first love (mine was a beautiful cat who I wouldn’t get neutered so he went off to gallivant about with the lady cats and never came back), but I think crushes last longer. It’s probably something to do with the total absence of reality. Whatever it is, they’re marvellous.