It all started so innocently. I was scrolling through Facebook when AmBi, a bi social community, posted a picture. “Drop a GIF of your childhood crush!”
Usually my default answer for that is one of two guys: Chris O’Donnell from The Three Musketeers (those baby blues) or Jeff Goldblum. Jeff had that sexy dichotomy of leather-pants, chaotician nerd in Jurassic Park and erudite nerd in Independence Day (I saw it in the theater seven times. That’s right – seven times). But as I pulled up the GIF bar and found a chest-baring GIF from the dinosaur epic, I came across pictures of Sam Neill, as well.
Of course! I’d had a crush on him, too! In a more romantic way, though – he had a fatherly quality that resonated with me. So I decided to post both.
Then I thought … wait. Now that I think about it, I stared really hard at Laura Dern, too. I guess … I guess I had had a crush on her, too? So I posted all three actors with some humorous commentary about the pattern.
But it gave me pause; I had definitely harbored attractions to women as I grew up (as I’ve mentioned before, the girl in the bikini from the 90210 opening was my awakening). Much of the time I brushed away my stares as just thinking these women were really, really pretty.
Kids learn social cues early on, and blindingly fast. When someone shot me a look for marveling at that body on 90210, I learned in a flash not to talk about that stuff. So I buried those desires deep, rationalizing I just thought they were pretty – not that I wanted to make out with them.
Now because my expressed attractions made others uncomfortable as a kid, I have to re-examine what made up my childhood memories and whom I really liked as a little girl.
Over the past few months, I’ve put together a “Not Just Staring Really Hard” list I wanted to share. For each of these women listed, I probably liked and was attracted to their male co-star as well, but had the freedom to voice that. So, I want to voice and thank these people now for their veiled part in my development:
– Larisa Oleynik from The Secret World of Alex Mack. (Fun fact: I met her about a year after I moved to Los Angeles at a party! She is very nice. I was very polite but inwardly freaking out.)
– Roz (Peri Gilpin) from Frasier. Mountains of great hair and witty comebacks for your slut-shaming co-worker? Yes, please!
– Jennifer Connelly from Labyrinth. I still want that masquerade dress.
Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie in Labyrinth
– Chili from TLC. I watched the “Creep” video a LOT.
– Rebecca DeMornay and her cunning (and heaving) bosoms in The Three Musketeers.
– Alice Munro (Jodhi May) from Last of the Mohicans. I was probably too young to watch that movie, but her slow-motion shots at the climax stuck with me more than the massacres.
– Olivia d’Abo in that episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation where she has the choice to become part of the Q continuum. Though, honestly, all of the women from TNG got admired at one point or another.
– Selena. Need I say more?
– Gina (Tisha Campbell) from Martin. That smile melted my heart every time.
– Tia Carrere in Wayne’s World. Really the voice paired with her fiery personality did me in as much as the snake bikini and red corset dress. I stared at her picture on our VHS case of the movie so much my eyes dried out from forgetting to blink.
– Danielle from Xena: the Warrior Princess. Maybe I had subconsciously picked up on the homoerotic undertones of her relationship with Xena.
– Penny from Dirty Dancing. Her dance moves were showy and shameless, and stuck with me just as much as the image of Patrick Swayze’s back muscles in the log scene.
– The girl in the “Closing Time” music video by Semisonic. I still wish I could pull off that slicked bob look.
– Anne from Anne of Green Gables. I just adored her mind and love of words.
– Julie “the Cat” from the Mighty Ducks movies. She could kick just as much ass as the boys and still outwit them. Yes, yes, yes.
– Kristin Davis from Sex and the City. Charlotte herself didn’t do much for me, but I loved looking at how open Davis’ face was in promotional shots.
– And finally, Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola in Shakespeare In Love. Stunning, smart, and even occasionally funny. Add her having a sex scene with heartthrob Joseph Fiennes and I genuinely do not remember which one I was more attracted to.
This is just a partial list, of course. I will probably keep mining my childhood through a queer revisionist filter for years. I wish I hadn’t been shamed into not giving a full-throated defense of my orientation. I hope that future generations can talk openly about who makes them blush and dig their toes into the dirt. But I’m grateful I can be open enough now and culture has relaxed enough that I can talk about this openly. We still have a long way to go, but who knows: perhaps a meme will push each of us into serious rumination, as well.
Jennie Roberson is a comedic actress and screenwriter currently living in Los Angeles. She just finished her first novel (a bi coming-of-age tale, naturally) and hopes to share it with the world soon. When she's not busy binging on Star Trek or dreaming of her future cat army, you can find her occasional thoughts between mountains of re-tweets at her Twitter handle, @JennieRoberson.