The year was 1996. Clinton had only just met Monica, Dolly the cloned sheep became the most controversial ruminant mammal in recent memory and the looming threat of Jersey Shore-style reality train wreckage was but a twinkle in some maniacally brilliant producer’s eye.
I’d officially crossed the threshold into adolescence and begun wearing unflattering flannel button-ups. I’d traded in my Paula Abdul cassette tapes for Green Day CDs (compact discs—the wave of the future!). I obsessively applied Manic Panic in a vain attempt to approximate Claire Danes’ “crimson glow” tresses as My So-Called Life‘s Angela Chase.
Little did I know that I would soon covet more than Claire’s hair, which, by the way, never seemed to leave maroon streaks on white clothing and pillowcases the way mine did.
On November 1, 1996, my preteen posse and I piled into some responsible guardian’s car and headed to the local multiplex. 120 minutes later, my world had forever shifted. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet effectively altered my brain chemistry and modified the hormonal balances of 12-year-olds throughout the world just like me. That day, the cinematic gods brought us Leonardo DiCaprio in all his brooding, star-crossed lover, Hawaiian shirt-rocking glory. And it was good.
What followed was a 15-year (and counting!), emotionally tumultuous, entirely one-sided relationship with a teen idol turned Titanic star turned legit actor. Reflecting on my long-term devotion has inspired me to further examine the various delusional beliefs I (and perhaps you) have experienced in the hazy, passionate delirium of idol worship.
1. I might still marry Leo.
While the premise of marrying a mega movie star may seem insane for any number of reasons, the primary explanation for why I’ll never legally be known as Mrs. DiCaprio is truly depressing: I’m too damn old.
By eighth grade, I’d succumbed to full-on obsession. I’d ripped pages from illustrious publications such as Tiger Beat and BOP in order to wallpaper my bedroom with posters of my future hubby. I watched and rewatched VHS tapes of The Basketball Diaries, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and This Boy’s Life. I obsessively scanned the TV listings for episodes of Growing Pains featuring Luke, the scrappy homeless kid taken in by the Seaver clan. And I disgracefully signed yearbooks, “Peace, love and Leo, Michelle.” Wow.
I had a plan in place. I’d spin my middle school drama club membership into an Academy Award-winning film career by age 25. By then, Leo would be 35, and no one would think twice about our ten-year age gap when we met and fell deeply in love at an Oscar party celebrating my brilliant success. Though the May-December romance would be a challenge, we’d persevere against all odds.
As it turned out, I’m a terrible actress, and 25 came and went. But Leo never would have looked my way anyway, apparently. Because dating a woman a decade his junior isn’t enough for him—oh, no.
The women on Leo’s arm in recent years have been getting progressively younger and at this point, I’m way above the age cut-off to be DiCaprio-approved dating material. Bar Refaeli? Born a year after me. Blake Lively? Three. And the newest rumored girlfriend? Erin Heatherton: a Victoria’s Secret model born in 1989. When I was five. That hurts, Leo.
2. Justin and Britney are just friends.
During a lull in my DiCaprio devotion, I became obscenely preoccupied with pop music. I tried to play it off as ironic, but my Dawson’s Creek book covers sort of gave me away as a teenybopper. I ordered and repeatedly viewed *NSYNC’s N the Mix behind-the-scenes videotape and memorized the moves to ‘Bye Bye Bye’. Justin Timberlake stole my heart with his playful attitude and dreamy, nasal serenades. I even stood by him when he transitioned from close-cropped bleach-blonde curls into unfortunate, unsightly cornrows. That’s a true fan.
When rumors began circulating that Justin was wooing his former Mickey Mouse Club costar-turned pop princess Britney Spears, I looked the other way. They were clearly just great pals! They could lean on one another for support, those two crazy Southern kids, thrown into superstardom. They likely gabbed on the phone from their respective tour buses and divulged their deepest secrets and yearnings to meet real, down-to-earth significant others. When Justin and I would lock eyes at an *NSYNC meet and greet and immediately begin dating (suck on that, DiCaprio!), Britney would automatically assume the role of my new BFF, impressed by how happy I made her long-suffering, lonely buddy.
Well, we all soon learned the truth and ten years later, JT tastefully told the world that he and Britney had been doing very adult things despite all those chaste pretenses. Another teen idol heartbreak!
3. Robert Pattinson really liked that question I asked him.
When I was already far too old to enjoy teen entertainment in a socially acceptable way, Twilight happened. I say it “happened” because it effectively destroyed all semblance of normalcy in my life, much like when a natural disaster “happens”. The dangerous upside to being an adult consumer of teen culture is that you have the power to actually enact your sick celebrity fantasies. So I did.
Working at a legitimate magazine, I had the opportunity to head down to LA and report on the red carpet premiere of the Twilight sequel, New Moon. This was my chance to convince Robert Pattinson that we should commence our inevitable, impending love affair. I had already missed my opportunity to get near him at the MTV Movie Awards a few months earlier, and he’d skipped the Teen Choice Awards press room (I was a bit of a red carpet junkie that year). This was it.
It came down to one question. His publicist bounded two feet ahead of him on the carpet, and graciously granted all the clamoring reporters one quick question with RPattz.
I’d scribbled down at least 20 the night before, and none came to mind. None! Think Michelle! Okay, I worked for a music magazine. Something about music! He plays music! Something about him playing music! And so, in the millisecond window during which the surrounding reporters inhaled, I blurted out, “Has being a part of Twilight influenced your music in any way?”
The video evidence clearly shows that Rob looked me straight in the eye before laughing his way through a mostly incomprehensible response. The disturbingly close proof is at the :42 second mark in my YouTube claim to fame. Some believe he’s happily committed to Kristen Stewart. But he and I know the truth.
I’m going to just straight up negate this last one right off the bat. I don’t get it, you guys. I would never begrudge a blossoming youngster his or her teen idol, though, so I totally encourage adolescents to drown themselves in the delusions that accompany idol worship.
Just stay away from DiCaprio, children, I beg you.