Peter Pan was my first of many intangible and animated crushes. He could fly, he wore little green tights and a jaunty cap, and the short n’ sassy piecey haircut that I would soon own on my own head. Plus he was in love with a girl who wore her pajamas all the time, a true lifetime goal.
I was infatuated, and my mother loves short hair on little girls, so she slyly asked me if I would like a “Peter Pan haircut.” Thinking that was some kind of actual trend that was out in the world, I gladly accepted, all doe-eyed and excited to get closer to the object of my affection. A bunch of snips later from an unsure stylist named Heidi, my little ears were poking out and my gap-toothed grin was wider than ever. Enter everyone mistaking me for a boy. The kids on the bus taunting me. That time I was innocently washing my hands in the school bathroom when a little brat in a pink puffy dress entered, stared at me, then screamed bloody murder that “THISISTHEGIRL’SBATHROOMGETOUTTTTT.” I think I just very sadly kept washing my hands.
It would be years before my hair grew out (and looking back, I did look adorable), but I still carry a torch for Peter. He wouldn’t be the last cartoon I doodled about in my notebook, perhaps because it was a way to ease into real people, but I think I was also just really, really, boy crazy.
Next came Schroeder a la Peanuts. Perhaps the only blonde I would ever fall for, but this one makes the most sense with my adult proclivities. A dedicated musician, lost in his work, barely raising an eye for a girl standing directly in front of him proclaiming her love. Loudly. Flash forward to 18-year-old me, following around a 6’2” bass player, sitting for hours in a dank basement band practice space, heavy with cigarette smoke, waiting to get a hair ruffle or a wink from across the room. Schroeder was having none of it either from Lucy, although she was a lot less subtle than I was in her affections. Schroeder was always bent over that tiny piano, oblivious to anyone or anyone around him. Schroeder was busy and passionate and just wanted to be like Beethoven.
Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t think I am completely over Schroeder now. I was so enamored by this one, that I actually asked my family to call me Schroeder. They did, because they are wonderful. I’m so grateful it didn’t stick.
Then came Bert. Yep, Bert from Bert and Ernie. Now granted he isn’t really a cartoon, but he is a muppet, and that’s also weird, so… I really can’t explain my infatuation; maybe it had something to do with his really nasally voice, his penchant for cleanliness…I am at a loss because boy is he the opposite of my type now. Give me an unwashed band tee and calloused hands any day, but Bert did something for little 4-year-old Lyz.
One year for Christmas, my parents, or “Santa,” bought me a stuffed Bert doll and wrapped him under the tree. It was, by total chance, the first gift I opened. To hear my mom tell it, I ripped the gift open, stared longingly into Bert’s staunch, judgmental eyes, hugged him to my chest, and marched right into the bathroom and locked the door behind me. I didn’t leave for like an hour. I very vaguely remember sitting on the tile floor next to the toilet, cross-legged, and just hugging me so hard. Bert….who woulda thought? When I think now, Bert was a loyal friend and a fun roommate with a sweet heart, all attributes my current boyfriend has in spades.
The last drawn (or sewn) character I remember loving before various human boys and then of course Leo DiCaprio, was Aladdin. Animal-loving, give to the poor, dreamy, doesn’t understand what it means to have someone be out of your league, Aladdin. I’m pretty sure I had a thing for Eric from The Little Mermaid too, but Aladdin trumped all the Disney princes by far. To this day no one has ever taken me on a magic carpet ride. NO ONE. And I once went on a lot of OKCupid dates. Bring back the magic carpet ride!
He got elephants, a genie, a sort-of-talking monkey, buried treasure, and more, all to nab the girl of his dreams who had the most lustrous hair of all time. All that and it worked. A street rat just worked his ass off, and didn’t let palace walls or a tiger keep him out. Plus, that singing voice, swoon. I may have owned an Aladdin Barbie doll, and I might have kept him in my bed at night next to the quintessential teddy bear. He kept that little vest on, though.
Lucky for me, I grew out of my cartoon romantic obsession. That doesn’t fly so much as an adult. But with a lot of those crushes, came lessons I have brought with me as I get older. Peter Pan taught me that it’s okay to never want to grow up and hold a sense of childlike wonder. Schroeder taught me to be passionate about what you love, even if your crush is literally sitting on top of your piano trying to distract you. Bert taught me to be a good friend, and Aladdin taught me to steal. Just kidding. He taught me about harem pants. Still kidding. He taught me to be scrappy, and go for what I really want. So thank you, animators and puppeteers, for introducing me to my first loves. You never get over your firsts.