As published in The Rye Record on August 22, 2013
I’m prone to crushes like some people are prone to sinus infections. As a young person, I had a crush on any boy who took the time to talk to me, and as an adult I still tend to have an overexuberance for people I really like. In fact, if you put all the people that I call my ‘best friend’ in one room, we’d need a fourth bottle of wine. Over the past few years I have developed an entirely new kind of crush, kind of a professional crush, on a writer named Joe Queenan. He writes, among other things, my very favorite column in the Saturday Wall Street Journal. And I pretty much think about him all the time.
Sigh. It’s gotten so bad that I’m trying to write him a letter. When I started writing, I wasn’t even sure where I was going with it. I just wanted to connect, sort of like the way I used to get a rush by calling a boy and hanging up as soon as he answered. Mr. Queenan writes essays about whatever it is that happens to be annoying him each week. He’s a curmudgeon, Lou Grant-style, who takes a topic as narrow as a single word and delves so far into the absurd that I have no choice but to follow gleefully behind him. I’m not qualified to summarize his genius, but trust me, he’s dreamy.
At first, the letter felt like a no-brainer. A fan letter is really just a love letter without the romantic intent. How hard could it be? I’d pile on with the rest of his fans and email him to tell him how I feel. But it turns out he has no website and no published email address. He doesn’t want my letter, and, as per the Universal Laws of the Crush, this makes me want to contact him even more. (On my website there are 25 different ways to contact me. I feel so lame.) His indifference makes me so desperate to write to him that I scour Google to find his home address. Brace yourself: It turns out he lives 15.27 miles from my house. OMG!
At some point in the middle of every crush you invent, an “it’s meant to be” moment like this. Suddenly it was all so clear. I was going to get on highway 287 and take this man to lunch. We were going to become friends. I would no longer have to wait until Saturday to hear what he was doing. He’d e-mail me drafts of his column during the week for comments. That’s what besties do! He’d maybe write a whole column about something I did that he found annoying. And during the course of our friendship, some quality of his would rub off on me, making me a better writer and a more curmudgeonly person. After all, isn’t this the driving force behind any crush?
But my letter is off to a bad start. I mean it’s creepy when strangers look up your home address on the Internet. I’d have to explain to him that I am in no way a threat to him or his family. I consider several strategies to mitigate this cyber-stalking before I spring the fact that I live 15.27 miles away and would like to take him to lunch. I decide to add the phrase “in a public place.”
To keep him reading, I need to let him know how much we have in common. I tell him that I am a writer, and I start to tell him that I write a column too. Halfway through the paragraph I decide not to mention my column at all on the off chance that he’ll look it up. Let’s face it — he’d hate my column. My upbeat worldview would bug the heck out of him. I also leave out the fact that I dream of writing for the Wall Street Journal, thinking I’ll save that tidbit for our third date. I seem to remember that you can get anything past someone on the third date. I spend the rest of the paragraph trying not to sound too perky, and of course I come across false. I have the sinking feeling that I’m totally not his type. (Most of my crushes get to this point too.)
In the end I don’t feel comfortable about how I’m coming across: a potential stalker who’s trying too hard to sound sardonic. I feel the need to establish that I’m married, happily married, which effectively takes the awkwardness of this letter to a whole new level.
I haven’t mailed it. I haven’t even printed it out. But if any of you happen to know Mr. Queenan, tell him I say hi. And to call me!