Some girls get their first crush on a member of a boy band— some sweet-faced kid with a talent for choreography and the kind of aggressively stylish haircut which will briefly be embarrassing but will ultimately be endearing.
Other girls favour actors, the ones who have just turned the corner from “precocious kid whose cuteness masks their lack of talent” to “teen actor who still can’t act but are those the beginning of abs?!” Most people I know loved Leonardo DiCaprio, Prince William, Zac Hanson, Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
I loved Max from Guess Who.
To be clear: I do mean Guess Who, the board game where you have to guess the character, and Max, one of those characters. You may recall that Max is a drawing. He does not do (or say, as the commercial was very careful to point out) anything. He doesn’t have a personality. He doesn’t even have a torso. All he has is a collage of facial characteristics that serve to distinguish him from the others through a series of questions.
To wit: does he have brown eyes? Yes. Does he have brown hair? Yes. Is he a man in his mid-to-late 40s who looks as though Mario had a baby with Ken Marino’s wig from Wet Hot American Summer, and that baby went on to be the disgruntled superintendent of a condo? Yes. Does he have my heart? Absolutely.
This is, in no uncertain terms, ridiculous. I take some solace in the fact that Max is at least better looking than some of the other Guess Who characters, like Paul (who is a minimum of 100 years old), George (who has the wet eyes and crumpled fedora of a pervert), Alfred (also a pervert, but one who dabbles in yacht rock), or Bill (whose head is, and who in fact may himself be, an egg in disguise). But ultimately the issue is moot since, no matter how you slice it, it is ludicrous to look at a playing card — particularly one that looks like a Katamari of every plumber in existence — and think, “This is a handsome man.”
Yet, think that I did. I vividly remember cradling the Max game card in my hand and stealing furtive glances at him in between rounds. What was it I found so alluring? The dead-eyed expression, as though he’s actively trying to fall asleep mid-conversation with you? The half-smirk which seems to say, “I know you needed someone to snake your drains at 9 a.m., which is why I’m arriving no earlier than 5:30?” The fact that he somehow has a Jheri curl and a widow’s peak?
The answer is, somehow, worse than all of these: it was his moustache. His enormous, twirly moustache, the kind you might wear if you were cosplaying as the waiter from Lady And The Tramp. Still, as the song goes, love doesn’t discriminate — not between the sinners and the saints, and certainly not against a disembodied Italian stereotype on glossy cardstock. I gazed upon that thick, lustrous lip-wig, and just like Dean Pelton as he considered the image of a man in a Dalmatian costume, something was awakened in me.
Despite the fact that one of its participants lacked sentience, I was swept away into an intense and deeply involved romance. I invented relationships for Max with the other characters (he was friends with the affable Richard, though obviously not Alfred cause, hi, pervert), and worried about his proximity to the chestnut-haired Maria (in retrospect, it’s an indication of poor childhood self-esteem to worry that your two-dimensional crush had a crush, but on the other hand, who could resist that jaunty emerald beret?)
Most importantly, I fantasized about our wedding day. Me, in my mother’s slip (as a dress) and my mother’s slip (as a veil), just as I had done for my recently-annulled wedding to my imaginary friend Tom. Him, actually having a body. The ring bearer would be my dog Patches, who I hoped would take the afternoon off from snarling at me over trying to ride her that one time. Refreshments would be a light spread of raw hot dogs, which I enjoyed to dine upon while hiding behind our living room curtain. Simple, yet elegant. The perfect union for a five year old and a face.
Max and I went our separate ways, of course. I’m currently in a wonderful relationship with a man I am pleased to report is both three-dimensional and human. Max has recently acquired a new haircut — a flattop that somehow curves at the edges. Clearly we’re both doing well. And though our relationship reached its end, either because I told someone about it and they laughed in my face for four full days, or my parents repaired what I can only assume was a gas leak in our house, Max has had an undeniable impact on me.
These days I work as a television writer and comedian, a vocation that requires you to think in incredible detail about fictional people. And I credit at least a little part of that to the man who taught me to invent backstories, imagine motivations, and follow the whims of my imagination. That’s the thing about love: it shows you who you are. Even when it’s with a face.
(Also, I still love moustaches).
Who was your first fictional crush? Do you want to write about them for Rogues Portal? Email pitches to Samantha! (Submissions are unpaid at this time.)