A lot of women have been posting hashtags with pictures of themselves when they were 14, in solidarity with some of Roy Moore’s accusers. The idea, I suppose, is to show how innocent a young girl can be at that age, and how horrible it is when that innocence is shattered.
Given all of the photos and stories floating around in the social media ether, I suppose I’m lucky. There’s a photo of me at 14, or rather, #Meat14. The smile on my face is genuine, the goofy hairdo hasn’t changed in 41 years, the look in my eyes says, “No boyfriend yet, but saving myself for Bobby.”
Bobby was a guy who sang songs like “Julie, Do Ya Love Me,” and “Easy Come, Easy Go.” I had the Bobby Sherman lunch pail and was a member of his fan club, dutifully blocked out Friday nights for his appearance on “Here Come the Brides” and knew that one day, when he was finished being a star (how could I predict he’d become a paramedic and trade ABC for CPR?), he’d be mine.
That put me on a collision course with some other students at my all-girls elementary school who loved David Cassidy. When you go to a school where there is no physical evidence of the other gender, it’s much easier to engage in fantasies of “what if?” It’s also instructive to note that I went to a Catholic school, where miracles were mainstream, so the option of marrying an adorable pop star with a penchant for paisley was within the realm of possibility. Team Cassidy versus Team Sherman was a real thing.
I say all of this to create some context for why the news about Cassidy has me more devastated than I expected. The star of “The Partridge Family,” the one with the wispy voice, fluffy hair and puka-shell enhanced Adam’s apple, died this week. After years of publicized substance abuse problems and a recent diagnosis of dementia, Cassidy’s body failed him. And the 14-year-old in me, the one who gave her heart to Bobby but had some leftover love for Keith Partridge, is in mourning.
I’m not so sure that 14-year-olds today understand the significance of the teen idols of yesteryear. Our grandmothers had Sinatra, our mothers had Elvis, and we had a slew of bright-eyed boys who looked as if they traveled with blow dryers in their back pockets. They were “so cute,” and had a way of looking straight at you from the pages of Teen Beat that made you, oh gullible child, believe that they were just waiting for you.
Bobby and David were precious symbols of the “possible,” guys in whom you could invest your aspirations without having to do any actual work. If you were plump, who cared? They’d never see you. If your hair was frizzy, who cared? They had no idea you weren’t a Breck Girl. If you wore braces, or glasses, or if your skin looked like the surface of the moon, who cared? If they existed on the other side of the gossamer web of dreams, you were also hidden from their view by that same glimmering curtain.
Unlike some of those women who were unfortunate enough to be slapped with the reality of predatory men, I was allowed to be a child. Part of that was watching David Cassidy and the Partridge crew travel around in that patchwork bus, bringing hilarity, freckled loud-mouth Danny, maternal goddess Shirley, impossibly beautiful Susan, and the heartbreaker in puffy sleeves to lucky crowds.
“I Think I Love You” might not have been Mozart, but it had a sweet, uncomplicated beat and spoke to all of us bespectacled teens who deluded ourselves into believing that the words were meant for us. And they probably were, created by the genius of Hollywood producers who knew exactly what buttons to push to get our devotion, an emotion so strong that it still resonates in the heart of a 55-year-old, still bespectacled, woman.
Today, there is too much sex. Some of it is criminal, abusive and unwanted. Some of it is the fault of adults who let their kids grow up too quickly, stripped of the gossamer web of dreams and shoved directly into a reality they can’t handle.
David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman, Davy Jones and all the other guys in bell bottoms with Pepsodent smiles were that beloved buffer between innocence and awakening.
And, fading, they take away small pieces of our heart.