Before Hugh Jackman, before Gerard Butler, and long long before Michael Fassbender my celebrity crush was Chris O’Donnell. I was a young teenager when I first saw the movie “Circle of Friends” with him and Minnie Driver. He was so sweet and charming that I was a fan. Usually a celebrity crush is a template of wishes and desires projected onto a famous stranger. Certainly in the case of O’Donnell, he represented everything I was looking for in a boyfriend. He married a kindergarten teacher who was the sister of a college friend, was very Irish Catholic from Boston, organized in his affairs, scandal free, and married young. Today, the actor is still happily married and a father of five children. If anything he has only remained a symbol of my ideal man. But I am no longer a teenager and those days are long past. O’Donnell dropped out of sight for a few years and resurfaced about three years ago on NICS: LA. Part of the reason he stayed out of the spotlight was his commitment to family. He may not have gone on to be as famous as his Batman co-star George Clooney but his home life reflects his priorities. The point is… Chris O’Donnell was the long forgotten man of my dreams way back in junior high and as he has progressed in life stages his example of family man remains consistent with my heart’s desires.
Unfortunately I changed along the way. I turned my back on my deepest wishes in the realm of love and family. I was the ugly duckling who was chubby, awkward, and not blessed with a nice complexion. The day I turned 21 I had told myself that enough was enough so I decided to radically alter who I was. I set out to shed the Catholic values of my childhood, youth, and early adulthood. The first thing I did was run off to Europe. My Spanish grandmother had my father in Barcelona which allowed me a European passport. Two months after graduating from Santa Clara University I boarded a plane to London where my god sister was living. The moment I arrived in Heathrow Airport I started my self-imposed exile and makeover. My god sister and I lived in Hackney and thanks to a degree in English literature and European History I hustled my way into a PR firm in Mayfair promoting fashion and beauty products. Within a year I had networked myself into a staff writer job at a London style magazine that finally launched a career in journalism. From then on I was on a roll. Along the way I went from the conservative and insecure Catholic girl to a brazen assertive and rather iron fisted fashionista whose calling card was biting humor and a penchant for sarcasm. I had turned myself into a mixture of Carrie Bradshaw and Oriana Fallaci. There was a brief marriage born out of rebellion at 24 to a German man 13 years my senior with a five year old son from a previous marriage. He was more mentor than husband and Gunther knew I’d eventually want to be free again. Despite dreaming of a love marriage in a Catholic church during my youth I got hitched by a Scottish officiate in Edinburgh one weekend in July. Needless to say my family was appalled but still supported me.
Gunther introduced me to the art scene in Berlin and indulged my affection for foreign and independent films by taking me to film festivals in Europe and Asia. He made good money working for a major European bank and his lifestyle was definitely that of a culture vulture. What I learned about my husband was that he was a serial spouse who snapped up young women he could mold. His first wife was a budding painter and he directed her into a career until both grew apart. She had been 20 and he 29 when they met. I had been his second project. Without Gunther I perhaps would never have become the multi-lingual writer. I absorbed his German humor and business savvy but our marriage was not a love match. It was a mentorship with attraction and affection but he did not want more children nor did want any kids with him. Every once in a while I still wondered what my life would be had I gotten my original wishes for the traditional Catholic family I had dearly wanted.
When I returned to California nearly a decade after running away to Europe my heart had become jaded. After getting a divorce I dated for dinner as they say. Basically when I didn’t feel like cooking I would go on a date. The guy would pay and all he got at the end of the night was a handshake. It wasn’t about love anymore but rather just networking and being social. The truth was that I was mad. Mad that my own Chris O’Donnell never showed up. Mad that I never created a family of my own with someone who captivated my soul. Instead I had turned into a chronic smoker of French cigarettes who saw the white picket fence as something that was being dangled in front of my face but could never be mine. The odd thing was, three years after coming home, a Chris O’Donnell of sorts crossed my path. I will call him Quinn. He was the good Catholic boy grown up. He even looked like him. Too bad he came across my radar too late. Once upon a time I would have been his Minnie Driver in our own version of “Circle of Friends” but the 21 year old me no longer exists. The young me had an open heart and would have leaped into his arms in a nanosecond. However, Quinn would never have looked at my young self who was no stunner in any way, shape, or form. It’s star crossed timing. I got my wish, sort of, just way too late. Even if Quinn were the right age it is still too late. I’m the farthest thing from that young adult Catholic woman who wanted that traditional marriage. I am simply too far gone.