Have you ever had a secret crush on an older man, including someone outside your race? Perhaps it was a teacher, neighbor or co-worker who caught your fancy and sent your young heart aflutter? I have. Several of my friends have had them, too, including Jocelyn, a friend from work. Jocelyn clued me in on her infatuation the other day. We were talking in one of the common areas of the office, when she came down with a mild case of the giggles. Eyes a’ twinkling, she said: “There he is. My office crush.” I looked around, but failing to see a brother in his thirties, I said: “Nobody’s there. Who are you talking about?” She pointed him out again and when I took a second look, I realized that she was talking about an older white guy! He looked like an everyday Bruce Willis, with a medium athletic build and a neatly trimmed goatee. He was fashionably bald. I had never spoken to him at length about anything, but he always seemed nice enough in passing. On that score, I understood why Jocelyn was, and probably still is, mildly twitterpated by this guy.
Since no one can explain the laws of attraction (if we could, then many literary masterpieces would never have come about), I won’t try to sum up why Jocelyn liked this guy. She added that she would never act on it. Maybe her feelings are just a benign pastime, which switch on when she comes into the office and probably switch off whenever she logs out at the end of the workday. Her crush is neatly contained within the context of our office. Maybe it is a welcome relief from everything that punctuates our existence there—the demoralizing memos, dirty air vents, stale carpeting and bathrooms in dire need of renovation.
I was most surprised by my own reaction to this little piece of gossip. I married a white man. This should have endowed me with better countercultural sensibilities. Instead, there reared a traditional, perhaps conformist instinct that made me expect to see a black guy strutting across the room. And for the briefest of moments after I realized whom she was talking about, I thought: ‘Great. I’m not the only one.’ For shame! All kinds of crazy questions raced through my mind: Why can’t he be 20 years younger? That way he could ask her out, they could get married and they could buy a house and move to my state. I would have a friend—outside my family—involved in an interracial relationship and we could talk all about it. Drat!
As for my older, cross-cultural crush, it was on a reporter at a daily newspaper, where I worked early in my career. Who knows what happened to him? He probably published a book and moved to some exotic place overseas, all without ever realizing that for a good six months, while we overlapped at that daily, my ratty old newspaper office was actually one of the most cheerful places to be.