NEW YORK — So it's Valentine's Day — time to celebrate your wonderful relationship. Unless, of course, it isn't so wonderful right now, or it doesn't even exist. Wouldn't it be better, women out there, to celebrate a love that's so much less complicated: the teen idol crush?
Think about it. Was there ever a love so pure, so ardent, so idyllic and yet so painfully real as the love of a teenage girl for Paul McCartney, Davy Jones or Bobby Sherman in the '60s, or Justin Bieber or Robert Pattinson today?
Take British novelist Allison Pearson, whose devotion at age 13 for David Cassidy, aka Keith Partridge (of the feathered mullet and "The Partridge Family") was so intense, she wore the color brown for 18 months because she'd read it was his favorite.
"Almost my entire wardrobe was brown — brown bell-bottoms, brown platform shoes," says Pearson. "I actually look malarial in brown. But somehow, I thought it would give me some competitive advantage over the other fans."
Like most lovestruck teens, Pearson, now 50, eventually recovered from the shock that she would never be Mrs. Cassidy. She reached adulthood, got married, had kids, became a prominent newspaper columnist in Britain and then a best-selling novelist with the 2002 "I Don't Know How She Does It," now being made into a movie with Sarah Jessica Parker as her working-mom heroine, Kate Reddy.
But she never forgot her David — and she reckons many of us haven't forgotten our teen idol crushes, either. Her new book, "I Think I Love You," which hit stores this week, is not only a paean to Cassidy but an exploration of the fragile emotions and fraught relationships of the teenage years.
"People may think it's silly, but the teen idol crush is really, really powerful," said Pearson, sipping a cappuccino Thursday afternoon in Manhattan. "It's a dress rehearsal for love. You're in love with the IDEA of being in love."
If the author seemed to be glowing a bit, the reason may have been her experience earlier that morning. Appearing on NBC's "Today," she'd been surprised on set by none other than Cassidy himself, now 60 and still performing. Luckily, she'd dressed right — she was wearing a ribbon-trimmed David Cassidy photo on her lapel, close to her heart.
Afterward, the two talked, and Cassidy even agreed to appear in the jukebox musical she's writing based on the book — as long as it makes it to Broadway, Pearson says. (She's collaborating with her husband, New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane, on the script.)
Who knows if it will actually happen, but imagine growing up to write a musical about your teen idol that your teen idol actually appears in? Talk about your full-circle moment.
But how did Pearson arrive at the subject in the first place? A book about a teen crush would seem quite a departure from her previous book, which, though very funny, was based on the serious issue of working mothers and their often futile struggle to achieve a balance between career and kids.
That book sold more than 500,000 copies in the U.S., according to Random House, and was translated into 32 languages. Women saw echoes of their own hectic lives in Kate Reddy, named of course after singer Helen Reddy, who famously sang "I am woman, hear me roar."
There's no burning social issue this time around, but Pearson thinks women will also identify with her newest heroine, Petra, whom we meet first as a lovestruck teen and then later as an adult, facing personal heartbreak, and with a 13-year-old girl of her own who's in love with Leonardo DiCaprio (Pearson's own daughter, 15-year-old Evie, has a crush on Pattinson, of the "Twilight" series.)
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