The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, February 16, 2007

First Crush

by Melissa Bell

I wasn’t yet five. I know this because I wasn’t in school yet (these were pre-j/k days). He was older, although I wasn’t sure how much older – at least a couple of years though. And he had a girlfriend. But she was a mermaid and I knew she’d be toast on dry land.

His name was one of the first things I can remember actually writing, taking pains to spell it correctly as I copied it letter by letter from the listing in the TV Guide. Yes, I used crayon and a green sheet of newsprint-quality paper from my Doodle-pad ™, and yes, I’d mis-gauged my spacing and squished the last few letters right up against the right-hand edge of the page. But when I finished I felt triumphant. I had done it. I had produced magic. I had written his name.


He was so the coolest. He rode a white dolphin and used a boomerang to defeat bad guys. And handsome! Big brown eyes. Shock of dark hair that hung over his brow at a rakish angle. Snazzy orange wetsuit. Rawr!

I didn’t know he wasn’t real. I didn’t know his voice was actually that of a female. I didn’t know a lot of things. I was four. But I knew I liked Marine Boy. I knew I liked him a lot.

We were planning a drive down to Massachusetts that summer to spend some time by the sea. I figured I’d run into him and we’d be friends.

When I wasn’t thinking about Marine Boy, or colouring, or trying to dress up the cat, I spent a lot of time looking at comic books – they were easy for my father to pick up at Sid Bartle’s gas station on his way home from the airport when everything else in town was closed. One afternoon, while leafing through the back pages of an issue of Little Lotta, I came across exactly what was required to visit my true love: a submarine.

I wasted no time showing the ad to my father.

But I was not going to be getting that submarine anytime soon.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s not meant for the ocean, Missy.”

What the hell? Did he not even look at the picture? Not meant for the ocean? Was he crazy? It had a periscope and everything! It was big enough for two kids. The picture was very clear about that. And boy, did I envy those kids in that picture. They had access to Marine Boy in his undersea world and I did not? It just wasn’t fair.

I must have driven my parents a little nuts with my Marine Boy obsession. But they seemed to have inside knowledge as to when he was and was not on the television (while I could sort of read the TV Guide, I also could not sort of read the TV Guide – learning to tell time was still a couple of years away), so it was only natural that I would pepper them with Marine Boy-related questions ad nauseum.

“How old is Marine Boy?”


“Does Marine Boy like eggs?”

“Oh. Him. Yeah. He loves them. Drink your milk.”

“What time does Marine Boy have to go to bed?”

“8 o'clock. Same as you.”

“Does Marine Boy have a toboggan?”


One day, I guess I pushed my father a bit over the edge. Now before you think my father is a mean-spirited, cranky-pants, impatient child-hater, I can assure you he is not, nor has he ever been. But I could be a stubborn little pest on occasion, and I suppose he had long tired of the endless string of Marine Boy inquiries.

So he picked up the phone and dialed Marine Boy and invited him over for lunch.

I was four. An only child. I was still too young for school. I was rather inexperienced in the ways of kidding around or good-natured teasing. And I certainly didn’t know anything about sarcasm. So while dad went off to Winnipeg or Thunder Bay or Montreal or wherever he had to fly to that day, I sat in my room looking out the front window waiting for Marine Boy to show up for a baloney sandwich with mustard.

I waited. And I waited and I waited and I waited. Needless to say, Marine Boy was a no-show that afternoon.

Sad, huh? Heart-shattering? Well, not really. I was disappointed, yes, but I got over it shockingly quick-like. I concluded that Marine Boy wasn’t reliable for whatever reason (the demands of boomerang-ing bad guys beneath the waves, maybe he couldn’t get a ride, etc.), and by bedtime I’d moved on. I had a bit of chat with my mother, however, during Pajama Hour, and if I recall correctly she had some choice words for my father when he called home later that evening. I wasn’t sure what she seemed all angry about. It was Marine Boy she should have been mad at.

A fickle-hearted pre-schooler, I was in love again with someone else in a few weeks. A boy named Will. Will Robinson. Sure, he lived in outer space. Well, actually he was lost there. But I was certain I could find him and his whole family and bring them all home. And he'd love me forever.

All I needed to do was convince my father to buy me one of these.

(Thanks muchly to the very kind folks at for permitting the use of the image of Marine Boy above.)


Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

You nailed this one, Mel! I'm smiling like crazy thinking of those x-ray specs I was so desperate to have.

Fri Feb 16, 08:33:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Alicia said...

What a wonderfully heartbreaking yet uplifting-to-the-stratosphere memory! It had me recalling my own desperate longing for Peter Pan, waiting for him at the window to come get me. Great, great stuff!

Fri Feb 16, 12:53:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Patricia said...

awww...I had, and still do, crushes, My first crush, a cartoon crush, huh...archie andrews I suppose, or...hummmm..this is really great you..xo

Fri Feb 16, 01:08:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Oh what a naughty daddy. I'll bet your mom gave him what for, all right. Love those old ads, Mel -- 75 cents for shipping! Those were the days.

Fri Feb 16, 01:22:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

So is this why girls have a soft spot for firemen and the like?

Great post, Mel

Fri Feb 16, 01:55:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger tamara said...

Ha! This post is a blast (albeit a bittersweet one...) My first (also cartoon) crush was Shroeder from Peanuts. I still have a thing for neurotic pianists...

Fri Feb 16, 02:28:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

Thank you for your kind comments, guys.

Gosh, I hope my dad's okay with this (hi Dad! Love you forever!)


Sat Feb 17, 10:41:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Somehow I missed this one the first time through! Love this memory, Mel, thanks for sharing it.

Tue Apr 24, 12:55:00 pm GMT-4  

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