Once upon a time (that time being August 15, 2012), I submitted this essay to an online magazine. It was not published, but since I wrote it to be read, I figured I'd leave it here.
I remember the first crush that truly engulfed my senses and consumed my being hit with a fury in eighth grade. I remember distinctly because it first gathered steam in Mr. Smith’s Algebra class in the notes Sarah Botkin and I passed. You see, Sarah dubbed the graceful Legolas the most desirable character of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring while my loyalty laid firmly with Frodo. He was the hero, after all. Legolas was just a pretty boy, with hair more luscious than mine. The whole fate of Middle Earth rested on the shoulders of Frodo, a humble hobbit with a heart of gold. He was like Jesus, who I had always been taught to love. However, Frodo was like a Jesus it was okay to daydream about French kissing, a Jesus with blue eyes that were like deep pools of infinity. The Lord of the Rings was so epic that I had a whole canon of literature to reinforce this religion of loving him. Over the three years of the theatrical releases of Peter Jackson’s stunning adaptation of the trilogy, I spent my spare time pining over the Frodo in the pages of JRR Tolkein’s masterpiece and on the screen, and the great thing about celebrity crushes is you can share them without it resulting in at least one woman scorned. And while Sarah never was never converted from Legolas-loving, Frodo worship was a bond over which Amanda, Elizabeth and I built up a fledgling friendship and inspired the creation of the girl band notorious among our Junior High peers.
In eighth grade, Amanda, Elizabeth and I all found ourselves in new territory. Amanda and I had moved from different quadrants of our three-stoplight town to find ourselves as new kids on the same block. Elizabeth had moved from a land of many stoplights to our settlement that seemed to be on the edge of civilization. Elizabeth’s mother became ambassador of culture, establishing a youth theatre group. Soon our paths were became intertwined. Not only were we acting together and in many of the same classes, but we all deemed Frodo more worthy of affection than Legolas, which differentiated us from our fellow geeks.
Amanda and I once spent an afternoon painstakingly typing letters to the quartet of hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, in case you were less dedicated than us) in which we made hyperbolic claims like “seeing your face on screen is like someone shining a flashlight in the dark crevices of our souls.” All of the letters were four-paragraphs effervescently extolling actors’ fine performances and were perfect capsules of how The Lord of the Rings had completely rocked our world. We received signed headshots back from two of the four hobbits, and weren’t devastated by the two we did not receive because the first self-addressed stamped envelope (we had wisely provided these to expedite the response) to return contained a headshot of Elijah Wood, our exalted Frodo.
At this point, our devotion to Lord of the Rings and Frodo reached fever pitch and Amanda, Elizabeth and I were in the throes of a production of Annie. Amanda and I had minor roles as servants in Daddy Warbuck’s household and Elizabeth’s part as Grace was not terribly demanding, so we spent a lot of time fantasizing about our collective crush. Obsessing over Frodo merged into obsessing over Elijah Wood and became Elijah factotums. We knew that he was born in Cedar Rapids, smoked clove cigarettes, and was 5 foot 7 (I double checked this, and IMDb says 5 foot 6, but I swear it was 5 foot 7, so I am sticking to what I knew ten years ago). I fervently prayed that at 5 foot 3 I stop growing so that we would conveniently fit into the social construct that boys should be taller than girls (and I actually did stop growing. The power of intention or just the end of puberty?) We rejoiced in the fact that Elijah had been a child actor and at the age of twenty already had a robust repertoire. So many of our weekends were spent searching through video stores for films he appeared in to tide us over until the next Lord of the Rings installment was released. We rewound his 15-second bit as an extra in Back to the Future II over and over. We watchedFlipper so impressed by the devotion he could show to a dolphin. If he could demonstrate that level of commitment to a creature of a different species, imagine how capable he would be of loving a human woman. At one particularly dramatic point in the film, I clasped my hand to my heart and told my friends that every time he cried out “Flipper!” I was going to imagine he was calling out “Roni!” with that tender desperation.
Our Frodo/Elijah mania inspired action. During a slow time on set, we penned a song that we aptly titled “Sad Obsession.” It was a pop song of the highest order filled with upbeat teenage longing and a weird hopefulness that one day Elijah Wood really would return our affections. The lyrics and melody came effortlessly, as though the song had been dormant in our souls since we had first seen Frodo/Elijah greet Gandalf in the Shire on the silver screen. The chorus was simple with a nice little rhyme scheme: “Here’s my confession/He’s my sad obsession/This guy that I’ve never met/Why’s he playing so hard to get?” Inspired by the fabulous reception our song received from our younger castmates, we moved toward full-fledged band-dom, and thus Oxydation was born.
Never mind that oxidation is the chemical process by which rust forms on metal. We were oxYdation, with a Y. Amanda, whose immaculate handwriting was lauded by every teacher we ever had (in college a professor even gave her extra credit on an exam for her fine lettering), designed a logo and we emblazoned the design on matching T-shirts using the advanced technology of the iron-on transfer. We proudly donned our band costumes through the halls of our junior high, and developed a following, and not just from fellow drama nerds. It would be overstating it to say that we were the hit of the school, but kids in our English class knew of our musical stylings, and a friend who had caught the fan fever with “Sad Obsession” hashed out the melody on the piano for us. (I neglected to mention that we had no musical accompaniment to our ballad of a celebrity crush. We found our violin, viola and flute proficiency didn’t lend itself well to this sort of pop.)
The glory days of Oxydation peaked with our last performance of Annie. The set had been striked, and we were celebrating the months of hard work with pizza and cake when the cast asked, nay, demanded (this is how I remember it, okay) that we perform “Sad Obsession.” We yielded to their pleas. A whole troop of kids aged 6-16 faces thickly coated stage make-up waited with bated breath as we got up on the stage where Annie had sung her last rendition of “It’s a Hard Knock Life” only hours before and wowed them with the most vibrant performance Oxydation ever gave. There was much cheering and dancing and merry-making and we basked in our small measure of fame. For it was all that Oxydation would ever have. We attempted to write other songs. I remember one that referenced loathing the alarm clock, but nothing came as naturally as our woe-begotten love of an unattainable actor, and eventually even our most ardent devotees got sick of our obsession.
However, our candle for Frodo/Elijah still burned bright. The three-year span over which the Lord of the Rings trilogy was released was the golden age of our friendship. Sometimes we would measure the future by the release of later movies. We knew we would be almost 16 when The Return of the King hit theaters, and actually, the release date fell smack on Elizabeth’s birthday. Amanda and I coordinated a birthday kidnapping and took her to see the midnight showing in a town twenty miles away, and then we saw it again with more friends at the next available matinee screening. And then it was over. We still watched the Academy Awards that year, hoping the camera lingered on a shot of Elijah in a tux, and gloated as if we had been awarded statuettes when Return of the King garnered the Oscar for Best Film. But as a trio of friends, we began to drift apart.
I can’t blame the end of the trilogy entirely. High school came and we developed different interests. Elizabeth was the truly musical one, with a voice that could melt butter and break glass. She got tied up with all sorts of musical commitments with the elite school choir and any group looking for a skilled vocalist. Amanda and I drifted towards passionately arguing about NBA players’ right to wear do-rags and other random squabbles that high school debate tournaments landed us in.
Today, Amanda and Elizabeth are married (not to each other) and I haven’t seen either of them for over a year. However, I know if I were to call them up and begin to sing, “Here’s my confession...” either one of them would join in without skipping a beat. We could then segue into trying to determine the exact shade of blue of Frodo/Elijah’s eyes, and then blithely bring up that I am still single, just to dwell on that possibility that we held so long ago that Frodo Baggins was our destiny. However, I did just buy a ticket to see Amanda, who has since moved across the country. I fully intend to convince her that we need to write a letter to Martin Freeman, soon to play a young[er] Bilbo Baggins, so he isn’t the only hobbit who hasn’t received one of our gushy fan letters.
I’m sitting here
staring at an empty wall
wishing a weren’t such a pathetic loser
I’m not anyone at all
Here’s my confession
He’s my sad obsession
This guy that I’ve never met
Why’s he playing so hard to get?
If I had a million bucks
or pesos, centavos or francs
I’d buy a Winnebago
and park it in front of his house
I’ve been to all of his movies
His face lights up the silver screen
The heat in the theatre rises
It’s the best thing that I’ve ever seen
People tell me I need therapy
They don’t know what it’s like
I think that I’m going crazy
But, HEY, it’s my life
nah, nah, nah, nah