Who is your celebrity crush? Do you have a list of famous people you are dying to meet? Or even more fun – do you and your partner have a list of celebrity “freebies” that you are allowed to date, like they had on the sit-com Friends?
Lancelot and I chatted just last Friday about our celebrity crush lists. It had been a while since we had talked about what stars we were a little bit infatuated with, and I was curious whether anything had changed. Lancelot admitted he hadn’t given it much thought, but that his “freebie” list was pretty close to the same as always. When I stopped to think about it, I realized something a little odd. I don’t really have any celebrity crushes anymore. My desire to meet a superstar is just … gone.
Maybe it’s unfair for me to say I don’t really want to meet a famous person anymore, because I actually did have the opportunity to meet someone that was pretty high up on my list of celebrity crushes – John Elway. If you’re not from Denver you may not understand this at all, but years of watching John lead the Broncos to Super Bowl victories as both player and General Manager and seeing him work with the community of Denver for many incredible causes helped me form a pretty major crush on John Elway. That charisma! That charm! That giant smile! Yet, actually meeting John Elway in person wasn’t quite as exciting or fulfilling as I once imagined it would be.
Now, don’t get me wrong – when I saw John Elway in person I totally freaked out. My stomach dropped and then filled with butterflies, I felt fluttery and flushed, and I was brimming and buzzing with excitement. My already high-pitched voice rose three octaves and I was all, “Ohmygosh, that’s John ELWAY! My mom would totally freak out!” I wondered aloud, “Should I go talk to him? Do you think he’d give me his autograph? What should I say? Ohmygosh, that’s JOHN ELWAY!” I contemplated the merits of “playing it cool” and giving him space to enjoy his beer and wings with his friends, versus the momentary embarrassment but life-long pleasure of procuring his autograph and keeping it on hand as a treasured souvenir of the Day I Met John Elway.
In the end, I decided to drink a couple beers for courage, then introduce myself to him and shake his hand (but not ask for the autograph). John was courteous and kind, perhaps a bit tipsy (as was I), and the encounter had me on a celebrity high for a few hours … but it wasn’t quite what I had imagined. It wasn’t John himself – he was perfectly gracious and accommodating to me. I just had a feeling of, “Okay – now what?” I had met a guy I was completely enamored with, and was left with an unfulfilled feeling of emptiness.
It’s not like I expected to have a mind-altering, life-changing conversation with the man. I didn’t think he’d swoop me off my feet and carry me off into the sunset (though I was single at the time, and would hardly have objected). I don’t think I had really thought through the whole meeting-a-celebrity business at all. I didn’t have a realistic hope that I’d meet him, so when I did, I didn’t know what to do or what I wanted to gain – so meeting him didn’t really add to my life in any meaningful way at all.
Over the years, I’ve actually met John Elway two more times. The second and third times, I played poker with him. I still felt the same butterflies, and still felt the same post-celebrity-meeting hangover. He wasn’t quite as handsome as he appeared on TV. He was a little more cocky and aloof than I would have liked. My life still wasn’t unalterably and incredibly changed. I just played poker with a friendly and reasonably interesting guy who insatiably chewed sunflower seeds and could barely keep his eyes off the NFL game playing on TV.
My real-life celebrity crush meeting wasn’t necessarily all I hoped and dreamed it would be, but there is another reason I don’t have a desire to meet other superstars – and it’s a little more significant. I’ve finally started to understand that every human being I have the opportunity to meet and get to know a little better is infinitely compelling – at least as much, if not more, than anyone I see on the silver screen.
Looking at actors and actresses shows this point most clearly. Sure, I have been moved to tears by many performances I’ve seen, many times. But those performances were all pretend. The people I admired were faking every single emotion they portrayed. They faked them well, and they made me feel real emotions and they may have even taught me something important about life. But, it was literally all an act! I’m more impressed by the real courage I see in the world –like the courage it takes for someone to finally admit they’re in a bad marriage and get out of it, or the bravery shown when someone asks for help with an addiction. That’s real inspiration. That’s pure and raw honesty, not make-believe. That’s worthy of admiration and praise.
There are oodles of people in my normal, everyday life that I’d like to know more about. I’d love to know what drew my kindergartner’s exceptional teacher to the profession. I’d like to know what challenges and lessons my colleague encountered when she opened her own business. I’d like to know how my ex-coworker found the strength and courage to fight a debilitating illness. I want to ask my father-in-law more about his military service and talk with my grandma about the challenges of being a working mom in the ‘50’s. I wonder how the owner of the liquor store down the street came to be an American. I’d love to hear what my OB-GYN has seen in the delivery room. There is no end to the things I’d like to know about the real, beautiful, broken, human beings in the world around me.
I just no longer think that the famous people are the only ones that have interesting things to teach me.
Our uber-connected social-media-laden world has changed the world as we know it. We no longer simply admire celebrities from afar – we can follow them on Facebook and even have Twitter “conversations” with our heroes. (Another thing I’ve done! The heart-pounding moment when a celebrity mentions you in a Tweet is pretty awesome!)
The invasiveness of our interactions with the super famous in society have undoubtedly impacted or perception of fame. The celebrities we admire seem even more real to us, and their fame and success seem like something we can reasonably expect to achieve, too, leading us to have an almost entitled attitude with those we admire. We are also a witness to celebrities’ most personal moments, for better or for worse. The intrusiveness has illuminated how broken and flawed some of the people we admire the most truly are.
Meeting John Elway made me realize that celebrities are just people. I love people! People are incredibly interesting. The people we see on screen might be a little wealthier, more successful or more physically attractive than the people we see at our local grocery stores – but they are not more exceptional, more valuable or more worth the time to get to know.
I don’t have a celebrity crush list anymore, because I have mini-crushes on the real, honest, flawed, warped, colorful, vibrant kaleidoscope of human beings that live on this earth with me – not just the ones that live on my screens. I’m infinitely more excited to learn about them then I am to meet any particular hotshot VIP in the world.
Tell me your story. Let me in on your history and your dreams. You are more worthy and interesting to me than anyone that attends the Golden Globes. I may not have your name laminated on a list, but I’d sure like to shake your hand.
My encounter with a celebrity didn’t disillusion me. It simply opened my eyes to the amazing, incredible and real people in my own backyard.