Let me take you back… to 1993.
Your Lemmon was seven years old, and in the second grade.
For some reason, I can recall some pieces really vividly. I can see my second grade classroom, and the second grade best friend with whom I wrote a zillion tiny books in the wallpaper-and-staple bound and covered blank booklets made by my excellent second grade teacher, Ms. Campbell. I can remember the spaces by putting myself back in my desk. I can see the little cardboard house in the corner by the window where we read books. I remember the boy with whom I used to play Power Rangers.
This may have been one of the earliest playtime adaptations of fiction series that made me want to create my own character. I didn’t really identify with Kimberly or Trini. I wanted to be my own woman… er, kid.. my own character. In retrospect, I can now see this as a reason it’s important, especially for young kids, to have superheroes and protagonists in programming that look like them.
But that is not what this post is about. No such sociological pondering shall occur again.
Where was I?
Ah yes, the second grade. And Power Rangers.
My brother and I watched Power Rangers with consistency and faithfulness. I remember one particular afternoon, after playing outside with neighbor kids, we slid into the living room floor area like it was home base, and as the TV fired up and we could hear (but not yet see) the everyday line “… find out next, on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers!”
And my favorite Ranger? My favorite Power Ranger, and indeed, the first character crush of my destined to be extensive character-crush career? The Blue Ranger, Billy.
It’s telling, I know. I was eight years old and I had a type already.
While the fawning of a kid in elementary school is a lot more like idol-worship than the type of infatuation to which teens are prone, I like to say he was the first character with whom I fell in love.
I can actually remember on more than one occasion lying in the hammock in the backyard, aware that the distance between California and Georgia was great, and striving, striving with my all my might, to be psychically present, linked, and somehow connected and supportive. I’m not totally sure if I was doing this in crushing on the character at this point, or the actor. I understood there was a difference but still probably wasn’t great at navigating it.
As we got older, our parents started needling us, asking why we still watched that show that was rather predictable. We made excuses and kept tuning in.
But a crush is a crush, and I would go on to have plenty more, both on those with whom I actually interacted in life, and fictional characters, and then other celebrities of a varying range of notoriety.
Now jump forward 23 years. It is 2016, and your Lemmon is thirty, and a grown-ass woman. She is at DragonCon, a massive festival of all things fantasy, sci-fi, and nerd. She is standing in the shade of a downtown hotel in Atlanta, waiting to get in to a “Rangers Reunion” Panel that is happily scheduled for the only day she is attending the Con.
She goes alone, just to sit and watch, and listen, and be present. And to reminisce. Your Lemmon may be a grown-ass woman, but she is secretly still very much a nerdy kid at heart.
The panel was alright. Fun to watch, fun to take in. Really good, if a little unsatisfying. The strange sense of dissatisfaction is difficult to identify, but I settled upon a definite potential remedy. I really friggin wanted to hug that man, that actor with whom I had once tried, single-mindedly, to forge a psychic connection.
He was so nice, at the panel. Things are communicated, by a person’s diction, by their actions, expressions, by the way they frame a story, by the way they shift the blame.. or don’t. It was fun to take in because I was gleaning a little glimpse of a really aware person, a kind one, someone who knew some stuff about humanity.
And I’d heard, in the intervening years more recently, despite not having been very plugged in, despite not really being what you would be able to call a fan anymore, that he’d come out, and had done some work with the Trevor Project (with which project I was familiar because of the work of Joe, my gay first true-love….. so I had a type, so what?). Which sort of made me laugh, because story of my crushes, amirite? And sort of made me achy, but not for too long, because difficult turns turned to better.
Anyway, ruminating on all this, I watched the voice actors and live-action actors file out of the panel room, and I clapped, and just wanted to give him a warm, grateful hug that would somehow convey all my admiration, both that of the child and that of the grown-ass woman, one for portrayal of badassery, and one for true courage and the hard journey to self-love. But there they went, so out I spilled into the street to stand in a different line. I told some of my line companions, longtime friend Mandi (pictured above) and our mutual friend Bessie (+ her boyfriend), about my musings and memories, and the hug wish. The Con went on. More speakers, more panels, until we put our names on a list at a nearby restaurant and retired to the hotel bar to await a table.
I was growing restless. I had since realized that there was some chance he had been down at the Walk of Fame area, where fans can go to get autographs and photos (and hugs?) and I’d missed my chance. I tweeted at him, though my use of twitter is totally amateur (like pretty on par with my instagram, post contest). I held on to a sort of vague hope that he’d tweet back something to the tune of “sure, I’m in the Hyatt lobby, come get your hug.” My friends teased me. We went to dinner.
I kept checking my phone (I became that asshole, I know) because what if he tweeted back? I laughed it off to my friends. We shared a pitcher of margaritas. I learned a bunch of new urbandictionary words. We laughed a little more. I checked my phone.
And then I looked up and he was staring at me from two tables away. Okay, not staring. Looking around the room, eyes passing momentarily over me.
It was the most tightly controlled scream I could muster. I did not want to make a fool of myself. But shit was being lost.
“He’s right. Fucking. There!”
Where, what table number, which one is he? I took some deep breaths. Some sort of weird panicky thudding was happening in my chest, not because his presence was scary, but because his presence would require some action of me, did I wish to pursue the day-making dream of that hug. And for me, going right up to any stranger takes some psyching-up-for, but special strangers take an extra measure of that. But I also knew that if I let the opportunity go, the regret of not trying would make me sick for days.
“You’ve gotta do it. You won’t get another chance I like this.” I knew. I knew, and I would. But now I was going all civility on everyone’s asses.
“I’m not going to just barge over there and interrupt his dinner,” I insisted. “That’s totally uncouth and disrespectful. I’ll wait til they’re done, til they’re leaving.” The whole point of this was to show admiration and respect.
It didn’t take long. Then they were paying the check, they were getting in the elevator. Peter, to my left, got a small wave, probably for his blue clothing which could conceivably have been a Blue Ranger costume. The elevator door closed. I hit the exit stairs. I was on the stairway landing and they were almost to the outside door. If I didn’t open my mouth, this wasn’t happening.
“Mr. Yost!” I called. Probably feebly. Grown-ass woman indeed. He looked back, stopped. I bumbled down the rest of the stairs. I said something about having been at the panel, and how I hadn’t wanted to interrupt their dinner but…
…and now I wish I could remember if I said I wanted to give a hug or get one. It kinda makes a difference to me. Although it may be a little arrogant to assume any person would want a hug from the likes of oneself, I’d rather have offered than requested.
Maybe I just said, “I wanted to ask, if I could hug you.” I looked up at his face. He asked my name and I told him. We hugged. I thanked him, and ran away back up the stairs. Breathlessly I rejoined my tablemates with a happy little smile which I would bear the rest of the weekend wondering, did that really just happen?
It’s a weird thing, to be a fan. It is a gift of enthusiasm that fans give, and attention. It’s a vulnerable thing too, in a way, to give someone you don’t really know the power to make or break your weekend.
But he was kind enough to make my day. I knew he would be.
PS: David Yost is part of a collaborative clothing company called Affimative Clothing Company, named for the way his character used to say “affirmative” instead of.. “yes.” Check it out.