I’ve had three serious but fictional relationships with women in my life.
Each one was more serious than the last.
My first began in elementary school with Annette Funicello. Annette appeared in the beach blanket bingo movies that preceded Creature Double Feature on Chanel 56 on Saturday mornings. I took one look at her and instantly fell in love. When Annette was singing, I believed with all my heart that she was singing to me.
I was eight years old at the time, so what the hell did I know.
Though passionate and sincere, my torrid affair with Annette Funicello came to an end with my discovery of Laura Ingalls Wilder, first through the Little House of the Prairie television series and then through her books. Though I was somewhat aware (though in constant denial) that Laura Ingalls Wilder was both married and dead, the feelings that I had with this woman, thanks to Melissa Gilbert and especially her books, were not to be deterred. While Annette was more of a fling, I had a genuine love affair with Laura Ingalls Wilder that lasted longer than I would care to admit.
It was especially fitting that the last time I saw my mother alive, we watched Little House on the Prairie together. It was like bringing an old friend to her bedside one last time.
After Laura, it was a long time before I engaged in another fictional relationship. This makes sense, of course, because in that time, I grew up and became an adult.
My adulthood also makes it admittedly disturbing that there is one more fictional relationship on my list.
I was in my early thirties at the time, living on my own following my divorce from my ex-wife. It was an odd time in my life, both pleasantly and tragically absent of companionship, and in this strange space, I fell in love with a woman named Jaye on the tragically short-lived but extraordinary television show Wonderfalls.
Until I met my wife, I had never met a more perfect woman than Jaye Tyler (fictional women tend to be surprisingly perfect), and the Friday evenings that we spent together came to mean a great deal to me. There were nights, in fact, when I told me friends that I could not meet them until after 10:00, because I had a 9:30 date with Jaye.
“Record the damn show,” one of my friends once said.
“I can’t do that to Jaye,” I said, and I meant it. For the briefest moment of time, I became convinced that I could be happy dating this fictional television character every Friday night.
And I was.
Eventually I began dating in real life, probably because Fox began changing the show’s time slot, and I could see that the end was near. Wonderfalls only aired a total of four episodes before being canceled despite outstanding reviews from critics, but I purchased the full season on DVD as soon as it was available and have since shared the show with my wife and several friends.
Everyone who watches Wonderfalls loves the show. They cite its clever, quirky plot and cast of unique and compelling characters, but I suspect that it’s Jaye that they love the most.
For about a month of my life, she was the one who I loved the most as well.