I've been thinking about this list for a long time. Ever since I had a friend visiting and she saw several pictures of a certain person (on list, not saying who) taped above my desk. "Are you 13?!" she laughed at me.
But it got me thinking… Like so many other things it's assumed mid-life women don't do, having crushes is off the list. Wrong.
NPR's "Middle-Aged Women Can Still Be 13" underscored my point in an interview with Allison Pearson whose teenage crush on The Partridge Family lead singer David Cassidy inspired a novel called I Think I Love You, after his hit song.
Confession: I too was a pre-teen Cassidy crusher (I heard Donald Trump booted him off Celebrity Apprentice in the first round, which might be another feather in his cap).
So I got to thinking about who our crushes are now (apart from the man above my desk).
Herewith the summer hot list for smart women who need more than just looks:
1. Simon Schama: Historian Explains art and the history of Briton with so much charm, clarity, and cleverness, it makes you want to drop everything and go get a Ph.D in Art History and world history. Plus, I saw him speak with Tom Brokaw at 92Y; he's amazingly quick-witted and has all that knowledge on the tip of his tongue – impressive. Confession: I ran into him once at the theater and summoned the boldness to burble something at him. He responded with consummate grace and even introduced me to his wife. Manners too!
2. Simon Johnson: Economist, professor at MIT I say my swoon began Desdemona-like, stories first. First I read his column (in the NY Times) and thought yes! Then I read (and signed up for) his blog and thought Yes! Then I saw him on Bill Moyers and Rachel Maddow and thought YES! I know it sounds a bit like a Harry Met Sally scene, and yes, there are similarities. (Confession: he also looks like a hybrid of 2 ex beaus)
3. Jasper Fforde: Author, Thursday Next series, &c. It took me a while to get toThe Eyre Affair but once I did, I was hooked and not just on the books, although the clever literary sci-fi novels are page-turners. But subsequent appearances at bookstores around the country showed how quick, clever, charming, and personable the author is in the flesh.
4. Mark Rylance - Actor He had me at Hamlet, but subsequent performances up through his current turn as the Tony-winning Rooster Byron in Jerusalem on Broadway … not to mention turns in films like Intimacy are not just what make this British actor crush-worthy. Yes, he supports indigenous rights through Survival International and is a patron of Peace Direct.But the performances that have brought him to prominence, prompting the adjective "legendary', erupt out of an ever-evolving ingredient list: independent thinker + willfull insouciant + spiritual seeker + generous imp = gentle rebel.
5. Gabriel Byrne - Actor, Ireland's Cultural Ambassador Yes, there's the accent. And the blue eyes. And his award-winning role as therapist on HBO's In Treatment that got female heart's thumping (for me it was Miller's Crossing). But he's also the cultural ambassador to Ireland, helping host President Obama's trip, curating a museum film retrospective, and stumping for James Joyce in the New York Public Library's Know the Past, Find the Future tome. Plus, he gets along well with his ex-wife Ellen Barkin, by her account.
OK, that's it for the Brits (& Irish)– actually there are more but stopping here for now (this is harder than you think). Onto the "A" list – I mean names.
6. Aaron Sorkin - Writer for stage, screen, TV Loved his cameo on 30 Rock lampooning his show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which I also loved (and miss!). With The West Wing, he made us feel safe with the White House even though it was fiction, and with The Social Network, he made inputting computer code compelling (note bone dry sense of humor about it on Jimmy Fallon). I even loved his Broadway turn with The Farnsworth Invention, illuminating the nascent TV industry.
7. Alan Alda – Actor, science enthusiast Many women fell for him on MASH (including a friend of mine who admits to platonically stalking his NJ home), but turns like Republican presidential candidate Arnold Vinick on The West Wing where you loved him even when you didn't want to, and his passion for classical music and the sciences (physicist Richard Feynman on Broadway, PBS series) make you care too. As my aforementioned stalking friend says, "You can feel his heart."
8. Alec Baldwin – Actor, political activist Hey, I loved him in Working Girl (even though he played a snake), so 30 Rock was just a confirmation for me – the loss of which will be devastating. But it was a bit rocky in between; regrets, he's had a few, and now he's turned his abundant passions toward political, environmental & social issues. Plus, he and Jon Krasinski are very funny about baseball.
9. Juan Enriquez – expert on economic & political impacts of life sciences On his Ted Talk, he explains everything from the financial crisis to technology in a dry and clever presentation which includes Santa Claus, Louis L'amour and Homer Simpson. Plus, he looks like a teddy bear — you just want to squeeze him.
10. Denzel Washington – Actor, activist Yes, he makes many women swoon as an actor every since Glory and before, but aside from racking up acting awards, he's been given 2 honorary doctorates, wrote A Hand to Guide Me about the childhood mentors of famous people and, he donate $1MM to Wiley College for their debate team, inspiring his film, The Great Debate. Plus, as MSN points out, he's been happily married for over 25 years –- women like that.
11. Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert: I know it's not fair to lump them together (although they were on same show, and now back-to-back TV timeslots so…) . & I know it should be a Top 10 list because that's the norm. But 1. These guys are not normal, and 2. I invoke the Spinal Tap rule – mine goes to 11 (technically here 11+1). That said, in Shakespeare, it's the fool who tells the truth. So, ... we need them.
Stewart cares about sanity. And watching Colbert go head-to-head with James Franco on Lord of the Rings trivia with so much gusto he dropped his persona for a second… well. Plus, photographer Beowulf Sheehan (he should be on this list just for his name), says Colbert actually got choked up reading JD Salinger's letter for the New York Public Library 100th birthday … you gotta love that.
Honorable mentions: Malcolm Gladwell almost made the main list (had a crush on him for ages) but he once declined to dance with me, so… a woman scorned and all that…
Too young, but just wait: Savion Glover, James Franco (see above), Mos Def, Jesse Eisenberg – he was so game despite the lame SNL skits they put him in – instant affection and admiration.
Other candidates for the Swoon List: Jimmy Kimmel's Handsome Men's Club video is hilarious and might have some options you'd like.
Jeremy Irons – "Every thinking woman's ideal man… " says Suzanne McGee, author of Chasing Goldman Sachs. Yes. Everyone has an opinion on this.
I know what you're going to say: Johnny Depp – I got about 15 of them. I've already been castigated. And I realized about 10 more I forgot. Alan Cumming! Sigh.
Do I have to make a new list?
OK, Let me have it! Who's on your Swoon List?