It was easy to do.
It was easy to allow myself to slip down the slope of starstruck crush. I knew it was happening and I allowed it. Looking forward to listening to Rick Springfield’s music and gazing into his poster paper eyes for the meaning of life was a bright spot in those early fall days of 1983. My little transistor radio from fourth grade had been replaced with a multifunctional clock radio, which I had embellished with glittery stickers in the way that only teenage girls can do. I positioned the dial to WHYT and was often rewarded with the synthesized tones of Rick Springfield’s “Human Touch”, which was popular in that moment.
The song’s refrain, “We’re all scared and isolated in the modern world,” was just one of many that reached out and grabbed me and let me feel like I wasn’t alone in the world. If this great looking man with the fantastic California life could write words like that, then he must be some kind of special person. He loved his mum, lamented the loss of his dad, and I was quite sure that this guy didn’t have a brother who punched holes in the walls.
I started buying the teenage magazines to learn more about him (remember, this was in the days before Wikipedia); I saved my lunch money to get more and more copies of Bop and Tiger Beat. Even the ones I could afford weren’t enough, so I employed a sneaky system of pulling out articles about Rick from other magazines and slipping them into the ones I would purchase. I would end up with six or seven colored pin ups and posters with the purchase of one magazine if I did well.
I had my Panasonic tape recorder that I’d gotten for my birthday in 5th grade, and I added Rick’s breakthrough “Working Class Dog” to my tape collection. That was the one with his #1 hit song on it, but I was drawn more to the ones that never hit the radio, like a song that talked about seeing the scared little girl inside the woman he was interested in. I loved that so many songs talked about seeing beyond the outward exterior of a person. In the glory of my early teenage awkwardness, I took it as a sign that if I ever did meet this guy (and frankly, I figured it was destined, since it was so obvious that we were perfect for each other), he would be able to see deep inside me and know that I was special. I didn’t really believe it myself but I was sure he would bring all of that specialness out of me. Sure of it.
So I set up my walls with my pin ups, kept my radio on the right station, made a shrine on my dresser of all of my favorite memorabilia, and walked down the road of unrequited crush. For now, it filled the hole that was being created by angry family therapy sessions, longer and longer stretches between visits from my father, violent outbursts from my brother, and my own insecure processing of all of it. I felt good about Rick instead of bad about myself when I listened to his music, and at that point…I was willing to make the trade. Ironically, the “Human Touch” was what I was withdrawing from as I headed deeper and deeper into my fantasy world of Rick Springfield.