Belfast Telegraph

Why a childhood crush can teach us so much about love

By Jane Graham

She sits, cross-legged, on the window sill, her blonde waves tousled casually around her heart-shaped face, a mesmerising pre-Raphaelite palette of purple-shadowed eyes and cherry-coloured lips.

She slowly sucks on a cigarette, then blows the smoke out with a nonchalant Garbo pout. She watches her audience slope into the room with a small, curling, almost imperceptible smile. She is Miss Tivnan, 12-year-old Martin's new art teacher and one of the greatest revelations of his short life. In between gasps, he manages a sentence: "My puberty just started."

This is the teacher crush as seen by Chris O'Dowd, the Irish actor/writer behind the irresistible rites-of- passage Sky sitcom Moone Boy.

Moone Boy tracks the unspectacular life of young, awkward but perennially hopeful Martin and his grown-up imaginary pal (played by O'Dowd with enough charm to disarm a vengeful nun) in unsophisticated early Eighties Boyle.

It's fitting to call Moone Boy O'Dowd's brainchild; it's clearly autobiographical and has probably hibernated in his ideas bank since he stopped packing his school bag with a spare pair of underpants. ("He just can't deal with the milk", his well-meaning mother tells Miss Tivnan as she hands the horror pants to a distraught Martin).

I mention Moone Boy not just because it's a beautiful evocation of a very innocent Irish childhood, but because as a woman with no brothers, it has given me endless insights into the experience of being a young boy. I feel I missed out terribly as a girl at a primary school with not a single male teacher. I know many girls nurture a crush on authoritative women but that never happened to me; all my Misses and Mrs' seemed old and unattractively anxious.

How I would have enjoyed being under the studied scrutiny of a strong, capable man who would have guided me in my endeavours, warmed me with a secret smile when I excelled, and perhaps triggered a lifelong passion for rainforest animals, Tudor tales, or Pringle v-necks.

But it was not to be, and I blame the absence of such a real-life figure for what now seems like a rather desperate crush on Shakin' Stevens. My early worship of Shaky was, I see now, nothing more than a cry for help.

As Moone Boy reminded me, though, there are lots of female teachers for little boys to focus their attention on. And many men do seem to have been sexually, or at least sensually, awakened by a teacher crush.

A friend of mine confessed that his first "pash" was for his music teacher, Miss Leiper. "She looked like Cherie Blair's dancer pal," he reminisced, referring, I presume to the exotic, bendy Carole Caplin. "She rinsed my pants on a P5 trip to France when I got a bad tummy."

Another could still recall the experience of having the fragrant 'Mrs Dwyer' bend over him to read his work and the pleasure of briefly sharing a cloud with her humid flowery perfume.

Even hard-knocked, ex-drug-dealing rappers admit to sweet, swoony pedagogical fantasies. For 50 Cent it was his third grade teacher, Miss Johnson. "She looked like Phylicia Rashad," he revealed, referring to The Cosby Show's sexy matriarch. "I fell in love with her."

A happy thought, baby-faced Fiddy blushing under the gaze of a woman urging him to do his homework. I do hope this gentle introduction to feminine wiles still goes on, and hasn't been replaced by iPhone images of fake-breasted porn stars or no-limit hookers from Grand Theft Auto. I'd take a Moone Boy childhood for my son any time.

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