From the time I was seven or eight in the late 1970s, when most other girls my age had crushes on Davy Jones of The Monkees, Donny Osmond or Michael Jackson, I was obsessed with Spock. He was not just my favorite TV character of all time, hands down, ever. He was my first love.
My sisters teased me mercilessly. They thought I was crazy to moon over a pointy-eared, emotionless, green-blooded half-Vulcan, half-human. But I couldn’t wait for 6 pm every evening to flop down on the orange-shag carpet in the living room and tune in to the first color TV set we’d ever owned for an hour of Sci Fi bliss with Spock.
Even as a grown woman nearing 30, I cut out of work one day in the mid-90s just to see Leonard Nimoy at the Air and Space Museum’s opening of a Star Trek exhibit, trailing him, speechless, like every other awe-struck fan in his orbit. By then, my friends had become accustomed to seeing me arrive at Halloween parties in my plastic Vulcan ears. And later, as a young mother, I bit my tongue, but mourned nonetheless when my toddler inadvertently broke my cherished ‘Spock Lives!’ glass tumbler.
But it wasn’t until the world began mourning the passing of Leonard Nimoy that I’ve begun to wonder
:Why do I still have a box of Spock paraphernalia in my basement? Why did I love him so?
True, as a good-girl overachiever, I liked how smart he was. (I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I did well on a high school physics test on velocity once only because I’d remembered Spock computing it on a spacewalk before mind-melding with the wayward satellite, V’ger in one of the Star Trek movies.)
But he wasn’t much to look at, with those shiny, black, nerd bangs cut with knife-edge precision across his pasty forehead, that long face, close-set eyes and skinny legs. And let’s face it, Star Trek was one retro, sexist show.
I dreamed of a future where not only aliens and people of other races and cultures could be sharing power on the Starfleet bridge, but also women and men. But unless you yearned to be a sexy, low-level officer in a tight red mini skirt with an impossibly high beehive, a sexy, glorified operator (sorry, Uhura, but that’s what you were back then), a sexy nurse (with the unrequited hots for Spock), a sexy bedmate of the randy Captain Kirk, or a victim, there were no role models for you. Feminists hated the show.
I know I wasn’t alone in my love for Spock. Academics like Henry Jenkins of MIT, have expounded on his sex appeal for women. Psychologists have sought to understand what has made him so alluring that thousands of grown women have written millions of pages of often-erotic fan fiction about him, co-starring themselves. Writer Sallie McNett Hunter argued in “The Trek-ual Allure of Mr. Spock” a few years ago that women love Spock because he’s “a withholding bastard.” “Maybe he reminds of us of a reserved and emotionally conservative father or a cold, detached mother,” she wrote.
But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think the reason I loved Spock wasn’t that complicated. Or even very romantic.
I think I loved Spock because I identified with him.
I remember a day-dreamy TV hangover that lasted for days after watching an episode called “This Side of Paradise.” Spock and the crew beam down to Omicron Ceti III and are exposed to the spores of bizarre, pink Lotus-eater-type flowers that make everyone loopy. I thrilled to watch the normally taciturn Spock swing from a tree branch, crack an enormous smile and kiss a girl.
Spock! Kissing a girl!
The moment is fleeting. Captain Kirk figures out that the spores can be overcome with negative emotions, and so insults Spock to provoke him to anger, which he does. The reawakened logical side of Spock takes over. Later, after the once -again emotionally-buttoned-up Spock has said goodbye to his lady love, he says, “For the first time in my life, I was happy.”
I remember desperately wishing Spock could find a way to be both logical and smart and to let loose and fall in love.
During those tumultuous growing- up years, Spock’s internal conflict between desire and self-control echoed my own struggle between my head and heart. Should I let loose and be loved, or keep my distance and avoid suffering?
In the outsider who didn’t quite fit in in either the Vulcan or human worlds, I saw my own youthful attempts to define who I was and where I belonged.
Maybe that’s why I loved him –not just because he was smart and played that weird harp and could read minds and was a cool and calm bad-ass who could knock people out cold in a nanosecond with a Vulcan Nerve Pinch. Maybe it’s because in Spock I sensed a kindred soul –complicated, divided, yearning for nothing more than to be whole.