I can't have been the only one who read Carrie Fisher's account of her affair with Harrison Ford through my fingers, with sweating palms and prickling armpits.
In her new memoir, Fisher recounts how, as a 19-year-old with a sum total of one previous boyfriend, she embarked on a brief but intense affair with the 33-year-old married father. “Embarked on” makes it sound grown-up and effortless. The reality was a little less elegant.
“I looked over at Harrison. A hero’s face – a few strands of hair fell over his noble, slightly furrowed brow. How could you ask such a shining specimen of a man to be satisfied with the likes of me?” Fisher writes, as former 19-year-old lovesick women everywhere reach for the gin in pained recognition.
Fisher says she recalls every single word of every single exchange they had in the run-up to the actual seduction, but if you're hoping for titillating details, you'll need to type "princess leia bikini porn" into Google. She has said she didn't delve too deep because she didn't want to embarrass Ford. Or maybe it was all the marijuana they were smoking. But we former lovesick 19-year-olds know better.
The reason Fisher didn't offer much by way of what she has called "actual soft porn for sci-fi fans" is that, at the age of 19, it's all about the seduction; the parsing of his every syllable for clues; the "he said he didn't want anything serious but I know it's because he's been hurt before".
More into me
When I was 19, I once kept a conversation with my flatmate going for three days about what it meant that a man I met in Paris kissed me on only one cheek instead of both. Her: “He’s just not that into you.” Me: “No! I think it means he’s MORE into me. But [wails] maybe you’re right.” Her: “No, no, no. You’re probably right. Have some more wine.” And so on for three whole days. (Miraculously, she still talks to me.)
When my family and I decided to move back to Ireland last summer, there were excellent reasons for choosing the pretty seaside village we ended up in. The Atlantic air, good schools, family close by, striking distance of Dublin. The fact that it also happens to have been the scene of many of my car-crash teenage love affairs was not among them. I can't help thinking that perhaps I might have given this aspic of it more thought.
If I was better at maths, I might have worked out that the ratio of population size to geographic area to proportion of teenage years spent here means we can’t go anywhere without bumping into someone I once had an aborted date with, went out with for two weeks, or spent years mooning after like a heroin-addicted puppy. Each of them was briefly The One, until the next One came along.
If I had spent less time watching The Princess Bride and more time listening to The Smiths, I might have been better able to cultivate the air of wry cynicism that successful teenage dating requires. But I was not a very cool teenager. As a result, I was the one more dumped against than dumping.
“Old boyfriend?” my husband will say sympathetically after we encounter yet another man of roughly the right demographic, and I launch into my bid to seem elegantly disinterested and successful, all while not breathing out.
The most excruciating episode in my teenage dating adventures took place, now that I think about it, 21 years ago on this very day. By then I had left the detritus of my dignity in the small town and headed for college in Dublin, and later Paris. In an effort to seem more worldly, I had swapped The Princess Bride for Oasis and Simone de Beauvoir, and my Levis 501s for a leather jacket and a pair of black snakeskin cigarette pants.
I was fooling no one, least of all the manager of the restaurant in the pub where I worked. He was Definitely The One. Unfortunately, I was not. I was still woefully uncool, a state of affairs not helped by the fact that I was a terrible waitress. He could not have been less impressed. But it was his birthday, and I insisted we should have some cocktails, and finally he relented.
Naturally, I drank too many, made my unreciprocated feelings about his Oneness known, and then fled, leaving my wallet at the bar. I woke up the next day and swore off men for life. But for once it can’t have been as bad as I remember, because it turns out he really was The One.
So, lovesick 19-year-olds everywhere, if you won’t take it from Carrie, take it from me. He’s probably not The One. But, if he is, will make himself known by tracking you down to return your wallet, and fancy you back in spite of (or maybe even because of) your awful waitressing skills, your dubious taste in pants, and your gauche attempts at seduction.