“It’s like I’m blowing kisses in the wind, giving you love that you haven’t been given. I cross my heart and hope to die. I’m only wishing you’d love me like I… Blowing kisses in the wind. Waiting, waiting, waiting for you is like blowing, blowing kisses.” ~Paula Abdul
Paula Abdul was my adolescence. “Rush, Rush” was one of the first songs I truly loved as a freshly minted teenage boy in 1991. In fact, in boarding school one of only two tapes I had (they were known at Blue Mountain Academy as propaganda) was Spellbound. I kept it safe and secure in a plastic baggie at the bottom of my gigantic box of Tide detergent. There was just something about her slightly nasal voice and the perky vibe she always seemed to embody that turned my heart to mush. She was my first crush.
Now, I wasn’t a video kid, even though I grew up in the golden age of MTV (back when they only showed videos), because we didn’t get cable TV at home. Instead, I had to content myself with the glory of the radio, so the voice was first and foremost in my mind back then, and it still is, because of that. I heard “Opposites Attract” that way for the first time, and I absolutely adored the back and forth between Paula and whoever that rapper guy was. It was the initial time I had heard that voice, and I was in love from the start.
Of course all of it had to surreptitious from the start, at least the radio part, but when it came to images there were definite possibilities. We didn’t have the internet back then, so I couldn’t just do an image search, but we did have teen magazines at the local 7-Eleven. My sister and I would pool whatever money we would get when we got it (for Christmas, birthdays, etc.) and gorge ourselves on those teen magazines, eating up the photos and articles like they were going out of style (which they were). We would get the magazines home and divvy up who got which photos to put on their bedroom walls.
That’s when I saw a whole spread on Paula Abdul, and if I thought I was in love with her voice it was complemented completely by her appearance. The magazine that one time was from right after the 1990 Grammy’s, and Paula had won an award for the Opposites Attract video. The picture I recall the most was one of her holding that miniature grammophone award in her arms with a broad smile on her face. She had on a black dress that flared out at the bottom, and I couldn’t stop staring at it, or at her either. I carefully cut that page out of the magazine and taped it in a place of prominence on my far wall, so her smile was the first thing to greet me every morning.
If Winnie Cooper was my dream girl then Paula Abdul was my dream woman. She was real, too, which made a difference to an adolescent boy heading toward adulthood. If I had had the funds or the wherewithal to fly to Los Angeles (hell, to hitchhike there, even) I would have been there in a heartbeat with a map to the stars held out in front of me, hoping to just catch a glimpse of her. Don’t judge me. All teenage boys are like that, especially the ones who lived a completely closed off from the world existence.
Maybe part of the draw was the forbidden nature of it all. I wasn’t supposed to be listening to secular radio. Paula Abdul traded on her sex appeal. And I was an impressionable teenager. But none of that mattered to me. What mattered was how she made me feel, which was spectacular. I could put on my headphones and lose myself in her music in a way that I couldn’t do with most anything else. It made me feel safe. She made me feel safe, even though she has no clue to this day who I am, so I’m still thankful to her for her music, for her image, and for that time in my life when she was really important.
And don’t even get me started on Jennie Garth.