Girls who like boys who look like girls

Damon, Gaz, Ronan ... every teen girl needs a fantasy heart-throb to practise on safely. Serena Mackesy recalls her own early yearnings and eyes up today's young objects of desire

Crushes, those hot flushes that consume pre-and-post pubescent girls, are essential to the maturing process. Throughout them, you hone your picture of the kind of bloke (or, of course, girl), you're after. You experience the mating urge at safe enough a distance from its object that the physical complications are limited. A crush is a wonderful outlet for the imagination: ever conducted conversations and snogging sessions with those phantoms who peopled the walls of your bedroom? And, given that most girls reach puberty while boys are still torturing insects, crushes are an essential outlet for all those burgeoning sex urges.

The girls are younger these days, but the heart-throb is as old as the hills. Shelley and Byron were pursued by crowds of squealing groupies. Roman hearts swelled at the sight of a well-formed gladiator. Chivalry and courtly love were crushes taken to their most formalised extreme: look but don't touch; pine away for love; fantasise until you're hot.

By the mid-20th century, business had harnessed the phenomenon for profit. Where previous generations had swooned for men of action, my mother went overboard about Laurence Olivier in Fire Over England - "when he jumped out of that window onto the horse, ohhh..." - Leslie Howard as Pimpernel Smith, a sort of 1940s Indiana Jones, and Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind. My friend Elva remembers lying awake in Canada with her tinny radio under the pillow in the hope of hearing Frank Sinatra's voice.

My first crush was Dr Spock in Star Trek. I was seven. Later I graduated to Sonny Osmond (you had to b e there), Kurt Russell in his buckskins in The Brothers and David Soul in Starsky and Hutch. Everybody else was in love with them too. Crushes are almost completely tribal until you're over the hump of 14, which explains the phenomenal profits turned by the boy bands. All it takes is appealing to the strongest character in each girlie gang and you're going to go straight in at Number 1.

So who does the current crop of early teens rate as prime meat? According to Sugar magazine , the top 10 faces that make hearts go pit-a-pat this year are: in the pop world, Ronan Keating from Boyzone, the band who are taking up the slack left by Take That with their cover versions of, among other things, the Osmonds' "Love Me For a Reason"; Damon Albarn, the perky, well-washed frontman from Blur; Liam Gallagher, surly singer in Oasis, and Gaz Coombes, the Supergrass singer whose sideburns are copyright of Planet of the Apes.

Hot telly properties are Matt le Blanc, the intellectually-challenged actor, Joey, in Friends; Jared Lito, a Matt Dillon/James Dean hybrid who sulked his way through the excellent but ill-fated My So-Called Life, and Paul Nichols, who played a heart-throb in the BBC kids' series The Biz and is about to boost EastEnders' ratings when he joins its cast tonight. The only film star is Brad Pitt, the callipygian beauty on whom quite a lot of grown-up girlies also have crushes. One doubts, however, that the teen market covets him for his magnificent performance as a bearded, brain-dead mass-murderer in Kalifornia.

The last two are interesting. They are Jamie Redknap of Liverpool FC and Trevor Sinclair of QPR. Both are, according to my colleagues on the Sports desk, "sweet, tall and nicely formed", but crushes on footballers are anathema to my generation. Boys had crushes on footballers, not girls. But the advent of opera, weeping Gazzas, spades of money and the prevalence?? had made soccer players safe. Wonders will never cease.

So what are the ingredients that make a teen heart-throb? Well, look at this list and common factors become apparent. Liam is the exception in all of this, but it's possible that crushes on Liam are more a reflection of older sisters' tastes. Firstly, none of these people are dangerous. Well put together, yes; well muscled, some of them, but they don't project the threat that, if you were alone in a room with them, things might get out of hand. They are all, with the possible exception of Gaz, easy on the eye, but in an unchallenging mould: noses not too big, eyes white and bright, hair clean and cared for, limbs lean and usually long.

Apart from Jared, whose moody eyes and floppy fringe brings out the taming instinct, the wish to nurture, they are crowd pleasers: chipper, smiley, having a good time. You get the feeling that their mums still wash their clothes. These boys are just like the real boyfriend you could end up having, only better.

The teen-throb has a quality, though, which distinguishes him from the chaps the older girls go for. It's to do with that horrible phase their fans are gong through: puberty. Suddenly you're 12, and everything you took for granted is pulled out from under you. Your body has gone haywire, you're sprouting lumpy bits, encountering viscosities you never knew existed. Your friends change their fealties weekly. Your dad, unless you're unlucky, starts to keep his distance. School is no longer an easy coast. Gangs form and you never know when it's gong to turn on you: there is nothing more spiteful than a gaggle of teenage girls in full cry. All your terms of reference are turned upside down.

Which is where your personal idol helps. Your attitude to masculinity is ambivalent: you like it, but it's deeply unfamiliar. Your average top pop boy, from Take That to David Cassidy to John Lennon to Cliff Richard, has at least some of these qualities: he's slim, has long legs, small features and never, ever has conspicuous body hair. Another nail in Liam's coffin. The members of Take That, famously, used to shave theirs in order not to cause offence. Body hair it too testosterone-y for someone who's just getting used to oestrogen. Adolescent girls want boys, sure. But what they really want is boys who are good-looking versions of adolescent girls.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

    Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

    Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

    £10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable