An Homage to a Nostalgic Everyday Crush 

Michael, Travis, and perhaps even Chris spelled with a backward “r”…I’m not sure what your collective names were but you were part of the reason my friends and I couldn’t wait to pile into one of our mom’s cars and make the journey to the Palm Desert mall. This is about a particular crop of cute, older boys who worked at Hot Topic when I was an adolescent in a Good Charlotte tee. However, Michael, Travis, and Chris with the backward “r” existed in various forms for everyone at that age because when you’re 14, an everyday crush on an older, “obviously” cool kid at the mall was your weekend fascination. 

At least it was for the generations who grew up intertwined in mall culture. For kids today, their everyday crush may be like blogger and podcaster Amber Dover’s and come from the grocery store. More on that later, as we need to head back to the food court. 

For a long time, the mall was the center of a youth’s existence. For those who lived near malls, it was the epicenter of socializing on a Friday night. Others, like myself, could only hope to experience the array of stores, a slice of Sbarro, and the cherry on top – the older boys who worked at said array of stores. Yeah, you were 13 with zero confidence and there was absolutely no way you’d walk out of any encounter with one of those guys with more than a t-shirt because your mom gave you money to “find something nice” for picture day next week. Despite the reality, you couldn’t help but live in the fantasy. 

The everyday crush fantasy on the Hot Topic workers in my middle school days didn’t last long. Hell, not even their names were held onto, but looking back – I can’t help but smile thinking how everyone else our age was probably going through the same thing. Who didn’t have someone that worked at the mall that made them want to go do a lap or two in hopes that they’d catch a glimpse of them through the windows? Of course, that’s if they didn’t work at Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister. Good luck seeing in those pits of beach doom! 

Aside from those stores that required echolocation, the mall was where many crushes were born, especially on those working there. Growing up, it was as if hanging out at the mall was like a bonus period in school. Only the fascination could be on someone you never shared a class with in your life because they were a few grades ahead of you, could drive to work, and were only a year or so away from being grown-ups. You can see why those people would be so intriguing to a bunch of 7th graders with $20 in hand for Invader Zim patches. 

Again, the crushes on the guys at Hot Topic didn’t last long for me. Nor did I have any success with them because I was a 14-year-old girl who could’ve been cast in ‘The Blindside.’ My sad, lack of a life aside, so much of what Amber Dover expressed about the local grocery clerk in this week’s episode reminded me not only of those junior high mall moments but also almost every crush I’ve had. You’ll have to tune in to this week’s episode, out Wednesday, January 11th.

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