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I'm a Believer
By Hilary Shepard


I was lying. Mickey Dolenz was not my favorite Monkee. I only said this to throw Marcy Stein, my annoying, bespectacled and metal-mouthed (but hey, who wasn't) schoolmate off the scent. Who I really loved, loved with all my heart and soul, with an intensity so acute it vibrated through my nine-year-old string bean body and sent my metal braces clicking -- was Davy Jones. I loved him with the worshipping unconditionality that rendered me at times unable to function. Most afternoons, after rushing home from school, breathless with anticipation, I would sit mesmerized in front of my parents' 36" wood-look console, for 30 way-too-short minutes as I watched him sing and beguile. All I could do afterwards was sprawl out upon my puce bedspread, surrounded by my Troll dolls, my flower power stickers, and my official Davy Jones Fan Club poster taped to my cottage-cheese ceiling for easy viewing, and gaze up at his twinkling brown eyes while I repeated my sacred mantra, "Davy, Davy, Davy."

It was an all-encompassing worship that I would never quite feel again for another human being, no matter how sexy or dark or dangerous they were. I would not feel it for Leif Garret, Cat Stevens or even my ex-husband. My love for them was never like my first love. For that was a brand new heart-unbroken, clean, untouched by disappointment, regret or knowledge love. And it was filled with Davy-ness.

I didn't care that he was short. It would be years before I would sprout up to my full-grown height of 5'10", so height was not an immediate issue. We could deal with that problem later. After all, if he could love with me with my slightly crossed eyes, glasses, braces, Olive Oyl bod, headgear and all, then he wouldn't mind if I towered over him too.

What I loved about him was EVERYTHING. He was perfection. With his little boy charm. His choppy Prince Valiant hair. His crooked smile. And the clincher: the way his brown eyes would sparkle a wild starry blue whenever he fell in love each week with some unworthy actress who was just lucky to be on the show. I would put my own face onto theirs, keeping their curvy-bod and boobs (as I myself had nothing but bee stings) and bask in Davy's love glow as he sang "I'm a Believer" into my adoring eyes, which were of course, at that moment, uncrossed and conveniently free from their coke-bottle cages.

As I sifted through the tangled-web-memories that made up my life, I could pinpoint my 9th year as the one that got me used to longing for things that didn't really exist. An exciting, sexy world where you could be on TV, and older boys could love you and sing you a song that would confirm to every doubter in your school that you're special. IT. THE ONE. NOT a geek. Like Marcy Stein, who, by the way, had taken the bait and claimed Mickey Dolenz as her favorite Monkee. He was the man she would marry that afternoon in a backyard ceremony, where the four unsuspecting Monkees would become forever bound to four pre-pubescent girls from Manor Haven Long Island Elementary School, 'til death do they part.

I made my move slowly, pretending to protest. "But Marcy, you married Mickey last time. Which ended, need I remind you, in a bitter divorce when you left him for Bobby Sherman."

Marcy held fast. After all, it was her house, and her stove, on which we girls were now stirring a pot of strawberry Jell-O, to serve as the main course wedding feast.

"Mickey and I have a history together. YOU'LL have to take Davy."

My heart soared. I hesitated. Pretended to give in.

"O.K., but only if I get the lace tablecloth veil this time, and you take the smelly crochet afghan."

Marcy, who in later life would choose the wrong career and become a lawyer based on the mistaken idea that she was a good negotiator, accepted, and a pinkie-deal was struck.

"Yes!!" I thought. The day, which started out badly with a smashed cream cheese and jelly sandwich and a nothing part in the school play, was going to turn out all right after all!

"Jell-O is fattening," offered Cara Batista, whose obsession with her ever-expanding waistline had rendered her unable to think of much else. "Peter likes me thin."

Peter Tork was Cara's first pick, and one of the reasons she was invited to this after school shindig -- no conflicts. Amy Slatkin, a pimply, morose child who had a strange smell, rounded out our foursome. Amy was invited to partake because she was just happy to be invited anywhere, and would gladly marry the Monkee no one wanted -- Mike Nesmith. That lame wool hat he always wore just rendered him "not cute" and Amy was the perfect wife for him, because she was "not cute," too. Even then, we all knew our places, we fourth grade girls, like seeking like, water rising to its own level.

"Cara, put the Jell-O in the fridge!" Marcy shrieked. "Don't drink another spoonful or there'll be nothing left!"

Cara, her lips stained a guilty red, pouted, "But...... I'm tasting it for poison!"

"Oh, who'd poison the Monkees?" snapped Marcy.

"Bobby Sherman?" I offered, proud of the comeback, which brought the double reference of professional jealousy and Marcy's recent divorce betrayal in one cutting swoop.

Marcy was stumped for a witty reply, which was often the case, for she was the baby of us four. Poor Marcy was a pale pink speckled thing, with a beak-like nose that would be bobbed off for her sweet sixteen, but would still not render her face a pleasant one. Hers would be a life of bad dates and long litigations, but for right now it was HER house and SHE was the boss. This gave her the authority to shriek in a fish-wife manner whenever she felt the situation was getting away from her, and now was definitely one of those times, so she let out a deafening, "IT'S TIME TO GET DRESSED!! LET'S GO INTO MY PARENTS' ROOM, AND REMEMBER -- NO TOUCHING!"

We four friends ran down the lime green hallway into the forbidden zone: the Stein's marital sanctuary. The bedroom was a bright pink and purple affair, with a shag carpet so thick, once an object was dropped into its greedy tentacles, it was a safe bet it would never be seen again. I clutched my gold charm bracelet, the one with the four Monkees' heads, dangling like victims of the French guillotine, and fingered Davy's face protectively. I'd saved four months worth of weekly allowances for this priceless jewel and was taking no chances. I plopped myself down on the festive flowered bedspread and waited for more of Marcy's bossy instructions.

"You get the lace veil as per our previous verbal agreement," Marcy intoned, imitating her dad's lawyer-speak. "I get the afghan, Cara, you get the Pucci scarf and Amy, the doily will have to do."

We accepted our fate calmly, and solemnly draped ourselves in the flowing material. Our manner grew more reverent as the actual ceremony drew near, little pulses quickened as we began the transformation from ordinary "fiancées" to "blushing brides".

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