Happy Birthday, Keanu Reeves

At 13, I was completely in love with and enraptured by one special person: my best friend, who I’ll call Sarah, because that’s her name. Sarahs are ubiquitous in elementary school, where we met, and in life, where we both currently reside. They normally get an initial or something to designate their unique identity in a sea of Sarahs, but even though I haven’t called her in years, she is still purely “Sarah” in my phone, all other Sarahs needing to be differentiated from her and not the other way around. Her parent’s landline is probably one of three phone numbers I can still remember by heart. Her influence on me is profound in a lot of subtle ways, and no more so than in my lingering love for Keanu Reeves.

I definitely purchased my share of magazines looking to profit off my raging tween hormones, but I was always a little confused by the concept of pining for a celebrity my age: like, hi, did they not see the boys at my Hebrew school?? I had cute boys in my life already! Who cares about, like, I don’t know, Devon Sawa, or whichever non-threatening male teen starlet was big at the time. Part of this probably had something to do with how much I hated being a child and then a teenager. I didn’t want someone my own age. I wanted a man.

Sarah was the one who brought Keanu Reeves to my attention right before The Matrix, a fateful timing that only solidified our commitment to this cause. We went to separate schools past the age of ten, I think, and the fact that the few other girls I spoke to at my new school were so baffled by my interest in this astoundingly hot grown-up just made him even more special. Only Sarah and I — in our peer group, duh, like 40 billion people on Earth can recognize the fact that he’s very good-looking — were mature enough to rent A Walk In The Clouds on VHS, to illegally download the live recordings of his band Dogstar on her dad’s desktop computer (sorry for installing Napster on your computer, Sarah’s Dad, particularly in those prehistoric days of dial-up). We watched The Devil’s Advocate several times, I’m pretty sure, the lavishly neo-moralistic religious backdrop of the film the perfect accompaniment to our burgeoning Goth fashion sensibilities. We saw The Replacements and Hardball in theaters!! I still remember the sleepover where we watched Sweet November, already old enough to know that it was terrible but still too committed to the fantasy to care. Charlize Theron’s character was named Sara, too; without an “h,” but still. “They’re always named Sara,” Sarah shrugged, while I choked on my jealousy.

Keanu Reeves always kind of floated around my entire life, the way other Canadian celebrities do; he grew up with my high school drama teacher, for example, and he had attended the alternative middle school I went to after Sarah and I both left religious day school. One teacher would tell us stories about how his mother used to send Alice Cooper to pick him up at the end of the school day. Another claimed he was expelled for riding his motorcycle through the halls. Both of these stories are easily fact-checked, should you doubt the veracity of my obsession. But it was very much a shared obsession. I think of it as part of my friendship with Sarah, more than anything to do with Keanu; Point Break and Speed are forever perfect films and if you disagree don’t @ me, but besides that he doesn’t really make my heart race the way the object of your hormonal lust is supposed to. He’s simply another extraordinarily famous figure with a very attractive face whose identity has become enmeshed with my memories and feelings of a very specific and very important time in my life. “Whoa,” right?

Anyway, happy birthday, Keanu Reeves. I hope you’re riding your motorcycle through somebody else’s high school right now.