Last night, I met an old friend for the very first time.
In 1992, I became hooked on a short-lived teen soap opera called "Swans Crossing." A lot of people don't remember it, but those that do were probably just as obsessed with it as I was. (I was 13 -- obsession came easy.) I stumbled upon the show on my own, but it wasn't long after I started watching it that I learned, to my tween heart's delight, that the main character, Sydney Rutledge, was played by a client of my half-sister's talent-manager mom: Sarah Michelle Gellar.
There were a number of cute boys on the show, but I had developed an immediate crush on a character named Owen, the resident musical genius and constant sunglasses-wearer who was clearly a couple years younger than the other boys on the show, most of whom were 15 and 16. Naturally, I asked my sister if Sarah could get my fan mail to the actor playing him, Evan Ferrante.
Sarah not only agreed, she tried to play matchmaker. She had me send her a photo of myself to give to Evan.
A couple of weeks later, I came home from Pop Warner cheerleading practice to find that I had missed a call from him; he'd left a message with my father that I could call him back at Kaufman Astoria Studios the next day, and you bet your gnarly pompoms I did! Sadly, though, he was on set when I called, so I chatted with Sarah for a while instead, and my phone call with Evan never happened.
But there's a reason I have pictures of the photo I sent Evan 22 years ago. We've stayed in touch on and off ever since thanks to a series of weird coincidences, and he found it in his family's attic while visiting New York from Los Angeles this week. Of course, he immediately sent the shots to me via Facebook messenger, to which I replied (after Instagramming my retrospective embarrassment) that I thought it was finally time we met. He agreed.
But we'll get to that in a bit.
Although we never got to talk on the phone that pubescent summer, Evan and I sent a couple letters back and forth, old-school penpal-style. But that came to an end relatively quickly (probably because the boy who dumped me in seventh grade wanted to get back together in eighth grade, and I'm not one to have an emotional affair).
Five years passed, and I became a freshman in college, as so many people do five years after being in eighth grade. I got an unexpected call from one of my best high-school friends, Grace, who was a freshman at Boston University at the time, and she said something pretty strange.
"There's a guy on my dorm floor who recognized you in a picture I have in my room," she said. Well, that's not creepy at all, I thought to myself as she passed the phone to... Evan.
Five years after we were supposed to have our star-crossed phone call, the stars uncrossed and we finally got to have our chat. The serendipity was almost too weird to enjoy it as much as I wanted to. We talked for a while and said we'd keep in touch, but it was just barely the late '90s -- I hardly used email yet, and social networks hadn't started.
So we fell out of touch again.
Another five years passed, and I was living in New York, engaged to a struggling actor who introduced me to a not-so-struggling actor, Adrian Grenier. We hung out a few times, and at one point, Adrian was thinking of hiring an assistant; interested in the job, I talked to him on the phone for a couple hours one day about pretty much everything but the job.
Among the topics we discussed was his family. He talked lovingly about his mom, and he mentioned that a recent remarriage meant he had new cousins. One of those cousins: Evan.
What. The. Everloving. Hell.
I barely knew what to do with this bizarre piece of information other than let my mind be blown. But once I picked up the pieces of my gray matter, I realized, Oh, hey, Friendster exists now, and so Evan and I finally found a way to effortlessly stay in touch despite his move to California to keep acting, start producing, and become the foremost Tom Cruise impersonator in the country. (Well, Friendster and MySpace were kind of a pain in the ass, but Facebook has made it super-easy.)
It wasn't five years later but 12 that bring us to present day and Evan's current trip back east, which led him to find that original fan-mail photo and us finally deciding to meet up -- but not before I went on a second date with a guy who had seen my Instagram post of said photo and told me on Wednesday night that he'd done a producing job with Evan in Budapest.
Anyway, we finally, finally met up in the West Village yesterday, and it was so many adjectives. A few of them: surreal, natural, enlightening, charming, and long overdue.
It was also really embarrassing because I repeatedly realized throughout our conversation that I have befriended numerous former child actors over the years: I regularly hung out with "Are You Afraid of The Dark"'s Joanna Garcia (Swisher) in my freshman-year dorm, I randomly met and stayed in Internet touch with "The Adventures of Pete & Pete"'s Michael Maronna (big Pete), I dated another person who played a recurring character on "Pete & Pete," and I've become Internet pals with "Party Of Five"'s Lacey Chabert and "The All New Mickey Mouse Club"'s Chase (Chasen) Hampton thanks to mutual friends. (I realize this makes me look like a huge weirdo.)
But in my arguably disturbing collection of former-child-star acquaintances, Evan truly stands out. He already stood out thanks to how long he's been in my consciousness and how he repeatedly popped up at unexpected times throughout my life. However, now that I've finally met him, I wish we'd met much earlier, and I know we'll definitely hang out again when we're in each other's respective necks of the woods.
They say don't meet your heroes. But if you get a chance to meet one of your childhood TV crushes, don't put it off -- especially if the universe has been gently shoving him in your face every few years.