I was sitting at lunch with a friend today when she leaned over to check her phone messages and discovered the sad news that Mr. Spock, sometimes also known as Leonard Nimoy, had passed away due to complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She looked up at me and said wistfully, “He was my first girlhood crush.” To which I replied, “Mine too.” In 1966, while my thirteen year old contemporaries swooned over the mop headed Beatles, I was madly in love with a guy with chiseled features, a low pitched but perfectly modulated voice, and above all, pointy ears. I found him irresistible.
Some girls want a boy who will bring them candy hearts on Valentine’s Day and flowers for their birthday. Others prefer a tougher nut to crack. To Spock’s adoring fan girls, he represented the latter, the “strong silent type” whose deep human emotions lurked well behind that cool Vulcan exterior. Secretly we all believed that we were the one, and of course the only one, who could penetrate Spock’s personal deflector shields to get to that emotional reactor core. The challenges would be great, but so would be the rewards. Since Spock was significantly older, and entirely unavailable, we turned our attentions to the dark quiet boy in the back row of math class who sat scowling at his paper, pressing his pencil lead so hard into the paper that it snapped off. He was no Spock, but he would have to do.
My girlfriends and I have hopefully long outgrown our attraction to emotionally unavailable men–candy hearts and flowers are most welcome these days. Leonard Nimoy tried for a time to outgrow his identification as Mr. Spock, even titling his first autobiography “I Am Not Spock.” He became a writer, a director, a poet, a photographer, and even at times a very bad singer, but despite his many accomplishments his admiring Trekkies continued to flock to Star Trek conventions to get a glimpse of the man with the pointed ears. In later life, Nimoy embraced the character that made him famous—when you have become a cultural icon, resistance, as they say, is futile.
What is it now, nearly fifty years later, that still draws us to the Vulcan mindset, where war, and rage, and yes, even passion were considered “highly illogical?” Perhaps it is a longing for a simpler world and an earlier time, where each one hour television episode had a story with a beginning, an ending, and a moral and no one had any trouble figuring out who the good guys were. Spock stood at Captain Kirk’s shoulder as a moral compass, a conscious reminder to put thought before action and to behave ethically towards all species. We could all use a little Spock these days. Leonard Nimoy, you will be deeply missed.