the nineteenth

Winning Leonardo DiCaprio's Teddy Bear


His blue eyes watched me while I slept, gossiped with friends on the phone, did math homework, wrote in my diary, and experimented with kissing on my oversized plush monkey. An 8X10 picture torn from a magazine; Leonardo DiCaprio, the new kid on “Growing Pains’ had taken over Ralph Macchio’s place in my heart as my boyfriend.


Leo was the perfect boyfriend. He was safe, loyal, he would walk me to class, wait for me after basketball practice, and always saved me a seat in the cafeteria. My 12 year old brain was laser focused on us as a couple and that is why I was surprised to open up that issue of Teen Beat magazine to see that he was giving away his teddy bear in a contest. Why not just send it to me, his girlfriend? No matter, I was going to win and that would stamp our relationship as official. 


The ad was small, only taking up half a page. I doubted that most girls would even notice it, the bear was essentially mine. That teddy bear hugged tight to Leo’s chin haunted my dreams, what would it smell like? Maybe clove cigarettes? I had heard that Leo was sophisticated like that. Most definitely it would replace the monkey as my top stuffed animal and I was already thinking about how it might be time to move on to french kissing practice anyway...who knew when the right moment would arrive and I would be tasked with knowing how to do this thing. 


I carefully pulled the ad out of the magazine, making sure to not rip it and locked the door to my room. Using the utmost care and my very best navy blue glitter gel pen, I printed my name and address- obsessing over each letter and number to ensure accuracy and that my entry would not be somehow invalidated because of a sloppy zip code. Despite triple checking I was worried that I had missed something.


The fact that this was a contest was utterly lost on me. In my mind, this was Leo reaching out to me from Beverly Hills. He just wanted to confirm my new address and since I was now in middle school, it was important for him to send me that bear to solidify our commitment as a couple. Sealing the envelope was an exhausting joy. I took the time to add a touch of Malibu Musk to show Leo that I was serious. As I dropped that envelope into the mailbox by the bus stop, my stomach sank and my tears welled. I very badly needed to prove all the naysayers wrong, I was Leo’s number one.


Days passed into weeks. I reread that ad from Teen Beat so frequently that the print from it started to wear on the edges. It lived in my diary and I studied it before bed in the glow of my nightlight. I was comforted by the fact that I had memorized the disclaimer during the bleak week when I had misplaced my diary key. A month passed and I then began to worry. I decided to take matters into my own hands. That weekend when my mom took us to the library, I timidly approached the circulation desk and, “ahem, excuse me?” The woman guarding the desk looked up from her novel featuring a very tan man with almost too many muscles on the cover. “Could you help me with something?” She sighed, bookmarked her page, and smiled, “what is it that I can do for you?”

“Well, I need help finding an address.”


“Sure,” she stepped up to grab a phone book.


“For Leonard DiCaprio. He’s an actor. Lives in Beverly Hills...I think.”  She smiled and very subtly rolled her eyes. “Oh honey, wouldn’t we all like to know that information.” Even then I knew this was a little creepy. However, I explained my situation and she was all in. The librarian motioned me to come around to her side of the counter and pulled down some intimidating binders, her red nails a blur as she flipped through the thin pages, squinting at the tiny font. 


“There,” she pointed to a studio lot address for Warner Brothers, “that’s where “Growing Pains” is filmed, so we are close.” She continued to work at a furious pace while looking through the white pages filled with fancy addresses. “Nope, that’s as close as it is going to get, but I wish you the best of luck in contacting Mr. DiCaprio...let me know when you hear from him.” She wrote down the address for Warner Brothers on an index card and I carefully tucked it into my backpack, grateful for the lead. 


I addressed a new letter to Leo; this time in his attention to the Warner Brothers address.


Dear Leo,

          I hope that this letter finds you well. You see, I am writing to inquire about the recent request regarding the offer of your teddy bear to a deserving girl via Teen Beat magazine. It was incredibly generous of you to offer such a treasured gift to give away. I am concerned, however, that I have not yet heard from you as to when to expect my package. Any information regarding an estimated time of arrival for my bear would be most appreciated. I love you so very much.

Yours always,



It wasn’t until the second week of March when the slush greyed in the gutters that I began to give up hope; the bear never did arrive in the mail. My heart was broken by DiCaprio’s careless promise of a token to a fan. Eventually that wound was healed by time and real boys waiting for me between classes, but I would never forget my first true heartbreak and forever hold this against the actor.


Johanna Zablocki lives in Colorado with her family and teaches by day. By night, she reads all the books and writes all the things.

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