My Future Husband
Not a day went by without seeing him standing next to me: Captain Jean-Luc Picard, of the Starship Enterprise, in a poster mounted next to the mirror in my teenage bedroom. He wore a sleek, red uniform with four pips on his collar and a communicator badge on his chest.
He showed up in my life because I wanted to be just like my big sister. Seven years older than me and off at college, she and her friends had a weekly date to view Star Trek: The Next Generation on TV. When home for the holidays, she would watch with me instead, and I got hooked. At 13 years old and still trying to figure out the point of it all, TNG gave me crib notes on how the world worked. It probed everything from understanding existence through the android Data to societal, political, and cultural conflict, which so often arose on their “continuing mission to explore strange new worlds.”
Also, in the prime of my adolescence, I was nothing short of boy crazy. New crushes appeared in my journal frequently. I wrote about them with a single-minded passion that I rarely feel for anything today, whether it was Daniel, John, Bart, Michael, whoever. This fixation translated to the screen too, where I obsessed over Jordan Catalano in My So Called Life, Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills 90210, and other obvious teen icons.
13-year-old me knew it was strange — inappropriate, even — to put a poster of a much older, balding man on my wall. Still, I followed Picard on the show long after my sister returned to college. I wore my feelings on my sleeve at school, telling my friends that he was “my future husband.” I admired him. And I learned a lot from watching him.
For example, Picard was human but not perfect. He experienced great trauma, when the Cardassians tortured him or when the Borg turned him into a killing machine. After recovering from these tragedies, he grappled, just like a real human being, with a dark eddy of memories, guilt, and sorrow. Through all that, he remained compassionate and loyal to the Prime Directive, a clear ethos that dictated peaceful norms in Federation space.
Picard also embodied positive masculinity. Though certainly not perfect, he exhibited patience in a way that didn’t often show up at my house. At the time, my parents were beginning the long spiral towards divorce. My father was verbally abusive. Alongside missives about my crushes, my journals testify to how scared I was to live with him. Watching the steady, largely non-violent authority that Picard brought to his ship provided an example of an honorable man, the kind I’d want to marry - rather than the kind who had fathered me.
Even today, Star Trek brings me the warm comfort of nostalgia, like sitting under a blanket on a cold, wet day with a cup of tea (Earl Grey, hot). My affection for the Captain has not waned, but it has changed; now when I watch his new show Picard, it feels like my grandfather is up on the screen. Still, when we turn on a rerun of The Next Generation, and I’ll joke to my partner, “There’s my future husband.” Also a fan, he gets it. Picard as a character has long embodied what many of us dream of when we hope for the best of humanity.
Kristina Saccone crafts flash fiction and creative nonfiction in the hours between logging off from work and wrangling her young son. Her work has appeared in Dwelling Literary and The Minison Project, and she has a piece forthcoming in Unearthed. You can find her on Twitter at @kristinasaccone or haunting small independent bookstores in the Washington, DC, area.