Struggling with Danielle Fishel’s Sexuality

In some sort of weird Freudian way, this was inevitable. There’s probably some kind of sexual calculus that could have predicted exactly how I’d feel about a grown-up Danielle Fishel, but she’s re-appeared after more than a decade away from Boy Meets World (and more than a decade of my own personal maturation) and guess what? She’s sexy. So much so that she’s the star of her own Maxim spread.

And it’s really hard for me to accept.

This is the Topanga that tormented Cory.

This is the Topanga that tormented Cory

Today, kids’ attention is split up among endless distractions: the internet, social media, video games and whathaveyou, but growing up in the ’90s was different. Computers weren’t really essential yet and all they really had on them was Word, Minesweeper and Encarta. Video games were around, but nowhere near as involving as today’s games. You basically had two options for free time: friends and television; and more often than not in my case, those two blurred together into a surprisingly healthy overlap where your favorite wholesome television peers became your actual friends.

Maybe I was more sitcom-invested than other people my age, but I genuinely cared about Zack Morris, Steve Urkel, The Tanner girls, Will and Carlton, etc. I personally identified with Cory Matthews more than any other ’90s television character and it wasn’t even close. He was everything that I was, just on TV. Curly hair problems? I had those. Junior high basketball benchwarmer? Me too. Weirdly obsessive baseball fan? Check. Awkward pre-teen years and no one who understood? Well, that was all of us.

Cory was one of my best friends growing up (definitely a good thing) and his relationship with Topanga happened at exactly the right pace for me. When I was at the age when girls were off-limits, even as friends, that’s how Cory felt about Topanga. When I started to notice girls my age, Cory started to get involved with Topanga. She wasn’t really my type so I let him have her, even cheered for him to land her because I wanted him to be happy. By the time Topanga turned into a babe, I had already moved to a point in my life where I was meeting girls who weren’t on TV, so I wasn’t as interested. There was never a time in my life where she and Cory were anything but something for me to support.

Danielle Fishel Maxim cover

This is the Topanga that torments me

Fast forward to 2013: we’re all grownups and Danielle Fishel is hot. Mega hot. Open-mouth drooling, ears smoking, Ayoooooga hot. Cory and Topanga aren’t in a relationship anymore because Cory and Topanga aren’t real people in my life anymore and I’m at the right age to recognize that. Danielle Fishel has turned into a gorgeous woman and I’m stuck feeling filthy for saying that because in some way, I’ll never be able to see her for more than my friend Cory’s soulmate. Not even just his fling or his girlfriend; Cory Matthews married her. Danielle Fishel is Topanga Matthews.

In the same way that I wouldn’t ever try making a pass at a friend’s girlfriend (wife is exponentially worse), I feel terrible about noticing Fishel’s attractiveness. The logical, adult part of me realizes that there’s nothing wrong with appropriately recognizing what she’s become, but the louder, pre-teen part of my superego screams that there’s something criminal about thinking these thoughts about a good friend’s partner.

At this moment, I am at a sort of an impasse. My adult eyes and brain would typically look at her and see an attractive adult woman, a star who went through the high-pressured cocoon of the over-publicized life and came out a fully-formed and entirely rare metaphorical butterfly. Think of all the kids in a similar situation who went through the same spotlight and came out monsters at the best and criminals at the worst. The uber-visible maturation failures of Miley, Lindsay, Biebs, Zac and that ilk make stars like Fishel more impressive, and sexy, by comparison. However, something inside me is just hard-wired to see her face and automatically transport her back to John Adams High School, scissors in one hand and a clump of hair in the other, alongside Cory Matthews, with whom she eternally belongs.

In the internal struggle between should I or shouldn’t I, the sad news is that I genuinely cannot appreciate the new, sexier Danielle Fishel. Sure, she’s putting it on the cover (and lots of other pages) of magazines — and that will only increase as the debut of Girl Meets World gets closer — but I sincerely can’t bring myself to give in to the sex appeal like a normal 26-year-old straight male should.

The good news is that even though I can’t fully enjoy who Danielle Fishel is today, I won’t have to deal with her on her own for very much longer. Soon she’ll be back with Cory on my TV and I can be happy that the dweeb like me grew up and made quite a catch. As a TV wife, Topanga will epitomize the kind of wholesome charm and beauty that makes real Danielle Fishel attractive. The kind I can’t see when I look at her spread in Maxim.