Community Blog: The Ninja Turtles Theory Of Love


Most prepubescent girls fall in love with ponies. I, on the other hand, fell for a turtle at age 7.  The object of my affections wasn't even a real turtle, but an animated creature with an orange bandanna, a silly sense of humor, a bizarre obsession with anchovy pizza, and a penchant for yelling weird catchphrases when excited. Michelangelo, along with his three less-fascinating elder brothers, was beamed into our Istanbul flat right after school, where I would sit in front of the small kitchen TV, gnaw on a Crunch bar, and try to understand two things: what a "Cowabunga!" was and how the two-dimensional moving image of a green mutant could excite me so much. Pretty soon, I began asking every adult headed West to bring me TMNT stuff. I took a picture of myself in mom's wedding dress, took it to school, and told everyone I had married Michelangelo. I asked my parents to buy me pet turtles, named them after TMNT characters and prayed nightly for the Michelangelo-substitute swimming in the smelly bowl to magically mutate into the wisecracking "party dude" I saw on TV. Now, at age 28, I still have no idea what "Cowabunga" means. But after having had my heart broken by several human Michelangelos, I know why I fell for this animated turtle before I even noticed human boys.

Ok, I will now admit what you could have never gotten out of me twenty-years ago: in the animated series, Michelangelo looked exactly like his brothers. And they all pretty much looked like, um, anthropomorphic turtles. Then why this specific crush? Because Michelangelo was funny and fun. While his brothers discussed serious matters around the kitchen table, Michelangelo would burst into the lair on his weathered skateboard with two hands full of pizza, a big silly grin, and appear almost luminous with youthful energy. It was this energy, the childishness, and the slight hint of emotional vulnerability that underlay it all that thrilled me. Remember the time you had that crush on the life-of-the party at college, the one who looked at you with big, almost-vulnerable eyes, and immediately left you in the hall to get the beer pong started? What about the boy who took you out on the most fun date of your life, got you drunk, and seemed so earnest and disarming that you ended up in his bed? The same one who stopped calling you two weeks later? That was a Michelangelo. This is why the first rule of the TMNT theory of dating is….

1. Get over Michelangelo

 If you are like most women, you have a soft spot for funny, carefree, boyish guys with tender eyes. Michelangelos are particularly dangerous because they are not openly jaded and sarcastic like Raphaels; on the contrary, they are quick to get infatuated and quick to let you know how they feel. You will get burnt with a Michelangelo, mainly because you will lower your guard too soon. He will seem so caring and so understanding and so into you. And when he stops calling you because he is pursuing that mysterious blonde he saw at the gym the other day, you will not want to believe it. Your task should be to get over Michelangelo as soon as possible. Get it out of your system. Have your fling. Cry your heart out. Then tell yourself that you have been unlucky enough to fall for a Michelangelo and cut all contact with him. Don't take him back when he tries to come back (and he will), saying he misses you. You will only get burnt again.

Getting over your Michelangelo will get easier as you get older and wiser, because, Michelangelos themselves don't age well and don't make much of themselves. Less dim ones, if my experience at Yale is any measure, tend to go to business school. Most will eventually tire of the chase, especially if they are losing their hair, and settle either with a sweet, dependable, nondescript girl, or a wise lady who will not take any of their shit. They will, however, continue to flirt furiously, with exes, colleagues, and yet more mysterious blondes they see at the gym. If you happen to marry a "reformed" Michelangelo, I wish you the best of luck. At least, your kids will have a fun, energetic father to play ball with them… and to hit on their substitute teacher.

2. "Settle" for Donatello

The purple-bandanna wearing Donatello is your essential geek. He is all about science and technology and is generally not as violent as the other turtles, although he is fiercely loyal and will defend his brothers whenever necessary. Human Donatellos have many skills and hobbies, which allow them to use their brains but minimize social interaction and physical activity. They are good with computers, to say the least. They make really good boyfriends, if you can deal with their bouts of melancholy, insomnia, and indecisiveness. Therefore, the second rule of TMNT theory of love is to "settle" for your Donatello after you have slowly fallen in love with him without even noticing how it happened. Settle is in quotation marks here, because you will not actually be settling, although, if you are particularly attractive, your girl friends will think that you have. Your mother, however, will know better. Donatellos are smart, funny, and gentle, and, unlike Michelangelos they will always be successful and become hotter with age.

Your human Donatello may have dated some pretty kooky looking women in the past (70s hair-grooming patterns, frumpy clothes, mousy hair -- you get the picture). But make no mistake, he will fall hard for a sophisticated, elegant, feminine woman and will remain appreciative and faithful.

3. Learn to discriminate between Leonardo and Raphael

Raphael is hot. Raphael is powerful. But Splinter, the sensei, did not make Raphael the leader for a reason, and you should definitely not make him your husband. What you want is a Leonardo, a courageous yet caring leader, but it will take some practice before you can tell whether you have a Raphael or a Leonardo on your hands. The red-bandanna wearing Raphael is the bad boy, always ready for a fight and waiting for an occasion to puncture holes in his enemies with his sai. You will be drawn to his smoldering looks and his dark sarcasm. Masculinity (embodied by Raphael), however, is not the same as manliness (embodied by Leonardo): Lower-ranking primates have higher levels of testosterone in their blood, and Raphael is just a lower-ranking turtle, who has not yet quite come to grips with this fact. As a human, Raphael can and will get sullen, hurtful, and mean with you. Human Raphaels are always fighting wars in their heads, against the system, against their fathers, against childhood phantoms, and no woman can help them. They are too self-obsessed and too insecure to even be good dates, let alone soulmates. Once you have identified a Raphael, run away fast, to the rocking tune of the TMNT soundtrack.

The blue bandanna-wearing, sword-wielding Leonardo on the other hand, is a very special turtle. The eldest, most-disciplined, strongest of the brothers, Leonardo would make a great father/provider, if that happens to be what you are looking for. Unlike Michelangelo, he will be dependable; unlike Donatello, he will be decisive; unlike Raphael, he is not quick to ignite. Yet, unlike his deeply flawed brothers, the human Leonardo will be a little boring. And such a mature, powerful yet gentle man is very rare; in fact, the last time I checked, he was already married and ruling the United States. The rest of us will just have to continue kissing a lot of frogs before finding the turtle of our dreams. Cowabunga to that!