Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I can't sleep so I figured I'd write the post I intended to put up tomorrow. Forgive me for any massive typos or errant thoughts.

So, this is just something that's been on my mind. It eventually has a point, and I don't think it's that deep, but I felt like writing about it.

I'm Facebook friends with an ex-boyfriend. Ill-advised, probably, but we have too many entanglements and mutual friends to unfriend each other. We both probably feel it would be rude to unfriend the other, too. Anyway, he writes statuses that are paragraphs long but usually they're mildly entertaining. Recently, however, he put up one talking about how he has a crush on this girl at work and how crushes suck and how he wishes he never had one and that they didn't exist, etc.

It made me think about crushes I've had...real crushes. The painful kind. The kind you have when you're a kid and you don't really get it. The ones that actually crush you. I don't mean crushes that yield relationships; I mean crushes where there is little to no hope you're going to shack up with the toned and tanned lifeguard at the pool. I mean the crushes you love to have, anyway.

Immediately my mind went to that cheesy but kinda true quote from Sixteen Candles: "That's why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they'd call them something else."

I've seen the quote butchered by people who put a thousand hearts next to it, or put the text on top of a picture of a fucking beach or something like that. Something cutesy. The culprits are likely young girls (I mean teens and a little younger, perhaps) who don't even know who Molly Ringwald is. It doesn't matter; they understand the sentiment.

Sometimes crushes are fun. There is always a sense of dizzying excitement when you like someone, when they're near you and your heart can't find its rhythm. It adds a little spice to your day, for sure, and gives you something to fantasize about at night. Or, if you're a bit on the younger side, something to gossip about to your friends.

But they can be wicked, too.

After I looked away from Facebook, I thought about a few of the biggest crushes I've had and felt those overwhelming gut punches all over again.

One of the earlier objects of my affection was a family friend who happened to be gay. I loved him. For years. He wasn't out for most of them, though we had our suspicions. He was a lot older than me, but I was sure he would fall in love with me and our passion would overcome all hurdles. My nights were spent calling up friends and analyzing the different things he said, the way he might have looked at me, and what it all meant. He touched my arm for a millisecond--surely he liked me back, right?

I talked with him on AIM and he tossed me bones now and then and they kept me hopeful (looking back on it, I believe I was a bit of a self-esteem booster for "love" must've been obvious). I listened to the same music he did, which was thankfully good music, and played the songs at night, imagining him running up to me the next day and telling me I was his world. It thrust daggers into my heart when he went off to college and our conversations on instant messenger tapered off into nothing. I remember being more upset that we stopped talking than anything else. He's bumped in and out of our lives since then. I don't know what he's doing now.

Another horrendous crush of mine happened in college. I had a possibly bigger crush on someone else in college, too, but that's far too painful to write about and I'm cringing thinking of him. So, I was in LOVE, LOVE, LOVE with the guy teaching one of my classes (he wasn't a professor yet). Holy shit, did I love him. He was young and artsy with floppy brown hair and plastic-framed glasses. I could practically smell his intelligence.

Again I studied every single move he made. He agreed with my points in class, nodded with a smile when I spoke. I'd see him around on campus and he'd make sure to say hi to me. He took interest in the chitchat I'd have with my friend before class started, or just after--surely he was madly in love with me, too, right?

Then one day I was headed for class and I saw him in the distance, kissing a long-legged girl who could have been a model. Maybe she was. They looked happy; they embraced for one long kiss and then shared a bunch of playful smooches. It tore me to pieces and reminded me what a foolish girl I was. It didn't matter that I was in college; I let my imagination get away with me as easily as it did when I was a kid. I set up all these absurd expectations and I was so angry with myself. Even now I can remember that day with perfect clarity and I wonder if they're still together. I hope so.

The crush that really haunted me, however, was one of my first. He lived on my block and we went to the same school. By some weird twist of fate, we typically ended up sitting next to each other. One year the teachers thought it was a good idea to push desks together in twos. Guess who was my partner?

Sometimes we talked on our primitive version of instant messaging--plain old AOL, I suppose. It wasn't really a big deal, and neither of us said anything revolutionary. I liked him for a few years, urged on by our proximity. I was sure he would fall in love with me and we'd get married and have a brood of gorgeous kids. The only problem? He kind of hated me. Also, we were like...10. Maybe a little older.

Okay, he didn't hate me, but he didn't love me, either. He didn't go out of his way to be nice to me; in fact, sometimes he was downright hostile. I was too young to have been a pain in the ass about liking him, so maybe it was just boyish bullshit. I don't know. I do remember him saying I was the ugliest girl in my group of friends. Oh, 4th grade. Or maybe it was 5th. Maybe even older.

When we were older, I ran into him with a friend who also went to school with us. He asked me a question about college (it was applying time). I felt awkward, and my ego was bruised from all those years before. I was curt and rude. I can even remember the expression I gave him, and feel the same shrug of my shoulders.

Not many years after that, he fell ill. We had Facebook at this point, so I followed his illness passively as statuses and posts from mutual friends popped up in my feed. Suddenly one day a friend called and said he'd died.

I felt terrible. He lived down the block from me our entire lives. His sister knew mine. He had helped me pronounce algae one day when we read from the text book; I couldn't decide if it was al-jay or al-gee. He shared desks with me, teased me and jingled the change in his pocket constantly. And he was my fucking age. It made me aware of my own mortality, and it also made me feel incredibly ashamed. I thought of the last time I saw him and what a bitch I was. He had been pleasant and mature. I wasn't as grown up as I imagined myself to be.

And of course I remembered that painful crush that spanned years of our grammar school lives-- I remembered sitting over the keyboard of my ancient computer, hovering over his screen name to read his status.

He'd truly been a nice guy, and he was gone.

Thinking about these crushes, I realized I learned something from each one: the importance of self-respect, the necessity of keeping my feet on the ground and humility.

I never loved any of them. I never knew them well enough to love them. How outrageous the concept is now. I blush thinking about my old fantasies. It may sound strange, but I only pictured them kissing me, declaring their everlasting devotion, spending their future with me. That was it. Weird, right? Perhaps I knew subconsciously that I didn't know them, and perhaps it was also my age limiting me from getting too filthy.

But that won't--and doesn't--stop me from having crushes now. They hurt, they crush, they burn, but when you first connect with someone who lights a fire inside of you (and who you fantasize about more deeply now that you're older), there isn't much as exciting. They make you feel alive, hopeful, tingly. Maybe the guy who makes my coffee every morning--who has the most awesome tattoos and the nicest smile--won't run away to France with me anytime soon. But when I'm feeling gloomy, or it's raining out, or I can't bear to think about work, I thank God I have the imagination to dream it up.

So basically I wholeheartedly disagree with my ex. Shocker, right?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gem,
    Excellent post, your introspective look at crushes was very profound, and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing.
    Your last paragraph hit a homerun with me. I shook my head yes over and over.
    I thought of cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary, and a few flowers as an analogy. To extract their essence, their beauty, and aroma they must be crushed first. Sometimes our hearts must be crushed (perhaps several times) to release our inner self's beauty and wonder.
    Crush rosemary and inhale the love. :)