Mind, Love

Why the best crushes are the ones that can’t be anything more

The pressure to act on attraction is taking all the joy out of having a crush.

The three stages of a standard crush are as follows: attraction, awareness, and decision to pursue. Attraction is self-explanatory – you see something you like in someone and it makes you pay a little more attention to them. Awareness requires you to be slightly more invested – noticing which one of your celebrity impressions makes them laugh the most, making sure they always see you from your good side, wondering what their favorite salad dressing is (balsamic vinaigrette implies understated sophistication, anything involving mayonnaise is a red flag).

The decision to pursue is where things tend to get a bit more complicated. You have decided you’re compatible with this person and are taking active steps to begin a relationship with them. Your thoughts become consumed by whether or not they reciprocate, and to what degree they return your interest. Every gesture, every word of theirs is a clue. Every gesture, every word of yours is an attempt to extract some more of these clues. In short, it’s agony – agony that may pay off, but agony nonetheless.

And that is precisely why the greatest crushes are the ones that cannot become anything more: your best friend’s brother, your happily married 19th-century poetry professor, cashier number eight at the grocery store on Tuesday evenings. The crushes that, due to some obstacle, impracticality or inconvenience, you can never, ever act on. You can observe, you can fantasize, and you can make sure your hair is always freshly washed and smelling of tropical fruit on a Tuesday, but that’s it.

The crush remains private and passive until you lose interest, lose touch, or both.

This is just as, if not more, agonizing, you say? Isn’t wanting something you can’t have worse than pursuing something you can? Allow me to plead my case. You say or do something crushingly embarrassing in front of your Nowhere Crush (henceforth used to refer to a crush that can’t go anywhere beyond distant attraction)? Who cares! Your crush has a peanut allergy but you can never give up peanut butter? Not an issue! Their singular (but inexcusable) flaw is that they clap when the plane lands? Doesn’t matter, you’re not going anywhere with them!

The pressure to pursue is killing our ability to crush for the joy of crushing. We are in such fear of missing fateful connections and overlooking big opportunities that we are blind to the quiet, consistent connections and opportunities we encounter every day. Not every feeling, every instance of subtle magnetism, requires us to do something about it. Some things can be enjoyed passively and carelessly, with no thought of consequences or commitment.

It is in the process of trying to do something about everything that we forget to take pleasure in all the best parts of having a crush. Eye contact that feels electric, careless banter, a single butterfly in your stomach. Crushes make us feel young and excited and alive; they remind us that we are always on the lookout for connection and feeling, no matter how small or inconsequential. Crush often, and crush without care.