Saturday, March 1, 2014

I have a huge crush on you

Telling people you are in love with them is a messy business.  It regularly leads to transcendent moments of joy but has this nasty habit of also creating excruciating awkwardness.  Some people trend towards just telling people about their feelings and damn the consequences and others hide it all away.  I do not have the problem of hiding things too much; if I like someone it is as subtle as a tractor trailer transporting ten thousand howler monkeys high on cocaine.  The standard romantic narrative usually includes people who are completely unwilling to risk telling each other about their feelings while everybody around them thinks how stupid they are for passing up an opportunity but in real life the reverse is more often the problem I think.

In real life people's feelings don't grow for each other at the same time or at equal rates and often feelings go permanently unreciprocated.  I read an interesting blog post by Ferrett about this problem and he advocates just not telling people about your crushes.  There is real harm done to friendships when crushes are one sided but I am not at all convinced that just secretively crushing on someone actually fixes that problem.  The cure is to not crush on them at all if it isn't happening back but that isn't exactly useful advice.  It is good to acknowledge that dumping your feelings on people isn't always the right plan but just not telling people things isn't a good solution.

The best way to think about this is to be aware of what your crushes mean to you and whether or not your words actually tell the other person the truth.  If you are like Ferrett and you have a new crush every week based on a well written blog post then telling the writer of said post you have a crush on them is just terrible communication.  What you should say is "I love your writing.  Maybe we could hang out and I could see if your conversation can keep up with your amazing prose?"  This properly indicates your level of interest and avoids loaded words that inaccurately portray your feelings.  On the other hand if you have spent half a year getting to know someone and you are absolutely convinced they are the love of your life then you can say something like "I have a super massive crush on you" and they will get the picture.

This all requires serious self awareness.  After all, in the midst of a crush our brains aren't exactly clocking in at maximum processing power.  It is critical for us to understand ourselves enough to recognize where we are on our own personal scale of infatuation and act appropriately.  We also need to know what the target of our affections thinks about these topics.  If they are given to loudly professing their love for people then dialing up our rhetoric is a fine plan but if they are reticent and shy with their emotions the presentation should be a bit more laid back.  In general if the person we are crushing on is someone about whom we don't even know this sort of thing then we really should get to know that before making declarations of undying love.

The key here is that keeping secrets really isn't a solution.  What is a solution is carefully examining your own patterns of attraction to understand the attributes of your current set of feelings and then making sure your communication gets that across to the other person.  That may involve using language that doesn't adequately describe the hormonal messiness you are currently experiencing but the point is not to pontificate but to communicate.  That does not guarantee success nor necessarily avoid heartbreak but at least it nails honesty and due diligence and in the morass of human interaction that is about as good as you are going to get.

(Disclaimer:  If you read this and think "Is Sky talking about me?" the answer is No.  Theoretical musing only.)


  1. I had no idea you read The Ferret's blog. I take a gander at it every once and awhile. I find some of his blogs very thought provoking and enlightening.

  2. I didn't know you read Ferrett either.

    And I assumed it was me you were crushing on. Glad you cleared that up.

    I had crushes as a teen and young man. In mature hindsight, I think they are ridiculous and will work hard (and futilely) to temper them in my daughters.

    If you have a crush, and you can't tell if the other person is interested, then the other person probably isn't interested. At that point, telling your crush is just going to cause trouble. I think Ferrett is right on this one (though I only skimmed his piece) - keep it to yourself and deal with it.

    Presumably "love" is best when it's two-way (or more). Crushing on someone you can't have is bad strategy, poor use of resources, and bad thinking - are you hoping to change them? They'll somehow see how wonderful you are? Are are you in love with someone who doesn't love you back? What is the point of that?

    I wasted a lot of time and mooning on crushes that were going nowhere and I kind of wish my mom had set me straight instead of encouraging it. I needed to spend less time dreaming of my great love for various girls I barely spoke to and more time speaking to them and noticing the girls I was chatting with and getting along with really well. Later crushes were on fantastic people I knew well and were really attractive, but we weren't compatible - different dreams and interests. That's not helpful either. Crushes feel very "high school" to me. Don't crush, get to know them.

    So I guess I would say that you keep the crush to yourself, but make it clear in your interactions that you find the person interesting, and then see if they reciprocate. If you know how to flirt, you shouldn't need to crush unless the person is not available (eg. married), at which point crush away, understanding it's pointless.

  3. @MattV Well, I may have been sending some confusing signals your way, glad to hear we are all set now. /bats eyelashes

    I have found that telling children who they should and should not crush on is an exercise in futility. I am not excluding myself here - my parents thought Wendy was a perfect match for me but they never indicated as such, and it is clear to me now that had they expressed opinions on various women I dated I would have immediately ignored them. Either that or deliberately done what they were telling to not to do! You can't tell anybody anything useful when it comes to person specific dating advice, you just have to wait until they figure it out on their own.

    Honestly I don't think my advice is particularly useful for teenagers... but I don't think anybody's advice is. You have to do a bunch of colossally stupid things and develop some self awareness before you can make good decisions in this regard. There are many things in life people only really get by screwing them up and sorting out how you crush on people and how to deal with it is one of them.

    About crushing on people but not telling them: Don't a lot of people complain about folks who just hang around, obviously smitten, but never do anything direct about it? That behaviour doesn't strike me as smart but rather more like creepy. If I respect someone I feel that I should be truthful (in the sense I described in the post) rather than just standing around being constantly disappointed. If I can't trust someone to react reasonably to me giving them an honest and realistic sense of how I feel then I can't imagine being that interested at all really.

  4. I don't know anyone who has complained about someone quietly smitten hanging around them - do you have this problem a lot? Endless women floating about, making up excuses to spend time with you?

    If so, then I hang in much nerdier circles than you do.

  5. I don't have either sort of problem. I have heard plenty of stories about people who hang around mooning over somebody but refusing to actually step up and say so though, and it usually isn't great.