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The Agony And Humiliation Of Having A Crush In Your Adulthood

Yup, adults have crushes too – and let me tell you, it sucks…

By Jesse Boland

Do you remember that funny feeling you got when you were younger when someone made you really happy? The sensation that enveloped your entire being with unsettling adrenalin years before you were old enough to understand romance or developed enough to feel horniness…when all you wanted to do was talk to them about every banal idea that passed through your mind, just to hear their thoughts, to text them all night until one of you passed out first with your phone still in your hand, and truly feeling like the only thing that would cure the funny feeling in your tummy was to hold them in your arms. I’m asking you if you remember the formative experience of having a childhood crush.

Well, guess what, loser: that feeling doesn’t go away when you get older – it just gets significantly less cute and more annoying. Yup, adults have crushes too, and, let me tell you, it sucks. All those stupid little emotions I mentioned still happen, but now you have to juggle them with the responsibilities of adulthood. Those ideas you want to tell them about had better be sent as an email because you both work full-time jobs; texting “all night” ends up finishing at 10:15 pm because you’re exhausted from cleaning your apartment after having spent the day filing your tax return. And that funny feeling in your tummy? Well, that’s probably just acid reflux because you didn’t cut tomatoes out of your diet like your doctor told you to. That’s the reality of having a stupid crush after a certain age.

Now, when I talk about adult crushes, I’m not talking about a healthy infatuation with another person based on a sexual and emotional attraction that can be eloquently developed via the means of respectful communication (you know, the ones that parents who love each other and people with healthy sleep schedules have?). No, I’m talking about the idiotic fixation with someone you barely know but that still has you texting them heart eye emojis while lying on your belly with your feet in the air on top of your bed covers, like a Zooey Deschanel character in a Hallmark spec script. Because that’s what crushes really are: an almost cinematic experience of emotional projection rooted in desire for someone you have assigned this impossible role of being your savior from the harrowing depths of loneliness. There really is no other way to describe this sensation of delusional passion besides silly: an intrinsically unique branch of the stupidity tree that brings with it an unbridled sense of juvenile joyfulness that almost makes it all worth it.

We often find our crushes in the more commonplace areas of our mundane lives: at work, at the gym, in our apartment buildings, at the Queen & Spadina McDonald’s on Saturday night between the hours of 11:45 pm and 4:15 am, etc. The reason for this is largely because it is in these grey spaces of our lives that we find our minds wandering the most, trying desperately to escape the blandness of our everyday existence into the uncharted realm of ardent fantasy. When we find ourselves seeking desperately a Manic Pixie Dream Twunk to free ourselves from the opening scene of a mid-2000’s Sandra Bullock movie, it can be understood why we so readily emblazon this involuntary appellation upon the first hot person to hold the door open for us before tenderly uttering, “Anytime…”

As the great American philosopher Sky Ferreira once said, before retiring from music to devote her life searching the seven seas for buried Nazi gold, “Everything is embarrassing.” This ridiculous sensation of falling head over Vans in love with someone you barely know simply because they’re hot and sweet is nothing short of humiliating. The invigorating serotonin surge you get when they ‘like’ your photo, and the devouring ennui you hold while you wait for them to respond to your text, is inexplicably pathetic. All of this was adorable and endearing when you were a goofy teenager, because you could blame it on having the ravenous hormones of a Russian lab rat, but when you’re pushing 30 and are still explaining to your best friend that this guy might be “the one” because he told you an Omar Apollo song reminded him of you, it’s getting pretty weird.

Whatever, you’re grown and you know how to balance having a crush with having a functional adult life. Chasing dick counts as cardio, right?

For those of us who are brave enough to approach our crushes, and fortunate enough to have them entertain our concupiscent pursuit, it can honestly be earth-shattering – in the most wonderful way possible. I truly am not being hyperbolic when I say that there is no better feeling than mutual thirst, not by a long shot.

There’s such a beautiful innocence to the early stages of chatting with your crush, a pre-honeymoon phase as I like to think of it; you’re not in your romantic paradise just yet, but rather browsing through at all the many utopias of love around the world and imagining yourself thriving within them with your kindred beloved. The endless possibilities, the infinite potential, all at the other side of your screen as you type your next, “Oh is that so? 😉” text.

That’s another thing: there is such a unique style of dialect we use when we first become acquainted with our crushes. This ridiculous flirtation wherein almost every response sounds like a challenging inquisition: “That’s what you wanna do huh?” “I bet you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” “And what if I do?” While this idiotic approach to communication may seem silly (there’s that fucking word again), it truly is to be cherished, because it only lasts for a matter of weeks (if not days) before you eventually understand one another’s clicks and nuances and begin talking like normal people. And where’s the fun in that?

But, sadly, so rare it is that this is how our experiences with our crushes play out in the long run. In truth, seldomly do these crushes ever live up to being more than chemical surges within our brains. We write scripts in our minds for our melodramatic love interests to act out for us, and then feel disappointed when they fumble their lines and miss their marks.

Online dating has reduced our projected identities to a handful of flattering pictures and embellished bios that exaggerate our charm and uniqueness. When we create these online personas, we know we are assembling the most idealized parts of ourselves into a glamorized identity of unachievable desirability, we know we are lying, yet we still elect to believe this farce when it comes to the cyber aliases of our yearnful crushes.

Eventually your crush will do something that makes you realize they’re not the physical manifestation of perfection you demanded they be; maybe they drink beverages with food still in their mouth, or they ponder out loud why homeless people don’t just get fast-food jobs, or they repost Shaun King. Something happens to make you realize the man of your dreams is actually more of a sleep paralysis demon.

Worse yet is when you realize you’re not the only person crushing on your crush, nor even the most desirable person doing so. An unpleasant latent effect of dating in the age of social media is the ability to see exactly how many other people follow and/or are online ‘friends’ with your crush. You slowly realize that this person who magically sauntered into your life has sauntered into many other lives before meeting you, and then some afterwards. Unless you and your crush have advanced your fling to the point of monogamous dating, you truly have no right to be jealous of whoever else they are talking to or fucking when you’re not around…but that doesn’t make it suck any less. For queer people it can be discouraging to see that they follow people you are familiar with of the same sex who are more attractive than you. Call it jealous entitlement, call it slut-shaming, call it internalized whorephobia, but something about knowing your crush isn’t this magical unicorn that you and you alone have discovered for yourself is a harsh wakeup call from your delusional daydream.

Digital self-harm is a fascinating latent effect of the digital age. The term refers specifically to the act of someone harassing themselves online from separate burner accounts by sending themselves hateful messages or leaking private information as a self-punishment. But I believe it can be more expansive than just that. The internet lends us all multiple venues to hurt our own feelings, often by seeking out information we know will only destroy us. When we go through the photos of our crushes to see if we recognize anyone we know, or creep their ‘following’ list to compare ourselves to the other persons of interest in their lives, what are we actually achieving? How will knowing any of this information benefit us, if not for creating further narratives penned with jealousy and resentment? We cut our wrists with the pages of the stories we have written in our own minds.

Do you remember that funny belief you had when you were younger that if you held a seashell up to your ear, you could hear the ocean? When you found out it was just the sound of your blood echoing, do you remember that unique pang of disappointment? How, deep down, you somewhat already knew that it wasn’t real, that it was just a projection of a childish imagination hoping to achieve some glimmer of magic, but that you wanted so desperately for it to be real? At that moment you weren’t able to laugh at the silliness of the situation, because all you felt was that you had been so silly for believing in something so stupid. That’s the only way I can describe the death of a crush.

But it’s okay to be silly; in fact, it can be kind of wonderful. For a brief period in time, you were able to achieve a feeling so authentically human that it defied every notion of logical pessimism that has been an accepted part of our nihilistic adult lives. You dug deep within yourself and unlocked a part of yourself that brought you the same excitement and wonder that it did when you were just a small child, and how often does that happen? Oftentimes after surviving a crush, we realize just how long it’s been since we last felt that way, and how emotionally jaded we have been in the time between then and now.

I know it hurts when you feel like your heart is getting crushed, when you regret being so tender and wish that your heart was made of stone so you didn’t have to feel this way. But that just means your heart is still working – that, despite being crushed so many times before, it still hasn’t broken completely. You still hold the power to feel love, and with that, you still hold the power to find love and to be loved.

Just remember to take your vitamins…you’re not a kid anymore, okay?

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    IDK / 12 March 2024

    I feel like this is the only article that accurately explained both the highs and lows of what I’m currently going through. The range of feeling euphoric in one moment, and then like the most pathetic slug of a human being the next. It is silly, but the last two paragraphs especially made me feel like this ok. That no matter the silly rollercoaster I am currently riding I will find my way through it and I should try to have fun in the mean time. Thank you.

    Tree / 23 December 2022

    Usually when I type banal emotional pleas into the internet, I do not get such kind and accurate sympathies. Thank you for this lovely piece.

    Another Guy from TO / 08 October 2022

    Thank you, Jesse. I came upon this because I’m seeking out ways to cope with my first crush in what feels like ever. I didn’t know I was capable of feeling this way, and feel rather delusional and pathetic myself. This really resonated with me, but the last two paragraphs in particular brought a few tears to my eyes. I feel seen, and like I can navigate this silly crush a bit better moving forward. Thank you

    TheycallmeL / 16 September 2022

    I absolutely loved this article. I actually believe the author was experiencing a crush when they wrote this. I love the sheer honesty but hate knowing that apparently I will still suffer from crushes throughout my whole life.

    My Transgender Date / 03 August 2021

    I loved the text and the reflections. It has just the right dose of cuteness and acidity. It’s a trip back in time to that moment when our crushes kept us awake at night, but with a more realistic and sarcastic view.
    Yes, falling in love as an adult is not easy at all. We have less time, less disposition, more accumulated love disappointments, and more insecurities, but even so, it never stops being a beautiful process.

    Jessa C.


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