Sunday, 31 January 2010

How Not to Be Crushed by Crushes

Almost everyone gets crushes. What is a crush? A crush is a strong, usually inordinate, attachment to another human being. It is not necessarily sexual. Most twelve-year-old girls who get crushes on older girls either already or eventually get crushes on boys, too. My very first crush object was Speedy Gonzales, the cartoon mouse. My second crush object was a little boy named Richie. Like Speedy Gonzales he was short. He had long eyelashes, too. Strange that I can remember that after 32 years, but there you go.

Crushes are uncomfortable, and if unrequited, they become acutely painful. In an ideal world, you would never get one until you were 26, had an income, got a crush on a cute person at Mass who got an instant crush on you, too. Then, after some shy glances across a crowded parish hall, he/she would come up to you and chat, and eventually ask you for coffee, and then for dinner, and then, after six happy sinfree months, to marry him/her. But this is not an ideal world.

If the adult you has a crush, the best thing to do is to get rid of it as soon as possible. Either turn your crush into courtship or let it go. Let it go onto the breeze. Yes, this IS easier said than done.

Crush into Courtship

If you are a man, you traditionally have more options than women do. If you see a girl, and find her attractive, the most proper thing you can do is find a mutual friend and ask for an introduction. This mutual friend may also be a helpful source of information. He or she might be able to warn you right away if the girl is engaged or almost-engaged or has a lousy reputation for breaking hearts left and right.

This information should not be taken as a challenge but as a caution. Meet the girl regardless, but use your head. Meanwhile, in Catholic and student activities, you can usually skip the formal-introduction-by-a-mutual-friend-stage, and just talk to the girl. Actually listen to what she says to get clues to her character. Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, and go look up the rest in Proverb 30.

If you are a woman, you can do things the old-fashioned way and be safe, or you can do things the feminist way and fall flat on your face. Again, the most proper way to meet someone is to get a mutual friend with insider knowledge to introduce you.

It's less traditional, but you do have the power to go up to a man and say "Hi". In general, a man who is very much attracted to a woman looks at her a few times before deciding if he should go up to her or not. (Keep an eye out for this guy before going up to Mr. Cute Guy You Saw First.) If you go up to a guy and talk to him, and he keeps looking at another woman, forget him. Forget him NOW. But if you are at a party glancing at a man, and he keeps glancing at you, and you like the look of him, smile. This should be encouragement enough. If instead of coming up to you he shyly ducks his head and runs away, well, uh... Maybe he'll screw up some courage later, like when he grows up. Boys seem to take longer to grow up. And how annoying is that?

Both men and women can say, "I'd love to continue this chat over coffee..."

The courting man then adds, "How about Tuesday? What's your number?" The courted woman, if she's NOT interested, can now say "Oh, Tuesday's not good. I'm so booked up right now. I don't know when coffee could happen. I'm so busy. I'll get back to you." (This is "no" in womantalk.) But if she is interested, she can say "Tuesday's bad. Maybe Saturday? Here's my number."

But the courting woman should add, merely, "...sometime. See you!" If the courted man is interested in the courting woman by the end of their little chat, he will ask her for her number/email or look her up on Facebook. And he will say/text "What about that coffee?"

The very worst thing you can do, as a Single person of marriageable age, is do nothing and yet let your crush grow and grow without ever really getting to know the person you have a crush on. Your imagination will build an imaginary person to go with the near-stranger you think you're in love with. And eventually you will either grow angry with this imaginary person, or you will grow angry with the real person for not being the imaginary person in your head. Deliberately feeding an inordinate desire is a sin. Pray for detachment, and don't you dare get angry with an innocent person for your own out-of-control need for him/her to "love" you. Don't beat yourself up, though, either. Go chat with your confessor. He'll probably be nicer to you than you are.

Crush Crushed

If you are not in a position to pursue honest courtship (e.g. being under 18), or the guy/girl you admire is just not appropriate (e.g. a priest, married, on drugs, of poor character, engaged to someone else, twenty years younger or older), the only thing to do is to kill the crush. The three ways I know how to do this are as follows:

1. Get picky.
2. Find someone else.
3. Laugh at it.

1. Getting Picky

Our crushes are usually based on first impressions or just plain old wishful thinking. I adored Richie because he was short and had long eyelashes. But Richie wasn't very nice to me: when I teased him (in a lovestruck kind of way), he said really mean things that hurt my feelings. This proved a good cure.

But more often the people we get crushes on are actually nice, if only in a polite, decent-human-being kind of way. A friend of mine had a crush, when we were 13, on an older altar boy at church. And the way she cured herself was to fixate on something about him she really didn't like: his beaten-up trainers (running shoes). Whenever he came gallumphing down the aisle with crucifix or candle, she forced herself to look at his shoes and thought "Ugh."

But even more than dirty shoes, it is the content of a man or woman's character that can really heal a crush. Some of the men I was maddest about were dead boring. Yak, yak, yak. Me, me, me. Another turned out to be nasty (of the scary, "I love you, you bitch" type of nasty). Once you really force yourself to see what your crush is really like, you are on your way to healing.

To go back to feelings, if being around any man or woman makes you feel really badly, it is a sign to stay away from them. Never mind about "becoming friends."* Stay away. Be polite but reserved. Spare your time and energy for people who are dying to spend time with you, like your parents, or your pals, or that cute person by the punch bowl who keeps sneaking peeks at you. You will not find Mr/Miss Right if you're wasting all your time on Mr/Miss Wrong.

Finally, the whole point to The Rules, which so many people hate, but which contain a lot of sense, is to get women to start admiring the men who admire them and to stop admiring men who don't give a damn. The book helped me; it might help you.

2. Find Someone Else

Most of us long to be loved. It is a little sad. Our warm, generous impulses towards others sometimes mask a need for others to love us. That sucks. Only the greatest saints know that God's love is truly enough. I'm thinking St. Thomas Aquinas; I'm thinking St. Ignatius of Loyola; I'm thinking St. Teresa of Avila. Most of us don't get there in this life. Nope.

Well, anyway, I once had a terrible crush on a seminarian. I felt so bad about it, that I prayed and prayed and prayed to be freed from it. And then I promptly got a crush on someone else. Unfortunately, he was married. So I prayed and prayed and prayed to be freed from that, too. Life is difficult. Have I mentioned this? Anyway, if you are fighting a crush, don't spend hours mooning over the person's picture, listening to sad songs or reading sentimental poetry or sinful (i.e. most contemporary romance) novels. Go hang out with your real friends.

3. Laugh at it

The most embarrassing part of Seraphic Singles for me is the story of my crush on Max the Much Younger. But it was something I could write about with a sense of humour, and I still giggle over it after repeated readings. It was painful to have a crush on Max the Much Younger, but I knew it would be much more painful to have a real relationship with Max the Much Younger. Even if I did manage to squirrel him away into my life, I would have lived a hell of jealousy because of Max's great youth and beauty, a beauty not invisible to other, prettier, and younger girls.

Knowing from experience that crushes come and go, I decided not to bother fighting this one. I wasn't going to follow Max around town or anything, and I certainly wasn't going to ask him out for dinner. I was just going to put up with my crush on Max as if it were a minor, and not entirely unpleasant, illness (like being drunk). How it all ended, I will let you read for yourselves in my book. For now I will just repeat: crushes come and go. Sometimes we are emotionally helpless and the best we can do is to fervently pray, "Dear God, this feeling is too much for me. Please take it away!"

Married people and people in consecrated life also get crushes. But if they have any sense they 1) don't tell 2) don't feed them 3) don't worry. Crushes come and go. Don't make yours into something bigger than it has to be. This too shall pass.

*I think men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life. They are sexy and fun and life would lack zip without them. I am in love with my husband, and I enjoy spending time with him and his male friends. But for a real heart-to-heart chat fest, for real you-go-girl friendship, for hugs without hesitation, give me a woman friend.


Jen D said...

This is very helpful! Thank you!

Dominic Mary said...

Dear Seraphic;

as usual, you are helpful, amusing, and stimulating in roughly equal measure.

May I be forgiven one comment, though ?

'The Rules' was written by people (apparently) familiar with only one cultural milieu. I have discussed them with various British friends, male and female, and the general conclusion is that (with the possible exception of those people who wish they were high-flyers in New York, and therefore try to think and behave as if they were) they are inapplicable on this side of the Pond because they bear no relation to the way British minds (and social mores) work.

berenike said...

I've been getting crushes all my life. It used to be mildly inconvenient when I would blush (etc) in conversation with a current crushee :) Now they're so predictable I just think "oh, I'm going to have a crush on this chap", which I duly do, and it duly passes. Bit like mild hayfever or something.

Seraphic said...

Did you ask any Scots? ;-)

The Sojourner said...

I like your illness analogy. My freshman year of college, I had two crushes. During the first, I was still 17, and thanks to a vow I had made with two girlfriends in highschool, refused to even think about dating anyone until I was 18. About two weeks later, I no longer had a crush on the guy. About two weeks after that, I turned 18. Two and a half years later, said guy and I are good acquaintances who like to argue about philosophy. (I got a crush on him because he recommmended two books to me that I loved. Yes, having a good brain is massively attractive to me.)

That experience was invaluable to me because about three months later I got a crush on a different guy. I counseled myself that crushes are rather like the flu. You feel horrible for a few days and then in two weeks you are all better. And so it was. That guy and I became very close platonic friends, and then I fell in love with him, and he fell in love with me, and then we started dating. But none of that would have happened if I had not killed the crush I had on the illusion of him, because I wouldn't have been able to become friends with him if I had been reduced to stammering awkwardness in his presence.

(I get embryonic crushes sometimes still, but I use a subtype of #1 that goes something like, "Well, he might be awesome, but my boyfriend is awesomer.")

Alisha said...

sooo much I could say here but I will wait a the meantime, I strongly advise asking St Joseph for his intercession with regards to unrequited love...check out this very honest post from ragamuffin diva:

Anna said...

Great post! This was a good wake-up call.

Dominic Mary said...

now you mention it, no - and I do recognize that they are different - but then, Auld Reekie Scots are different from the rest as well . . . clearly a whole new field of research !

Anonymous said...

So, how do British minds and social mores work? Or Scotch (Scots?) ones? Or Edinburgh ones? This is interesting and mysterious.


Seraphic said...

Britain is a nation of four nations (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales), until recently rather rigidly stratified by class and educational opportunities, and always multicultural, on account of the English (including Cornish), Scottish (including Norsemen, Gaelic-speakers, Doric-speakers and Scots-speakers) , Irish (incl. Catholic migrants), Welsh and Travellers (Irish/Romany gypsies). So coming up with a universal theory of relations between British men and women would be really very hard.

That said, it is my understanding that young Englishmen of Oxbridge or Oxbridge-Lite sensibilities, for example, are not all that interested in talking to women, whom they regard as a frightening alien race. At best these men appear bashful, and at worst they appear like misogynists who long for the good old days when women had their own colleges and weren't allowed in clubs, etc.

The way to snag one, I have been told, is to jump him at 3 AM when you and he are very drunk. I have so far heard no theories on how to keep him. An American friend of mines blames the whole Katie Price phenomenon on Englishwomen going to desperate lengths to catch the attention of Englishmen.

But Scotsmen are not at all like this. They prowl the streets, art galleries, pubs, drawing rooms and flights to Toronto looking for women to talk to. Elderly Scotsman out with their wives will try to get up chats with unaccompanied women. Workmen will sit on their haunches and talk a woman's ear off. Making conversation with Scottish strangers at a party is easy as pie because all you have to say is "And what do you do?" and they will tell you for an hour.

Scotsmen love women. You have to fight them off with sticks. This is a beautiful country. I love it.

Maggie said...

Seraphic, I am so glad you write this blog. Really. It brings me laughter, smiles, and some important things upon which to ruminate.

This might be a silly question, but it's one that's plagued me for a long time. How can I be sure my standards for attraction to a man are genuine and not hopelessly captive to culture?

For example, I'm very tall for a girl- 5'11" - and I've never been able to feel attracted to men shorter than say, 6'1". I even dated a guy who was exactly the same height as me, because our friends all clucked that we'd be "perfect" together... and it crashed and burned (for reasons other than our height, obviously). Even when we were together, I felt rather awkward when we'd stand near one another, and I hid away all my high heels in favor of flat shoes for the few months we dated.

I know several perfectly nice, smart Catholic young men (who aren't seminarians) but despite the hints of my friends I just can't find myself attracted to them because of height. Is this silly? Should I just get over it? Is my inability to feel feminine around shorter men a product of too many Disney movies?

Seraphic said...

It's not just Disney: almost nowhere do we see popular images of a woman taller than her man. And this is really unfair, both to tall women and to short men. Being "little" is supposed to be feminine and being "big" is supposed to be masculine. This is not actually true.

Take the example of the supermodel. Models have to be tall for some reason. So all models are tall. They are the epitome of female glamour, and yet they are taller than anyone (except basketball players), especially in those spike heels.

But look again at gossip magazines. Look at photos of models holding hands with their husbands. Often they will deliberately stand in such a way that their husbands look taller, but sometimes they don't.

In real life, taller women marry shorter men. Never mind that even short women go around bragging that they would only date men over 6 feet, blah, blah. I am 5'2" and I used to say that. BUT then I met B.A., who is 5'7" or something like that, and I was smitten. Smitten! And he has a beard, too. I mean, a beard! Did I think I would marry a man with a beard? No way.

There are a LOT of cute short men, but the media conspires to cover up their height, just as the media conspires to make famous women look thinner. The internet says that Johnny Depp is 5'7, 5'9 and 5'10. Well, come on. Which one is it?

So what my Auntie's advice is, wear the shoes you want, don't slouch and don't worry. You can keep on finding the people you find attractive attractive. (Just don't reject the hilarious, cute man's coffee invitation JUST because he's shorter.) It's not tallness or shortness that inspires true love: it's confidence, joy and (especially) Providence.

Mr. Right is not going to reject you because of your height, and you are not going to reject Mr. Right because of his. You'll find the idea unthinkable.

Seraphic said...

B.A. says, however, that it is perfectly natural for women to be attracted to men who are taller than them, because a man's height makes a woman feel like he can protect her. Furthermore, says B.A., tall women are likely to have tall fathers, so they will naturally think men are supposed to be tall.

"But you're not tall," I said to B.A. "And my dad is 6'1", so I have a tall dad."

"But that doesn't matter because you're shorter than me," said B.A. or something like that.

Anyway, I think we are back in the territory of women who make tons of money but want a man who makes more than them. Sure, they naturally feel like men should make more money but the more they make, the less likely they are to find a man who makes more money than they.

If you really want a selection of tall guys to choose from (and why not? sounds good to me), the USA has lots of tall guys. But for really tall (and really cute) guys there are Sweden and Finland.

Yay, Vikings!

Actually, tho' short, I look like a Viking woman, and B.A. looks like one of those little, slim Pictish (Ancient Scots) men. I feel like I've been stolen by a Pictish raider, instead of the normal way around, which is for a Viking raider to run away with a Pict. But there it is.

aussie girl in australia said...

I have a lovely little short man story........
There was a very short guy I went to high school with. I am only 5"4 but he was more like 5"1. He was one of the loveliest guys and very smart. I was never attracted to him (though I think he had a crush on me at one point, so said his younger brother to my younger sister) but we were great friends. He never had a girlfriend in high school. When we all went to university he met a girl who was shorter than him. Actually she was very little indeed. They also had very similar personalities. Anyway, shortly after university they got married!

So sweet!

berenike said...

"Oh, Tuesday's not good. I'm so booked up right now. I don't know when coffee could happen. I'm so busy. I'll get back to you." - Have thought about this. It could also be disbelief. "Aye right. If you're that interested, prove it!"

Or just thinking aloud.

Seraphic said...

No, no. He did prove it by saying "Tuesday." That is why it is important for men to name a specific date not just "sometime". "Let's do ccffee SOMETIME" is so non-commital as to be insulting, in a man.

But I can see a somewhat socially awkward (but sweet and smart) woman dithering aloud about her calendar when behind her her friends are mentally chanting "Just say YES. Just say YES!"

In "He's Not That Into You", Greg writes about asking a woman for her phone number. And she said something like "You know what, I'm tired of guys asking me for my phone number and then never calling. So my name is XY. I'm in the phone book. Look me up." So Greg called all the XYs in the phone book until he got the right one.

Of course, Greg is the uber-confident kind of American man, the kind who probably is guilty of not calling after saying "I'll call." There are other men, more thin-skinned, who would feel insulted by such a challenge.

berenike said...

Whether or not he was serious is one thing. Whether or not she is convinced is a separate one.

Seraphic said...

The man said "Tuesday!"

Man: Let's do coffee. How about Tuesday?

Woman: Er, uh, er, uh, er. Tuesday?

Man: Yes, Tuesday, unless someone got in there before me. My revenge upon him shall be swift and sure.

Woman: Er, uh, er, uh. Are you serious?

Man: Nah. I'm a pussycat, really. Wouldn't hurt a fly.

Woman: No, I mean about Tuesday.

Man: Of course I'm serious about Tuesday. Do you think I go around making up fake dates? I go, "Let's do coffee on Tuesday" She goes, "Really?" I go, "No. Psych!" No, that doesn't happen. I'm serious. You, me, coffee, Tuesday. How about it?

Woman: Why?

Man: What?

Woman: Why would you want to go out with me for coffee?

Man (starting to panic): Uh, I don't know. Why wouldn't I?

Woman: 'Cause I'm, I don't know, ugly and stuff.

Man (totally panicked): Aw, come on. You're not.

Woman: Yes, I am. (Begins to cry.)

Man (totally regretting everything): Oh, gosh, sorry. I didn't mean to--- Oh, gosh. Please don't... Um... Please don't cry...

Stranger: Can I help you, Miss?

Woman: Waaaaah! Sniff sniff. No. I'm-sniff-fine. Boo hoo hoo!

Man: Oh Jeez. Oh Jeez. It's nothing.

Stranger: Is this guy bothering you?

Man: Look, I was just... Geez.

Stranger: I think you'd better leave, pal.

Man: Okay. Good idea.

Man leaves, never to be seen by woman AGAIN. He goes straight to the shop for smokes, his first ones since he quit smoking in 1992. Then he tells everybody they both know what happened because he's afraid of what this woman, whom he know things is insane, is going to say about him.

All Men: "Wow, man. That's crazy."

berenike said...

Man: "...Tuesday?"

Woman (thinks "yeah, just another chatter-upper", or "yeah, well, you invited me for a drink a few months ago but then phoned and called it off, so I cannot say yes straightaway this time"): "It'd be lovely, but I really can't, I'm sorry." (moves off)

Later on

Man: "I don't suppose your plans for Tuesday have fallen through? I really would enjoy meeting up for a drink."

Woman (thinks, oh, he was serious" or "maybe he's sorry about the last time, maybe he is completely oblivious that that was rather humiliating but is serious nonetheless): "um, err, okay" (smile).

It's all possible, admit it :)

Seraphic said...

Ohhhhh, they have a HIStory. You didn't tell me there was, in your scheme, a HIStory. Okay, if they have a history in which he has broken a date, she is indeed too busy the first time.

In the 1950s (cue angel choir to indicate the wonderfulness the 1950s supposedly was), it was considered the RUDEST thing ever to break a date. The only good excuse for breaking a date was breaking your leg.

In this situation, in try #2, I would not just smile. I would also say, "And are you going to break this date, too?" But that's me.

I am of the opinion that if the course of true love never runs smooth, that should never be the fault of the hero or the heroine but of U.K. immigration, or other such third parties.

To my surprise, I discover that true love, the kind you get married on, is Drama-free. I mean, it's exciting, but it does not have Drama.

berenike said...

Well, only in version b. In version a there was no joint history.

Jessica said...

Hi Seraphic! Can you tag this post under the category "crushes" as well? I remembered reading it and wanted to recommend it to a friend, but it took me awhile to find it. Thanks!

Seraphic said...

Will do!