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.
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.