Today I'll write another post on crushes because everyone suffers from them and makes them a bigger deal than they really are. I got my first crush at some ridiculously young age, like seven or eight, and the one and only reason my heart skipped a beat over my crush object was his long eyelashes. Well, maybe he had a cute grin, too. Eyelashes, cute grin.
This boy was a year ahead of me, and I did not know him at all. I knew his name and where he was born and how old he was, and that was it. We never had a conversation. We never played together. He returned my looks of eyelash-adoration with glares. But my little heart skipped a beat all the same. Saint Augustine would have had something sarcastic to say.
Saint Augustine hated that our feelings and desires were not all wedded to our reason and blamed this state of affairs on the Fall. He really hated how irrational sexual desire was. And I'm sorry to ascribe sexual desire to myself at seven, but I don't know what else to call it. Other-focused yearnings? That might do.
Other-focused yearnings often have less to do with the other than they do with our own aesthetic appreciation of the world and personal symbolic language. For example, I once got a terrific crush on a man because he was tall, broad-shouldered, dark-eyed, a graduate student, a good artist and a cultural Catholic. The first three qualities appealed to aesthetic appreciation; the latter three were deeply symbolic. (Before I became a graduate student, I thought graduate student = smart. I also thought it = like my professor dad. Ah ha ha ha.)
At first I rarely spoke to this man, as I was too shy. Instead I made various flattering assumptions about him, including the crucial one that he was a devout and chaste Catholic. He was not. I also convinced myself that he was a fascinating conversationalist. He was not. I assumed he drank so much because he liked drink. He didn't. And when I managed to get him to go out with me--he was between real relationships--I set to work ignoring all the realities about him I did not like.
I went to enormous lengths to ignore how completely incompatible we were. The breaking point could have been when he said he thought having sex a great way to get to know friends better, and that although he had never had sex with male friends, he wouldn't rule it out. But after a struggle, I managed to ignore even that. The love of a pure woman could save him, etc.
Fortunately, he fell in love with someone else very soon afterwards, and although I cried and carried on, it was a merciful escape for both of us. He was freed from someone who kept pretending he was someone else, and I was freed from outrageous self-inflicted crimes against my intellect.
It took me many years to stop getting crushes on men simply because they were tall, or good-looking, or graduate students, or talented artists, or belonged to a certain ethnic group, or appeared in church, or were at least cultural Catholics, and to get crushes on men because they were good. I think I only managed to make this switch at theology school, which was packed with good men. Okay, so they were mostly Jesuits and therefore unavailable, but that didn't matter in the long run. The reprogramming of my psyche towards goodness--plus reading the work of Bernard Lonergan--paid off.
The relief of being rooted in reality at last! One of the fruits of it is being able to distinguish love from its imitators (e.g. lust). Another is a complete lack of guilt in judging men for what they actually do, actually think and actually say. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed that a man would be judged for the content of his character, not for the colour of his skin, and I applaud heartily. I also add that I dream that one day women will judge all men for the content of their characters, and not for the way their physical appearance or their symbolic worth appeals to our psyches.
I am sure men would welcome this, although I imagine it would be a shock for someone like Tom Cruise to hear "You're very handsome, but your last wife looked so miserable, I'll pass, thanks."