The first time it happened, it was kind of magical – he was an actor, he had amazing hair, he couldn’t have been sweeter. I wrote about him in my diary for weeks afterwards.
Oh, and I was 6.
I’m talking about my first crush, not the first time I had sex, pervert. (Hahah I did that on purpose.) (I’m back! It’s been forever! Hi! Bonjour!) (Also by “actor” I mean that he was once an extra on an episode of Power Rangers. Still counts.)
I’m pretty sure that starting to have crushes at the exact same time that I obtained coke bottle glasses, orthodontia and a school uniform despite not going to a school that required uniforms (thanks again, Mom, it was really great dressing like a Mormon with unshaven legs all through elementary school) was a cruel joke played on me by a clearly unmerciful God. For the next decade, every crush I had was unrequited. A few notable ones from the plethora:
- The cute Filipino breakdancer in 5th grade who was a sensitive artist. So sensitive and so artistic that he drew a flip book of me blowing up in a fiery crash to depict how little he wanted to date me.
- The male cheerleader I met at JV Cheerleading Camp (no real story here other than the fact that it took me 4 years of cheerleading to realize male cheerleaders don’t want to date female cheerleaders)
- My 10th grade crush, who in response to “Hey, I kind of have a crush on you,” replied with “Oh. Cool. Do you think I should get a haircut?”
I grew up on a lot of teenage romantic comedies, so I had a pretty firm belief in the fact that if Ethan Embry could end up with Jennifer Love Hewitt, it was going to work out for me. That’s not to say that I took any comfort in that thought, while waiting patiently for Seth Green to romance me in a bathroom (I was really, really into “Can’t Hardly Wait” in elementary school, sorry). No matter how far fetched the crushes were, since the age of 6, they always brought me the same anxiety. Not just the write his last name next to yours in cursive on your textbook sort of adorable anxiety you see in movies, but the type of anxiety that induced nausea every time you saw him so much as smile at another girl, and could only be subsided by rereading an old note he passed you even if the note just said “Can I copy your algebra homework? ” because he may have smiled at the bitch in homeroom but he winky faced you and that had to have some intense underlying subtext, right? Let’s just say I was listening to a LOT of Celine Dion at the time.
Needless to say, not a lot of dates materialized for me in those days. But things got better around the time I hit 16 and I ended up not only dating a great guy, but getting my cheesy rom com moment by dating THE guy – the whole class president/captain of the track team/impossibly cute/impeccable teeth/would go on to a top 5 law school guy. And even though I once had to ask him at the start of our relationship “I know you said you love me, but do you LIKE like me?” (we hadn’t kissed yet, how was I supposed to know if the love he felt was sisterly? As desperate as I was for my first kiss, incest was out of the question) things seemed to be turning a great corner – my inner Ethan Embry got his (her?) big win!
And that’s the point where I assumed things had changed in the crush game. The next few years were spent with mini crushes that were far more realistic – I’d usually end up only liking the guys that liked me, leaving a lot less time for overwrought anguish and a Celine Dion CD that got consistently less play as each year passed. By the time I hit my 20s, I figured I’d grown out of the unnecessary anxiety that came with schoolgirl crushes, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
So imagine my giant fucking surprise when at 23 I realized the anxiety I was feeling over someone was the all too familiar dreaded crush. It happened again at 24. And then again at 25. I’d somehow regressed back to my least comfortable state of anxiety.
The problem with crushes is right there in the word – they crush you. Sure they can be fun, especially when they’re brief and tied to the guy you made out with despite the fact that he called you Mindy Kaling, but it’s the ones that stick with you that fucking blow. At 11, my major worries in life pretty much consisted of how to dress like a backup dancer from a Limp Bizkit video, whether my mom would let me wax my arms in junior high, and if I’d ever understand how dividing fractions worked, so I had a lot of free time to focus on my crushes. (In case you were wondering, I did dress like a Fred Durst groupie, hair removal was allowed, but I still have no idea how to cross multiply.) At 25, juggling a crush is the worst addition to a life that’s already buried with trying to start a career, not default on mortgage payments, and having to build my own Ikea furniture. Taking dramatically to my bed because the 20something I met at the bars only texts me with vague plans wasn’t something I made room for on my color-coded Google calendar.
But after a binge of 90s teenage rom coms, I’m choosing once again to lean into the wind. Unrequited crushes suck, but they also remind me of the fact that when I first had them, I wanted nothing more than to be a grown up and to not feel that way. Now that I am a (quasi) grown up, I’m ready to accept that I’m going to be the Ethan Embry far more times than I’ll be the Jennifer Love Hewitt – but I’m also choosing to believe that one of those crushes will ultimately work out. It may take a while, but honestly? Can’t hardly wait.
(Seriously though, you should watch the movie. It’s on TBS all the time.)