Illustrations by Penelope Gazin
Crushes are immense but ultimately pointless feelings for someone you barely know, and I've had plenty of them. In the past, some of my crushes were so intense I felt like I was bordering on mental illness. I was obsessive. I memorized intricate paths to get to classes that would ensure I could catch a glimpse of the boy I liked. I would stalk him much like a lion stalks a gazelle, except I never pounced. I would force my friends to make our regular lunch spot wherever my crush and his friends ate. I would attempt to eavesdrop on his conversations, to find out what he'd be doing that weekend or whether he had a crush on someone (preferably me). I would try so hard to stare at him in class yet make it seem like I wasn't staring at all. My one wish in life was to find out that he was doing the same non-stare stare back at me. Crushes are fucking pathetic. However, as pathetic as they are, they also made me the person I am today. For better, or worse. I've learned from my crushes some harsh truths about myself, and also about life. Let's look at some examples.
Anthony was the first boy I had serious fantasies about. I pined for him most of elementary school. He had thick, blond hair and big, blue eyes. He was pretty much Hitler's wet dream. To a self-loathing Jewish girl like myself, this was a match made in heaven.
I got my big break in the fourth grade. Anthony and I were the biggest talkers in our class, so our teacher, Mrs. Laskin, gave us our own table to sit at, away from the other kids. What was meant to be punishment turned into the happiest time of my childhood-and probably my adulthood too. I was sitting next to Anthony. I thanked God, who at the time I genuinely believed in after being forced to go to Hebrew School three times a week.
Secluded away together, we became friends. One day, during class, something major happened. Anthony gave me a Jar Jar Binks toy from a kid's meal. Anthony thought of me outside of school, got a toy that was meant to be for him, and wanted me to have it. Did I care that it was Jar Jar Binks? No way. At that moment, Jar Jar Binks was the greatest Star Wars character of all time. At that moment, I loved Jar Jar Binks because Jar Jar Binks was the symbol of a new love that was bound to flourish. How could anyone hate Jar Jar Binks?
Fast-forward a few weeks. I was playing with my friends at lunch when Anthony tapped me on the shoulder and asked if we could speak in private. Finally, it was happening. He was moments away from confessing his love for me, and I was moments away from telling him I loved him too. We walked to a bench and sat down. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. He said, "Do you know if Shirley likes Britney Spears?"
Shirley was my best friend.
On the inside, I was freaking out. On the outside, I played it cool. I replied, "Yeah, I think so." Honestly though, what a stupid question. Of course she did. This was the early 2000s and Britney Spears was the biggest pop star in the world. We were far too young to form real opinions about art and culture outside of what our favorite television channels and radio stations selectively fed us, so we had to conclude that Britney Spears made the best music ever to exist.
He continued: "Cool. I want to buy her a Britney Spears CD and ask her to be my girlfriend. Do you think she'll say yes?"
At that moment, everything clicked. Anthony didn't give me that Jar Jar Binks toy because he liked me. He gave me that Jar Jar Binks toy because it was a Jar Jar Binks toy. He sure as hell didn't want it. Instead of throwing it away, he thought to himself, Why not give this to the human equivalent of trash in my life? That trash being me. This tragic incident taught me a lot about dating. It taught me to never make assumptions when it comes to men and their intentions. If a boy likes you, he'll probably tell you. I also learned that Jar Jar Binks is definitely a piece of shit and that there is no God.
Looking back, I didn't have a crush on the first boy I kissed. I didn't even have a crush on the guy I lost my virginity to. They were just there when I decided to finally get it over with. When I had my first kiss, my real crush was on a boy named Matt. This was in the seventh grade, although, I liked Matt all of sixth grade too. Why did I like Matt so much? Well, he wore the same Misfits shirt to school every day and looked a lot like the lead singer of Sum 41. That was all I needed to be in love with someone. My first kiss, Shawn, liked Weezer and did not look like any member of Sum 41. At the time, Shawn was an embarrassment to me because children are stupid.
In the seventh grade, Matt and I were seated next to one another in English class. Behind me was a kid named David who made fun of me constantly. (At the time I hated him, but recently realized that maybe he just had a crush on me.) During class one day, David called me a dildo. Matt heard this and started laughing, because dildos are hilarious. I had no idea what a dildo was (though now, I am very familiar with them), and thought he was calling me a "dodo." I replied, "Shut up, I'm not a dumb extinct bird!" In my mind, this was a funnier thing to say than the word "dildo." I still had a lot to learn about comedy. David and Matt let out an even harder laugh. Matt then asked, "You don't know what a dildo is?" To prevent further embarrassment, I decided to be honest and said no. I then pleaded with him to tell me what it was, but he wouldn't do it. This was the most we had ever talked during the whole time that I loved him, and it was enough to keep me going for the rest of that school year.
Shawn and I are friends on Facebook. By looking at his pictures, it seems to me that he is in a happy relationship and really likes wearing V-necks. Matt, on the other hand, does not have a Facebook. I found his sister and his brother, but not him. This means that Matt either has grown up to be even cooler than he already was or he is dead.
Both Matt and Shawn taught me that I have a tendency to not be attracted to the people that are attracted to me. I'm stubborn with my feelings, and probably missed out on a lot of good opportunities because of said stubbornness.
James was the first guy I had a serious crush on after high school. I met him at the beginning of sophomore year of college. We clicked in that stereotypical I love that movie too sort of way. We hung out nearly every day. One weekend, he took me to his hometown to meet his best friends and even his mom. We talked on the phone when we weren't together, something I rarely do because I am a sad product of the "just text me" generation. In my mind, we were a couple-a couple without any of the physical parts, which is the real meat and bones of a relationship.
Frustrated by my boneless and meatless love life, I decided to confront him about it. To my surprise, he was surprised that I was under the impression we might have romantic feelings for one another. "We're just friends," he said. He asked me why I thought he might have feelings for me. I brought up the mom thing. Apparently, I was crazy for thinking that meant anything. He wasn't attracted to me. I was upset, obviously, but did the emotionally mature thing and buried my sadness deep down into the pit of my stomach and acted like everything was just fine. Either I was a good actress or James was the perfect masochist to my sadist, but we continued our close friendship as if nothing has happened.
James and I eventually did end up having sex the following year, on Valentine's Day. After watching the movie Kids. That's right, I had sex after watching Kids. That's how much I liked him. He still didn't have feelings for me, yet the guy wanted to have sex after watching Kids. In case you didn't think this could get sadder, this is still probably the most romantic Valentine's Day I have ever had.
With James I learned that I'm good at repeating mistakes, and will probably keep doing so. Not sure if you noticed, but this incident was basically the Anthony incident. This time there was just some sex involved, and James's mom played the part of Jar Jar Binks. At least now I know to never watch Kids ever again.
As agonizing crushes can be, they're important to have. Also, incredibly unavoidable. You can't stop yourself from developing deep feelings for people. If you can, you might be a serial killer or a banker. I am working on being better at all this. In recent years, I've put effort into being forward, and making my feelings clear upfront. Not only that, but I've been going on real dates. The kind of dates where you both say to each other, "Let's go on a date." Not, "Let's hang out" or "lLt's grab some drinks." These convoluted phrases have given me far too many thought spasms. I'm done dissecting the 38 different definitions of "hang out."
I don't doubt that I'll fall for another Anthony, Matt, or James. As said earlier, I'm good at repeating mistakes. At least now I am somewhat aware of them as they're happening. That kind of helps soften the blow when things ultimately fall apart. I am also far more open to giving the Shawns in my life a chance. A few times, this has turned out well. That's improvement right? I still haven't been in a relationship for longer than six months, but I'm working on it. Baby steps, Alison. Baby steps. OK, maybe this baby is still in the crawling stage, I don't know. What the hell am I doing with this baby anyways? That's a question for another time.
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