'Collect Them Like Pokemon Cards': In Defence Of The Humble Crush

It’s simple mathematics: Smooth brains + a new lease on social life = the return of crushing. Crushing hard.
Arielle Richards
Melbourne, AU
In Defence Of The Crush
Collage: Madman Entertainment Wow Unlimited Media Viz Media

Is there any experience so human, so recognisable, so universally understood as having a crush? 

Don’t answer that. I’m claiming it: Crushes make the world go ‘round.

It’s an element of romantic infatuation that covers a lifespan, from childhood straight through to adulthood. Our ability to crush doesn’t go away as we get older, but the experience of having a “crush” is rooted in childish affectation. As time goes on, the way we talk about our crushes shifts. Rather than “crushing” on someone, you’re “interested” in them. You “like” them, or you have a “thing for them”. Maybe you just “get along well”. 


Not me though. I’ll be collecting crushes by the handful ‘til I die. 

The pandemic has broken down and rearranged our minds. 

For many of us, the smothering weight of isolation, fear and stress, coupled with ongoing climate crisis and the goddamn news, has completely smoothed us over, replacing world-weary wrinkled brains with supple, baby brains. And as the world has been opening up, opportunities to meet new people and actually socialise (physically!) have brought a whole new meaning to connection. Between uni, work and parties, there’s a whole host of new people to meet. 

It’s simple mathematics: Smooth brains + a new lease on social life = the return of crushing. Crushing hard.

A crush is too often posited as a relinquishing of power and a loss of

control. Wiki-how can tell you “How to Deal With a Crush” and offers a guide on “How To Get Rid Of A Crush And Stop Obsessing”. 

There’s been an incredible amount of crush discourse happening online, from an interest in Twitter crushes (“what are they?”, “who is yours?”, “am I anyone’s?”) to laments on the universal embarrassment of having a crush.


They can be painful, sure. 

But fuck it, embrace the crush! 

How long has it been since you were able to actually interact with a crush outside of the internet? How long since you were able to exchange glances, bump into one another by accident, or meet a whole new crush to add to your collection? Gone are the times of flame reacts and DM slides, it’s time to reclaim the crush!

A crush is different from all other forms of romantic entanglements. From “seeing someone” to “liking someone” or even “being interested in someone”, there always needs to be some kind of mutual interest and burgeoning romantic relationship. A crush is all about what it’s not (they can never know) and the projection of a bunch of aspirations and ideals (they are perfect) onto a person you don’t know that well. 

A good conversation, a hug, a compliment, a flirtation – when it’s with The Crush, it’ll send you straight into dopamine orbit. 

But the cruel paradox of crushing is that while it yearns for reciprocity, once it is finally reciprocated, it ceases to be a crush. There’s very little about the crush that is mutual. It’s all yours - a secret to cherish. The butterfly tickle of a good crush is an illusion - never seek to date a crush. It can happen, sure, but you should be careful not to force it. Don’t underestimate the element of mystery - it’s what keeps the whole thing afloat.


Do they like you? Do they hate you? Does it matter? You can’t choose who you crush on. And you can’t choose when you’ll inevitably get distracted, move on, or even, get the “ick”.

I almost enjoy a crush’s eruption as much as I enjoy the experience of crushing. There’s some small reclamation in feeling it end – they’ve said something annoying, gotten a haircut, or acted out of line, and then the illusion shatters and their power over you is gone. You’re back in charge. 

It’s a wonderful layer of fun to add to the banality of life. 

There’s no shortage of positive “crush” media to go around. Films like Atonement and The Notebook hinge their premise on it. When the characters finally come together, it’s all the more cathartic. After all, isn’t it special to see someone living your dream?. 

Media like this offers us a hopeful glimpse into the realm of possibility, and films like Sixteen Candles and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging single-handedly convinced me that one day my crush and I would fall in love.

It seems harmless and closer to infatuation than anything else. But in media and literature, crushes usually get a bad rap.

It’s seen as something embarrassing, out-of-control, or a secret to be exposed. Hell, I’ve been there: My grandmother told everyone at Christmas lunch I had the hots for Daniel Radcliffe. The furious embarrassment of that moment will last forever, unlike the crush. It was my first, immediate, painful “ick” - the emotional equivalent of a public belly flop.


The whole game is ruined when someone finds out you have a crush on them. It changes everything. There’s a lot of power in the crush: For the holder, the power is in them not knowing that you like them. And for the crushed-on, if they happen to find out, it’s an immediate elevation to the top of the deck.

Finding out you are a crushee is a strange experience. Even weirder is the feeling brought with “I used to have a crush on you”. What the hell does that even mean? 

Your first thought is “why didn’t they tell me”, but deep down you know that would be destructively counter-intuitive to the beauty of the crush. 

The truth is, life is boring without at least one crush.

Make it your personal ambition to cultivate a resplendent garden of them. Collect crushes like Pokemon cards. Hoard them everywhere you go.

Should you tell your crush you like them? Fuck no! It’s way more fun to

constantly run your mouth about crushing constantly. Who could it be? Nobody knows. Tell your crush you have a crush on someone else. Even better, have multiple crushes and tell each of them you have a crush on one of the others. 

Life is too short: Fuck about, don’t stress about the “find out”.

But most of all, keep crushing. You’re single handedly helping the whole world go ‘round.

Follow Arielle on TikTok and Instagram.

Read more from VICE Australia.