Wednesday, August 29, 2007
An Antaomy of a Crush
I remember giggling myself near half-to-death when I saw a singer at some 16th Century Italian choral concert whine in a perfect castrati squeal that when his Love looked at him sweet arrows pierced his bleeding heart. It was just so mawkish a sentiment, so utterly unapologetic about its creepiness, and so perfect in summing up what it feels like to have a crush that I couldn't help to blush. Because I had been there before - sugary arrows of love and everything.
For me having a crush is an exercise in various kinds of agony. When I like a girl I can't speak, look at her, walk near her, or exhibit any of the signs biologists use to determine life for fear of embarrassing myself whenever I'm around her. Then, after I bumble my way through a conversation or two with her about, say, cartoon characters or giant squid and the crush deepens, I will realize that I spend a sizable chunk of my day - from one to three hours, I'd guess - rehearsing what I will say to her and thinking about how cute her cheeks are. And then after I do talk to her all I can do is wonder whether she likes me or not, whether, when she laughs and touches my shoulder - does that mean that she likes me? that she, perhaps, might have a crush on me, too?
But the worst happens when the relationship moves - as it inevitably does - to its penultimate stage of casual e-mail flirting. This is the stage in courtship where you've been out on a date or two - you might have even kissed - and are slowly sorting out the second or third or fourth date through a salvo of e-mails. By this point I'm reduced to an awkward lump of nervousness, checking my e-mail once every five minutes or so to see whether she's responded. When she does respond it feels like I've just been given a bag full of candy and straightaway I will write and re-write my response until it's a little polished jewel of wonderfulness that, as I'm about to hit send, I know will charm her completely and then she'll call me instantly and we will rush into each others; arms and make out a lot. Then, after I hit send I realize I just sounded creepy or accidentally propositioned her. And I hope like hell she doesn't realize how nerdy I am.
Of course, there are rules to these e-mails. One must let a respectable amount of time pass between when you get a response and when you yourself respond. It must not be too much longer - or too much shorter - than your interlocutor's last e-mail. But above all these e-mails must spin the illusion that you do not, in fact, have a crush on this person; that your heart doesn't make 16th-century Italian noises whenever you get a new message from her; that you haven't imagined what it would be like if you kissed her right now.
I don't need to say that whatever initial charm I could throw out into the relationship is scuttled around this point in the process.
I tell my friends that I hate crushes. That I don't have time for them, that I'm not in a romantic mood right now, that I don't know anyone who I could have a crush on. But the truth is that I love crushes. It's like O become a secret agent: I have an agenda hidden to all but myself, except rather than kill someone I want to give them hugs and tell them how they're cuter than most common varieties of bunnies.
And I think maybe the deeper satisfaction of a crush is that it gives you something to do, a thing of beauty to mull over, and some hope to look forward to. Your days, while being as formless and generally pointless as ever, will sometimes surge with a sense of purpose and joy. However flimsy, however delusional that joy actually is. Because the girl sent you an e-mail or waved at you.
But there is a real beauty of a crush that I tend to overlook, in favor of the sheer craziness of it: you get to care for someone. And care, love, kindness - no matter what word you use - is one of the most beautiful things I can think. When I have a crush on someone, if they called me up at four in the morning waking me from beautiful dreams about hanging out with Mark Twain to ask me nonchalantly if I could make it over to their place to eat ice cream I would act like it was completely and utterly cool and not in the least bit inconvenient and I'll be over there as soon as I can. This is not the sort of care that I hold for most of the people in my life. If it were anyone else I would yell at them and tell them to call in the morning are they smoking crack or something. But with the crush, I have this almost unfathomable spring of care for them, and that care is fresh, and amazing for its even being there.
Even if it is about as creepy as saying that you have arrows of love stuck in your bleeding heart.