A crush is like a wave.
Imagine you’re standing in the ocean, your back towards the sea, about waist deep in the surf. You don’t know when it might come, but the current picks up right before it happens. Pulling back just before the wave impacts, engulfs, and passes over you as it continues onwards, tapering off just before, the beach.
Emotions happen. Much like the waves of the ocean, there is very little we can do to control them. In fact, I’d say we’re quite powerless when it comes to crushes — or infatuation. If this is something you’d rather not deal with then I suppose you have two options: Learn to surf, or get out of the water.
I’ve had my fair share of crushes over the years — As we all have.
Schoolboy crushes. Celebrity crushes. Crushes on the barista who served me coffee. Crushes on public transit or from across the room. Crushes that led to full-fledged relationships and others that pandered out once they opened their mouth.
I’ve written scripts based on crushes alone. That’s how powerful some have manifested. My favorite is one called “Limerence”. In which a boy works himself up to finally approaching a girl whom he encounters every day, but he’s not sure if he actually wants to because — spoiler alert — he enjoys the feeling oh-too-much. Limerence is…
…a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person and typically includes…a desire to form or maintain a relationship…and have one’s feelings reciprocated. -Wikipedia
“To have one’s feelings reciprocated.”
Crushes in my early twenties were a lot like Limerence. Whenever that initial attraction came along I possessed an unhealthy desire to make something out of it. There was a girl, for instance —we’ll call her Elsa — whom was invited to a regular gathering with a group of friends of mine. When she entered the room there was a clear shift. All eyes were on her. Attention was given as she introduced herself and told us about where she had come from. I remember thinking, for no particular reasons at all, that she was much too cool for me. It didn’t matter, back then, for the infatuation was far too great, and I knew I would do whatever it took to garner her affection before anyone else could.
For Elsa, I was cool.
I gave her just enough attention within group outings before jumping into another conversation, creating an air of mystery around my person and my story. I became an alpha amongst the guys and a wonderful, empathetic listener amongst the gals, so that she might feel just a little bit of an attraction towards me. In group discussions I spoke little, but made sure my thoughts were delivered as intelligently as possible. I offered to drive my Jeep (a vehicle she had always wanted) on group trips to the movies, and rode the longboard (a similarity she could connect to her snowboarding days) whenever possible. More importantly, whenever she needed someone, I was there, and always available.
I want say that I’m sorry for the way I acted, but I’m not. It wasn’t that I was being 100% NOT myself, more like 15% NOT myself, the other 85% was surely me — or some version therein. Much like limerence, my actions were an effort to enter a long-term, meaningful relationship, and had little to do with sexual reciprocation. I simply wanted a girlfriend.
In order to have one — first I would need to convince a girl that she liked me. Why? Well it goes back to that “cool enough” comment. Growing up I was never one of the cool kids. I never turned heads when I walked to a room, and I never made girls swoon like they did for Austin or Clint. (You know who I’m talking about.) Therefore, in order to get a girl to see me the way I saw them, I felt — believed — that I had to convince them.
I would be charming if I had to be. Clever if that’s what they desired. I would impress the hell out of them, and their family — if I had to — in order to get their attention…
Then their curiosity…
Then their love.
The problem: if you begin a relationship on the grounds of having to convince someone, then you will never have moments where you are NOT trying to convince them, throughout the remainder of that relationship, to stay.
Needless to say, Elsa was not the last girl to fall victim to one of my crushes.
My last relationship ended in 2014, as I was entering my late twenties. I have been single since then, and I can officially say it’s been the longest I’ve gone without a girlfriend. I want to say that it’s not from a lack of trying, but that wouldn’t be completely true. Using the metaphor from the beginning of this article, one could say that I had essentially “gotten out of the water.”
I had become more wary — weary even — of experiencing a crush that might lead to similar mistakes. That’s what one does as they grow up. They learn. Though I would meet a girl from time-to-time, one that I might find attractive, interesting, with whom I might have a clear connection, I hesitated whenever I felt a crush developing. I became extremely self-conscious about forcing a story, and in an effort to not get ahead of myself, I practiced patience and gave myself time for the initial shock to wear off. A few slipped through the cracks, you can imagine, as I let my emotions get the better of me, but for the most part I held off that feeling of limerence. I never let the hopeless romantic take over.
But something else was also happening.
In the time that I was in my last relationship, about two-and-a-half years, dating apps had become more prominent. Tinder was released in 2012, and by the time 2014 rolled around “swiping” had entered the public consciousness. Not only had I decided to be more intentional about my dating habits, but I also had become out-of-touch with modern romance techniques, and this combination led to a struggle I hadn’t quite anticipated.
Dating is hard in today’s society. Much has already been said about it. Millennials are getting married later in life. We have more options than ever before. “Soulmate” has entered the conversation and we aren’t willing to settle for less. Why should we? If our prospective mate isn’t 100% from the offset, we’ll just keep swiping until we find “the one”. After all, when the world is your oyster…the pearl…I dunno. You get the idea.
When I first set out to write this article, months ago, I was struggling with the fact that I couldn’t actually recognize if I “liked” any of the girls I was “talking to”. (Better yet, I couldn’t tell if THEY were interested.) I was afraid that I had become emotionless — too old to care — or jaded to the point where I couldn’t feel the “spark” even where one would be obvious. Had I chosen to make a list, write down the pros and cons, about any of these girls, I knew some that would look perfect on paper, but I was missing the thing that mattered most: chemistry.
I began to realize the fault wasn’t entirely my own when I finally made a real connection — someone with whom I had been infatuated with for quite a while. She was attractive, creative, and with a go-getter personality I could get behind. I took the allotted time needed to make sure I wasn’t overly obsessed, and when I felt like there was something worth pursuing — I asked her out on a date.
It went swimmingly. The pho was good. The conversation was better. The impromptu after-dinner-drinks at the Highball during Tittie Bingo (look it up) gave us a night to remember. On her porch at the end of the night, like a perfect gentleman, I said I wanted to do this again. She agreed. She said she had an amazing time and recognized that there was something between us.
There was someone else.
Of course there was. I didn’t act all that surprised by it. In fact I was grateful for the information — at least her honesty in sharing it with me. We parted ways with the promise that we would do this again…soon.
So what happened? You might ask.
Well — I became victim to another technique oft used, and originated, by today’s millennial generation.
I was ghosted.
But at least I discovered that I’m not the old codger without a heart that I feared. I had developed a crush, for the first time in a long time, and it had been reciprocated. I was still capable of feeling — as it were. So the problem I had been struggling with the past two-plus-years was NOT my inability to recognize a spark, but that I was dealing with a generation that simply refuses to acknowledge mutual curiosity.
Dating culture today involves people who are — unknowingly — playing a game. Intentionality is either unheard of, or otherwise dismissed. Technology has created a society that has forgotten how to read body language, recognize connections, or keep our minds in the moment. To that end, dating in my late twenties was like a sailor in a foreign hemisphere, attempting to navigate the waters but unable to make out the constellations.
I was lost.
Used to be — dating someone was a fairly simple and well executed affair:
“Hey, I like you.”
“I like you too.”
“Wanna go out?”
And you continued to do that until one or both of you decided the relationship was no longer worth pursuing.
Now the conversation is more like:
“Hey I like you…but I don’t like you enough…so let’s just be friends. I’m sure you’re a really cool person and if I ever got to know you I might find that you’ll actually surprise me. But I’m not looking for that kind of commitment. I’m looking for someone that strikes me in a way that I simply cannot pass up. Someone that checks all the boxes when we first meet and maybe has the perfect eye color to match. When you know, you know, right? And with you I just…don’t.
People don’t show interest anymore because they don’t want to, or because they’ve forgotten how to.
So they wait for their soulmate. Swiping left through countless, probably even close-to-perfect, matches because they are unwilling to engage in any sort of commitment. Unwilling to participate in any sort of mystery. To use the same metaphor of the sailor: Today’s dreamers and wanderers keep their eyes firmly planted to the “X” on a map, following something that possibly doesn’t exist, instead of scanning the horizon in anticipation of what’s to come. If the treasure exists, today’s society wants it to come easy — as quickly as possible — but in the meantime they are missing out on what’s in front of them. The journey is always part of what makes any relationship worth pursuing, and the story sometimes leads to islands, vistas, and moments that one might never have imagined had they not chosen to give in to their curiosity. To let things come to them. To find someone when and where they least expect it.
I’m thirty years old now.
I’m not saying that this method won’t work for people. I’m sure it does. But I am saying that, in my experience, this method surely isn’t the one for me. Maybe I’m old fashioned or just…too old for this sh*t…but I refuse to believe that a connection cannot be made without the help of some sort of app.
But when the choices are numerous, and the avenues are aplenty, meeting someone IRL (see…I can be relevant) is made even more difficult unless both parties are willing to stay grounded in the present. We can’t be afraid to let the connection mean something. When a crush hits, we have to recognize it for what it is, and even if it’s nothing, it might be worth exploring just to learn more about your journey.
I think I understand the game now. I think I know enough of the stars to unfurl my sails and allow the wind to take hold. Patience has to be my compass, though, when infatuation wants to be my guide. To avoid the mistakes that got me here I must be on the lookout for storms. For tempests and Sirens and…
You’re still following me, right?
Mattias is an actor, writer, filmmaker, and editor currently living in Los Angeles, CA. He often writes about his observations about life, the human condition, spirituality, and relationships. He also enjoys writing about movies, pop culture, formula one, and current events. Often these writings are 'initial thoughts' and un-edited, as authentic as possible, and should be considered opinions. If you're interested in commenting on his work, or continuing the conversation, you should consider following him on Twitter or share an article on social media, where he would love to engage even further. Consider subscribing via RSS for more.