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Some time back I encountered a thread about Hans Christian Anderson’s rather complicated personal life that described him as “just a general train wreck of crushes,” and I’m not sure that I have ever encountered a phrase that more thoroughly captures my inner landscape. That thread also included the phrase “disaster bi trash fire,” which, while also evocative, does not resonate quite so deeply.
My first crush wasn’t spontaneous. It might, in fact, best be described as contrived to fit in socially. I was, I think, in fourth grade sitting at lunch with two friends who were discussing the boys they had crushes on. This was not a thing I had considered. I don’t remember if they asked me who I had a crush on or if I just had the sense that to fit in I needed to be able to participate in this conversation. I remember scanning the cafeteria and thinking that I needed to pick someone. A boy. It would be another decade before my first crush on a girl. (Alternate version of the story: It would be another decade before I first recognized a crush on a girl, but my actual first crush on a girl was in kindergarten.) My eyes landed on one of the popular boys in my class who was nonetheless friendly and kind. I turned to my two friends and named my first crush.
From there it was a snowball. By the next year I had a list of seven names. Two of the names rhymed and I’d sing the list to myself in a sing song I can still hear in my head.
For thirty-five years there has almost always been someone. Whether I am single or partnered, my eyes are still always scanning around the room, always picking someone, always wanting someone.
I found this distressing in college during my first real relationship. For the first six months I was completely focused on him. Then I saw an old high school crush and all the old desire came flooding back. Worse, the urge to scan the room returned. And it never really went away again. (I think there was another longish period of no crushes after my son was born but I attribute that more to exhaustion than anything else).
We don’t talk about this much in our society. I don’t know how many other people are constantly cycling through attractions and fantasies. I have always been honest about this in my relationships and all of my serious partners have had crushes during the course of our relationship. So perhaps what feels excessive and obsessive is mostly normal. On the other hand, I have a hard time believing monogamy would be so popular if everyone’s brains worked like this. Then again, infidelity is common enough to raise some questions about the popularity of monogamy.
This morning I realized that my current crush began nearly four years ago. This is unheard of for me. In high school my friends described me as fickle. Of course, in high school a constant cycling of interest was a strategy to deal with rejection after rejection, but even as an adult it’s uncommon for someone to hold my attention for such an extended period. Certainly there are people who I’ve found attractive for long periods of time. There’s the dear friend who started as a crush, who I’ve loved for at least a decade, but that’s different. Even if I might still say I have a crush on him, it’s not an active interactions-cause-dopamine-hits kind of crush anymore.
Four years is a very long time for me to maintain a strong active crush on a single person. This is a strange effect of pandemic isolation. I simply have not had enough interactions for my attention to shift as it usually naturally would.
I feel like this leaves me a ticking time-bomb of desire, like the next new person I meet is doomed to find themselves the object of my affections. I am craving something new. My brain has been caught in a single loop too long. It has stretched my desires all out of proportion, leaving me with a crush that’s going nowhere but doesn’t quite fit.