A few weeks ago, I echoed John Mayer’s “Love Song for No One” and lamented having no romantic interests. I wasn’t upset that I’d been single for almost five years, but that I hadn’t seriously liked anyone in almost a year and a half. I missed the feelings associated with crushes and dreamed of the possibility of spending time with someone of value in New York. A few commenters voiced assent with my piece, stating that they too wished they could meet a guy about whom they could get excited. Others, such as the ever sagacious voice of reason Heather Price-Wright, noted the importance of stability and consistency in relationships. While having a crush is thrilling in the beginning stages, it can also leave you feeling awful about yourself, and the fire burns out faster than you expect it to. She may no longer experience butterflies when her boyfriend steps through the front door of their home (or maybe she still does! All I know is that she certainly perked up in his presence when they first started dating at our school newspaper. It was adorable), but she’s also not suffering the torturous ups and downs of infatuation. And believe me, they’ll tear you to shreds.
After the article went live, a friend told me that I’d like someone when I stopped looking. I laughed, as I ended my passive search more than a year ago, but humored her. She ended up being right, however, and now that I’m experiencing all the side effects of Crushdom again (giddiness, being visibly embarrassed and flushed all the time, talking out of nervousness like that spazzy uptight side character in “No Strings Attached,” incessant laughter, etc), I’m both thrilled and concerned, and I thank Heather for explaining why reverting back to one’s teenage tendencies can end badly.
Though I’m not invested in this individual, as I honestly don’t know all that much about him, this whole thing still leaves me with a bad feeling in my stomach. My track record isn’t great, so rather than risk getting shot down or belittled, I keep my mouth shut and don’t go after what I might want. I refuse to even let myself see whether it could work out because I don’t want other problems to unfold. Worst of all, I don’t want to be made a fool, and don’t think I haven’t fretted about the backlash I could receive for this post. I’m exhausted from several college and post-college blow-offs, so I choose not to move forward with this, as many things could go wrong if I do.
For a while, I was proud of myself for acquiring an aloof, shut off approach, which I would have eschewed during youth. Whether it’s
obvious or not, I have an exceptionally aggressive side, and it often comes out at work and in my relationships. The only reason I had a boyfriend in high school was because I confronted the guy I liked and told him that I was hooked. Okay, I wasn’t that brave or ballsy. What really happened was that I hung around him during club meetings every week and eventually wrote him a letter revealing my feelings. I gave him the note before sprinting to the girls’ bathroom with my friend Brittany out of cowardice. He said he already knew how I felt about him, but the gesture made him reevaluate his opinion of me, and before long, we were dating. But I also had to ask him to prom. He said he wouldn’t have considered going to the big event had I not brought it up. The following year, I invited another boy to the prom and he was my date. I’m not chattering about the big dance to bore you with stories of my awkward teen days or as a nod to prom season, but because these are perfect examples of me going after what I want. Even through the tidal wave of disappointments, I’ve always been confident about pursuing and being pursued, so it’s both empowering and depressing to adopt a passive, almost apathetic way of doing things. Though my friends and family would be proud to hear that I don’t believe in wearing my heart on my sleeve, I kind of hate how fearful and guarded I’ve become in this department. I’m aware that disillusionment is part of adulthood, but I shouldn’t be bewildered and scared this early on.
Believe it or not, though, there’s a reason for my hesitation and newly built wall. Like Rachel McAdams’s character in “Morning Glory,” I worry I’ll hurt my career by getting sucked into a relationship. More than that, I’m also afraid to say this person is out of my league, at least in one very obvious way. This has happened to me twice, and on both occasions, the classy guys hid me from their friends. One of these young men would even make fun of me in front of my friends. No, this wasn’t in elementary school. It was the summer before my junior year of college. I was 19 years old and staying at American University for an internship program, and against my better judgement, I found myself hooking up with an older guy down the hall. He hung out with the “cool clique” of the dorm whereas I established lifelong bonds with a group of fellow cheesy nerds, all of whom he made fun of behind their backs. As the others went bar hopping in the nation’s capital, my new friends and I watched “How I Met Your Mother,” cooked chocolate chip pancakes for dinner, and went to late night movies. They were all incredible and inspiring, so I’m not sure why I sometimes left my awesome buddies to go mess around with a 23-year-old guy who took me further than I wanted to go, told me he was only with me because he “couldn’t bang real hotties such as Amanda Bynes,” and kept me from his friends. Worst of all, he pulled pranks on me in public. During dinner one night in the cafeteria, he dropped four ice cubes down my back. My friends and I looked at him with disgust and said he needed to quit acting like a preschooler, yet the order went right over his head. He hid me from his friends and bullied me in front of everyone to veil what was going on between us, yet would ask me to come to his room every other night and express irritation when I spent time with my male friends. He got away with it because he was movie star quality gorgeous. The second guy didn’t have ladykiller looks, but was outgoing enough to make you think he was Ryan Gosling. He pulled a lot of nonsense on me as well, and I hated myself for months after all of this went down. In the end, though, I was at fault for allowing myself to be someone’s secret shame. And I don’t want to fall into that downward spiral — or anything even remotely close to it — again.
So, yeah. From what I’ve seen, the person I like has far more class, decency, and character than those two, so I doubt he’s even capable of that level of douchebaggery. Therefore, he wouldn’t treat me like a kitchen sink rag, but who is to say he would give me the time of day? The point is, I don’t know. I question whether I even have the authority to say that I have a crush on this person, as my knowledge of him is so minimal at this point. How could it be anything substantial, though, if I refuse to put myself out there? Maybe that’s another part of growing up: Realizing that there’s a difference between having feelings for a person and fixating on something because you like the rush. I’ve taken a leap of faith in the past, and while I’ve gained more knowledge and insight from each letdown, I don’t think I’m ready to repeat the “this is what I’ve learned” crap just yet. The good news is that I go out with friends a lot and have constant exposure to new young men, but most of the time, I’m underwhelmed. All the gems are taken, so I put my energy into rooting for Chuck and Blair on “Gossip Girl.” I’m too old to be living through television shows and watching this one in particular, but it’s a lot easier than dealing with rejection. I hope to break away from this mindset in time, but for now, I’m too petrified and lazy to put myself in that kind of vulnerable state.