What is it about having a romantic interest in another human being that turns us into puddles?
“I have a crush on a boy” is the text message I sent to a friend recently. It wasn’t until later, mid-conversation when I noticed my vernacular on the subject: "crush", "boy". I sounded like my 1998, 15-year-old self, anxiously awaiting for the landline to ring. I wasn’t going to pass this guy a note during homeroom in order to gauge his interest. I wasn’t going to request that he check "yes" or "no" to find out if he would go out with me. Yet, here I was: A moderately smart, fairly capable 31-year-old woman who had been reduced to high school-isms when it came to approaching the opposite sex. I like to think that I've matured and yet, here I find myself nervous around this boy, sorry, man.
What is it about having a bit of romantic interest in another human being that turns us into puddles, incapable of coherent thought?
Don’t try to deny it. We all do it. We get sweaty, we feel the nterest vibrate throughout our bodies. Text messages, even the simplest ‘OK’ is met with far too much overanalysis. “What exactly does ‘OK’ mean?”. I anxiously await some form of communication except now it’s not via the house phone ringing but the ding from my iPhone.
When it does finally ding, I pick my phone up quickly - possibly too quickly - and look at the screen. It’s him. I read his words carefully, not once but five times trying to parse out the meaning behind ‘Want to get together tomorrow night?’. As if there's some hidden meaning behind those words. Boys, dudes, men, they’re pretty simple creatures, right? ‘Let’s get together’ has no other meaning except let's, in fact, get together and yet there I sit trying to think of a witty, clever response.
The overanalysis sets in.
If I reply too soon I come across as "too needy," like I don't have a life. But I don’t want to sit on the message for too long lest he suddenly make other plans. I finally respond that I can get together and we speak a little further. After we say our goodbyes I pour a glass of wine and go back through the conversation, analyzing my responses and whether or not I said the right thing. I notice a moment or two when I hoped for a different response from him. "Why can’t he read my mind?" I text another friend.
“Boys are stupid,” is her succinct response.
Am I even allowed to use the word ‘crush’ at 30?
Is there some other, more grown-up word that I can use to describe the situation? ‘Interest,’ perhaps? Whatever it is, this thing has reduced me to a girl who I despise. That kind of girl who cannot get a grip. I find myself caring way too much about what he thinks about my hair, clothes, lip gloss, even my freaking pedicure even though it’s early February.
I've definitely reverted to 15-year-old-Heather. I'm genuinely excited to hear from this man because in some possibly superficial way, he makes me happy. He always responds even if it's the next day and when he does sit on a text for more than 12 hours, his response always comes with an apology. I dissect the words on my screen and sometimes wish that I could take them back no matter how inoccuous. See? I'm totally 15 years old.
1. At 15 years old, crushes required very little effort (or at least that’s what I remember.) In high school, there were a bevy of guys to choose from and you were surrounded by them each and everyday. At 30, effort needs to be made, schedules arranged. Every conversation you think might be the last because he could up and disappear at any moment with nary a word.
2. At 15, if the crush isn't reciprocated you can eat your weight in pizza and metabolize that shit in a day. At 30, you drink your weight in wine and spend the next day wishing for a swift death to take you away from your hangover.
3. At 15, you tell your friends about your unrequited crush and they give you a hug with a gentle, pat as if to say, "it's OK". At 30, it's war stories; everyone has had it worse. We're all single and looking and, at times, hopeless.
4. At 15, your parents say, "You're too young for all of that anyway." At 30, my father wonders if there's something wrong with me. "Do you think I'll get grandchildren?"
5. At 15, if one guy didn’t like you it was onto the next one. At 30, if this guy doesn't like you, will there ever be another?
6. At 15, you're fresh and new and proud as a peacock. You're invincible. At 30, there are gray hairs. You worry about the state of your ovaries.
7. At 15, a lifetime is forever and there is so much more ahead. Who cares about a stupid boy? At 30, I'm going to be alone forever and ever, aren't I? My cat picks this moment to curl up next to me.
8. At 15, everything is so casual. At 30, I like, LIKE someone and the senses are heightened and it feels that action must be taken immediately because it took so much work to even get the time to sit down for a conversation. Major high-fives for being able to schedule an actual date of sorts. I’m exhausted and exhilarated.
Oh, and you’re probably wondering if the man who currently holds my interest knows about my crush. He does not. Is he going to find out? Well, stay tuned for that story.