‘Crush’ Verb: ‘Deform, pulverize, or force inwards by compressing forcefully’. Noun: ‘A brief but intense infatuation for someone, especially someone unattainable’.
Ah the ‘Crush’. A word and a concept that seems so dated and juvenile to us now. Something to be chronicled into the archives of our youths, along with various other subheadings: Braces, Bacne, Not Quite Real Bras, Toothy Kisses, First Kisses, Never Been Kissed, etc. etc.
Having gone to an all-girls secondary school, my friends and I seemed to be especially ill adapted to dealing with any said Crushes. I have no brothers and so knew even less about boys then they did. We spent our break times in the library. We had a specific corner. We even gave the old librarian a leaving gift upon our graduations. We had our heads in Austen books, Shakespeare and Judy Bloom.
The summer we turned fourteen three of us had a crush on the same boy at the same time.
It was not our fault. We didn’t see him coming. We were still somewhere between growing-up and not quite there yet. Two of us were on a pontoon in the warmish summer sun whilst the other was securing her brother’s boat.
The Brother appeared along with his new friend – the one we didn’t see coming. As he walked up to us, peeling off his wet-suit. We just stared. Open-mouthed. Dumb-struck and completely frozen to the spot. Several moments passed in very unsubtle silence. Then, out of nowhere there was a very loud ‘SPLASH!’ The third friend (let’s call her ‘Kate’) had stepped off her brother’s boat, hand out-stretched to say hello but, being unprepared for the crush that hit us, had looked at him and not where she was stepping. Kate stepped promptly into the sea and not the pontoon. SPLASH!
She soon bobbed up and clambered onto dry land in record recovery. However, her ordeal was not over, ‘Hi I’m Blah’s little brother…I mean he’s my little sister…no, I mean…I’m Kate.’
My other friend and I couldn’t stop smiling. Kate was the one with the boobs. She was now also the one with sea-weed in her hair. We were uncharitably thrilled. And so ensued a week of being ridiculously clumsy and speaking complete and utter rubbish. Tongues tied & twisted. Butterflies carousing in our stomachs. Humming-birds trilling in our chests. Shaky knees and walking into trees.
Neither Austen nor Bloom can prepare you for that shit. You just have to roll with it, ride it out and grow-up and out of it. Or so I thought. It would transpire that The Crush can’t be archived away with Sugar magazine, Impulse fragrance sprays and my old school uniform.
Recently I had a Crush.
I am grown-up now. I get bills. I don’t always get asked for I.D and there have definitely been the odd sporadic grey. It has been so long that once again, I did not see it coming despite the tell-tale signs: increased clumsiness, tongue tied & twisted. Butterflies carousing in my stomach. Humming-birds trilling in my chest. Shaky knees and walking into trees.
He was a sort of friend. I had never seen him in that way, we spent some time together and before I knew it I had indulged a few daydreams of browsing book shops with him, wearing his jumper and even what it might feel like to snuggle up into him. We had hung out a few times, just us, to see if we got along.
I thought I was calm and in control until I saw him next. I spent the whole of that evening drinking too much gin in an attempt to suppress the uninvited butterflies that were pirouetting inside my stomach.
The thing with crushes is that we feed them with our imaginations. From our first ones based on fictional characters (Will-The Subtle Knife), movie stars (Peter Pan) and the boy on the train that you didn’t really know and never spoke to (*** ******). It is all what if’s and wanderings. Safe imaginings and delicate day dreams. That is why a ‘Crush’ is defined as something so ‘intense’ and usually ‘unattainable’. A Crush is the physical intensity of our imaginations made unattainable by our unwillingness to confess our crushes.
If it becomes admitted and not imagined, is it more or less real?
If it is a secret, if there is no definite rejection, then it feels as if it is still a delicious possibility. Because of course the other meaning of the term ‘Crush’? To ‘deform, pulverize, or force inwards by compressing forcefully’.
That of course, is exactly how rejection feels. You feel like you have imploded, ground-down with humiliation and you want the earth to swallow you up. However, the best thing to do with a crush? Get over it. How to do that? Own up to it. Stop feeding your imagination. Get control of your limbs again. Keep your feet on the ground and your Crush will either sweep you off them or gingerly edge away.
Either way you know exactly where you stand. You will know what is real and what is imagined. I was rejected by mine and it was almost a relief. At least now I can stop my hazy day dreams with his: ‘no I don’t think I do fancy you’ and can just dust myself off and walk on without tripping over my own feet. Yes, I was disappointed and frustrated with myself for blowing it, by being so crush-inducing uncool and a little crazy around him. However, there was another reason why I felt relieved and why instead of chronicling our crushes, we should in fact celebrate them.
Now there are some heart-meltingly, breath-takingly, achingly beautiful metaphors in this world depicting the ways of the heart. Please allow me to introduce mine: Scabby Knees.
When I was a very little girl, about three or four, I was running down our sloped driveway in my favourite pair of thick woolly knitted tights. I was running faster then my little woolly legs could carry me and so I tripped and proceeded to skid full speed on my knees for the rest of the drive. For reasons I can no longer recall, I decided not to tell anyone that I had fallen and that my little knobbly knees were bleeding into my favourite woolly tights.
Fast forward to that evening when my mum tried to pop me in the bath. On trying to take off my tights I began to scream in pain. Tearfully, lower lip trembling I told her about my tumble. By this time, my bloodied knobbly knees had formed a scab. Unfortunately, my favourite tights were now a part of that protective scab. Clucking at my silliness my Mum tried to gingerly peel the tights from the scabs. More screaming and bleeding and no luck. She attempted the old rip it off in one. Even more screaming and a little Olivia still fused into her favourite tights. Finally she plopped me in the bath until the skin softened and my knobbly knee scabs washed away. I was free and had a rubber ducky to celebrate with.
Twenty years later little Olivia tumbled and fell deeply in-love.
Love got under my skin, seeped into my soul and filled my heart. When it ended and my heart broke, I bled love. Keep bleeding love and after time, you heal. With a scab: ‘a dry, rough protective crust that forms over a cut or wound during healing’. Princes came and tried to slay the dragons surrounding the walled fortress of my heart. One tried to gingerly peel the scab off. One tried to rip it off. Another to sweetly soak my scabbed broken heart free. Alas, all to no avail. This time I was still not free.
So why am I celebrating? I’m celebrating those butterflies that arrived uninvited. The ones who erupted, beautiful wings beating and fluttering, dancing inside me. The butterfly effect. The beat of a wing powerful enough to whip up a hurricane. The thrill and hum of them dancing inside my chest as you spoke. My heart might have compressed at your rejection but then when I breathed out again, upon that release I realised something. My heart was no longer an ugly protective scab but a beautiful beating chrysalis.
Do not deny your crushes. Do not chronicle them away. Celebrate the chrysalis of a crush and those butterflies that emerge, unexpected, uninvited and free to fly.
If you enjoyed this post, why not check out ‘The Under-Experienced Over-Qualified Twenty-Something-Year-Old’?