I wonder what happens to all the love that gets flung at unwilling vessels. Where does it all go, this soul-stuff, so bright and so wasted? I’d had crushes before T., but this was new, this was love, and I don’t want to hear about how 13-year-olds can’t know real love because I can still remember what it felt like to have the spotlight of his attention thrown on me, the way it seemed to strike a flint between my ribs that I hadn’t even known was there. I spent every minute of high school crushed under my feelings for him. Am I being dramatic? It was high school, everything was drama. I was convinced we’d get married right up until the moment in freshman year of college when he came out. Now he lives in L.A. and wears a lot of truly formidable jumpsuits and honestly, I couldn’t have imagined a better ending.
My 10th grade social studies teacher
Did this happen to you, too? This sudden understanding of what makes a object of affection compelling beyond “great hair” or “cute butt,” of a world in which qualities like stability and kindness matter? This teacher was well into his 40s, wore ill-fitting shirts, and had a voice like wave-tossed pebbles. It was a crush born out of respect — a perilously rare crush varietal. He never looked at me (or any of his students) with anything remotely resembling lust, but he did take the time to provide us with the necessary tools to understand the various political elements informing Canadian Confederation, and if anything is more crush-worthy than that, I have yet to see it.
Any female yoga teacher who has ever given me a hands-on adjustment
After a terrible breakup in my 20s, I found myself desperate for touch. There’s nothing unique about this — there’s a wealth of evidence showing the importance of human touch — but since I was far too fragile for dating, I went to yoga. I wanted the soothing touch of a lady yoga teacher who saw in my imperfect body something fixable, a better way to be. I am someone who tends to prefer keeping her limitations to herself, but that desire fades in yoga classes: I will audibly huff and puff and look around in distress if a pose feels wrong, a desperate plea for attention. Dating would have meant exposing myself to the judgement of potential romantic partners, a flaying of all my wounds and shortcomings; in yoga classes, instructors saw only how the subtlest shift of weight could take my whole body from something awkward and painful to something certain and transcendent. Did I fall in love with all of these teachers? Sure did. Did I come to crave their touch as a way to bring me back to my (unloved, unworthy) body, to see it with tenderness and care? Absolutely. Was I the weirdo quietly weeping in pigeon as a kind, patient woman gently pressed my hips into a deeper expression of the pose? That’s me!
Any remotely attractive male between the ages of 22-65 at any workplace
Truly what is the point of our modern burnout culture if we can’t maintain a harmless flirtation with at least one person in the dungeons where we spend so much of our time? Back when I worked in an office, sometimes the only thing that would drag me out of the house in the morning was the hope of exchanging coy smiles over a bag of free Veggie Straws in the communal kitchen. I have never engaged in an office hookup because I do not believe they are good for your complexion (or professional standing), but I insist on the importance and value of the office crush as a tool of productivity.
All five members of One Direction
What I’m talking about when I talk about One Direction is the experience of joy, the kind of joy you can only get from a thing outside you and independent of you, the kind of joy that threatens to dismantle all the safeguards you’ve erected against vulnerability. It is the best kind of crush, one that feels like uncorking a bottle of something bubbly, all the cells in your body united in tender wonder.
A professional crush entails a particular mixture of admiration and envy that feels exactly the way “crush” sounds: a squeeze, a wringing out of all your hopes and dreams and ambitions and shortcomings. Reading Jia’s work is like a vise slowly tightening around my organs, because I know that it’s what I want to do and that I will never be able to do it as well as she does. Also, she’s prettier than me. I think, ultimately, the best professional crushes feed your ambition, function as some kind of envious wind at your back, whispering that the world has juice enough for you, too, if you would only go after it.
There is this thing that happens at the hair salon that I only recently learned how to love, and it happens when they’re washing your hair and they have to lift your head from the sink to rinse the back of your neck. I would always, without fail, resist this — my neck would tense and my back would spasm as I tried to lift my head myself, rather than letting my weight fall into the hands of someone else. “Relax,” they’d say, “I’ve got you,” and I would try, but it never felt right, giving them control or agency over this incredibly vulnerable thing. Falling for my husband was like this. It was giving up my rigidity, my insistence on doing it all myself. It was the feeling of being held carefully in two cupped hands, of warmth and quiet, of being promised safety, and of being delivered into it.
Collage by Madeline Montoya.