The Secret Crush

I am excellent at keeping secrets.

I keep every secret anyone ever tells me. I keep them like they are going out of style. I keep them so long that I forget them. I keep secrets even when they are not, strictly speaking, secrets at all.

But this post is not about that.

This post is about the one semi-excruciating time when I didn’t. Keep one.

First, about Greg. Greg is huge. He’s not the tallest boy in school—there’s a senior on the basketball team who’s close to seven feet. And he’s not the heaviest—there are still a few who outdo him when it comes to sheer poundage. However, taking height and weight into account simultaneously, he’s easily the biggest person I’ve ever encountered. He is patently tremendous and has no problem scooping me up with one arm and carrying me around on his shoulder like a doll.

We start hanging out together just before Thanksgiving break, because we have the same off-hour. Mostly, we go over to his house and eat Poptarts and he teaches me to play the bass. He makes up songs about me and I help him with his homework, and sometimes we hang out together at parties or go to movies on the weekends. With anyone else, I might be worried that spending so much time together would mean there was an expectation of it turning into Something Significant, but Greg also happens to be Dill’s best friend, so no matter what, it never, ever feels like a date.

Greg is a classic extrovert and a big self-starter. He likes autonomy and discipline and taking the initiative. He’s a Seven Habits of Highly Effective People type of guy. Until I met Greg, I had never actually heard anyone use the word proactive in conversation.

I like hanging out with him because I can always just say whatever, do whatever, and he never acts like I’m strange. The fact is, he’s way more focused on manifesting a purpose-driven life than on whether or not I happen to be wearing matching socks.

The Afternoon of the Secret is hard to describe. It’s one of those cold, gray days when the sky is flat and low and the whole world seems not-quite-real. Everything is a little too pale and a little too glassy and a little too imaginary, which is probably why I accidentally say what I think in the first place—I just mistake the entire situation for a very vivid dream.

The conversation starts innocently enough.

It comes about because of a Student Council fundraising scheme in which we all fill out a survey in homeroom and get matched up with a handful of other students whose views and personalities complement our own. Then, if you pay a dollar, they’ll give you a printout of your algorithm-approved matches.

Seventeen-year-old Brenna is way too above this whole endeavor to even bother filling out the survey,* but Greg is enthusiastic. Since I generally make it my business to know as much as possible about Everyone Ever, I’m his go-to girl when it comes to evaluating his matches. He’s proactively on the hunt for a relationship and so I go down his list with him, describing the relative merits of each girl and offering my opinion on whether or not they’re appropriate girlfriend material.

We spend close to an hour sitting in his truck, talking about romance and dating and whether you can really measure a person’s character simply by looking at their smile.

I don’t remember a single name on his sheet. But I do remember this conversation, and not just because I wrote it down. At the time, it was actually kind of seared into my soul.

He asked me who I thought were the top-five most attractive boys in school.

“Captain Perfect,**” I said, without having to think, because no one ever has to think about that. “And #4.”

What?”

“Well,” I said, because sometimes it’s easier to act much stupider than I am, “Captain Perfect is maybe not that smart, but he’s in really good shape, and he has nice eyes.”

“Not Captain Perfect,” Greg said. “Of course you like Captain Perfect. All the girls like Captain Perfect. But #4?”

“I don’t like Captain Perfect. You said top-five most attractive. He’s top-five-attractive, not top-five-likable.”

“Wait, you have to tell me why #4. How could you put #4 on your list?”

“Because,” I said, looking out the window. “He has a nice face, nice cheekbones and hair. Because he just seems nice, and sometimes he can be really funny.”

“So who else is top-five?” Greg asked.

“No one.”

“Then it’s not top-five, it’s top-two. And how come Dill isn’t on your list?”

“I don’t know. He’s just not.”

“Well, why don’t you date one of your top-two then?”

“Because it’s top-two attractive, not top-two dateable. And anyway, Captain Perfect is too arrogant to date.”

“And #4?” Greg started to laugh. “Shit, I can’t believe #4 is actually on your list, but what’s wrong with #4?”

I just kept looking out the window. “He’s too stoned.”

What this excerpt fails to capture is the uproarious and slightly hysterical reaction that my mention of #4 elicits from Greg. Started to laugh? No, no, he carries on like a donkey, only dying. He is categorically unable to contain himself. He thinks this is the funniest thing he’s ever heard.

Older (wiser, tougher, generally-improved) Brenna says Who cares? She says So what? and Walk it off, but the thing is, walking it off is not that easy. Who cares? Well, seventeen-year-old Brenna does.

And not just because she has a tendency to react badly to being ridiculed. In this moment, she’s being absolutely candid—you can tell, because she is so overcome by her earnestness that she doesn’t even bother to mentally edit her sentences before she says them, and winds up using the word nice like fifty times—and she immediately leaps to the conclusion that she’s being punished for it.

She does not think at all about how Greg’s uproarious laughter reflects on #4, or that it may or may not represent some larger social issue in his life, because she is remarkably self-centered.

The thing is, until this precise moment, I don’t really understand that what I’m feeling about #4 even resembles a crush.

I know, I know—right now, everyone who has read any of the previous posts of . . . ever is laughing at me, but I’m being totally (mostly) truthful. I mean, I’d kind of suspected I was maybe sort of interested in him in a more-than-scientific way, but come on—I am not that girl, the swooning, sighing, blushing one. I’m not that sentimental. (Not that tragic.)

All I know is that I like his smile. He hardly ever smiles, and when he does, it’s usually this gun-to-the-head, bank-job-hostage, forced-march kind of smile, but on the rare occasions when he accidentally smiles a real one? Well, it’s pretty much exceptional.

I like how his sense of humor is just really weird, and the way he always, always listens to Rooster, even when he doesn’t know how to help, and out of all the times he’s been rude or awkward to me, it’s never once seemed like he was doing it on purpose.

I want to make Greg see all or any of this, but I don’t know how. I’m seventeen years old, and even on paper, I’m not quite brave enough to get the words out. Forget saying them out loud.

I have some (limited) experience with crushes, but not in any practical way. Most of what I know about them I’ve learned from books and movies. From Catherine.

The thing is, I just don’t have it in me to be all desperate and Shakespearean. There’s no room in my orderly little brain for Ophelia or Juliet. I’m too self-contained for that, or at least too self-conscious. There is simply no scenario in which I fling myself off a bridge.

To put it another way: Crushes? What?

So let’s back up and say instead that in this particular moment, sitting in the cab of Greg’s truck, all I know is that I view #4 with a general sense of goodwill, and also think it might sometime be kind of nice to kiss him.

But even that’s not the whole truth, so let me start again.

All I really know is that in this moment, I resolve to never, ever, under penalty of death, mention his exceptional smile or his cheekbones to a living soul ever again.***

*****

For discussion: Talk to me about crushes. Do you keep them secret? Tell all your friends? Are you cool and casual and cavalier about them, or do you feel embarrassed? Do you even notice when you have them? (If you do, good job. You are much more self-aware than teenage-me. If not, you might want to work on that. Just. Trust me.)

*Also, she filled it out last year and none of her matches were even remotely acceptable. By which I mean, they were awkward, antisocial, and mostly seniors. She is shallow.

**Captain Perfect is . . . well, perfect.

(Except for all the drinking and the indiscriminate making-out and the way he can be outrageously condescending and still seem like he’s just doing it out of some sort of misguided kindness.)

(But his eyes are spectacular.)

***Remember this, because oh God, does it come back later.

41 thoughts on “The Secret Crush

  1. I never tell anyone, ever. Except while I excel at keeping secrets, I really suck at concealing that I have a secret to keep, and when confronted with a correct guess, am a terrible liar.

    In OAC year of high school (basically when I was a senior), I had a crush on a guy who my a friend’s former interest, and for some reason I decided that she could never know this, so I manufactured a crush on someone else, just to throw them off. It worked (and I got found out about the Pretend Crush, as always), but I have no idea why I thought it was necessary.

    • so I manufactured a crush on someone else, just to throw them off

      Is this pathological or something? I went and did the exact same thing (only in a completely passive way where I was just kind of going along with it), and then of course felt very dysfunctional—but for some reason, feeling dysfunctional and dishonest still seemed preferable to being, you know, vulnerable.

      This is also how I learned that I am a competent liar, and then decided to not lie ever again, because it was way too scary, how easily people just believed me.

      • The crazy part is how *deliberate* about it I was. I picked someone who I thought would be believable, and who I wouldn’t have minded going to a movie with (or something…we were a pretty boring lot) if “the worst should happen” and he actually asked me out (I knew that was very unlikely, but I’m a planner).

        I should probably confess to that someday…

  2. So, OK: in high school, I had a crush on a guy, let’s call him Ashby, who wasn’t in my main social group but who I hung out with a lot on account of the fact that we both did debating after school. There was a lot of flirting on my part, wherein I’d strategically wear my slightly shorter uniform on debating days, and eventually something did come of it (albeit briefly and weirdly, though thankfully in such a way that we remained friends afterwards and are still friends now). I crushed on him even when I was desperately in love with someone else, because that’s sort of how crushes (and high school, come to think of it) work, and it was, in general, a lot of fun.

    Then we have the pineapple story.

    In Year 11, my Drama class consisted of me and six other girls I had nothing in common with. This was an extremely unusual arrangement that only came about because all of us planned to drop Maths the following year and therefore didn’t want to do it when it was no longer technically compulsory. All our parents had written to the school asking us to be exempted for Year 11; all of us were granted it, and so we became a class, because we had all chosen Drama as an elective (the other six also did Art, which says something very stereotypical about subject choices.) All this meant that our class was exceptionally tiny, and that I was always on the outside of it, because whereas all the other girls were friends with each other – and also with our teacher to a certain extent – I wasn’t, and had earned the teacher’s enmity early on by proving her wrong in her knowledge of one of our main texts (a poem I’d known by heart since I was about eight). Point being, I was definitely the Weird Girl of Drama, and so reveled in my status by periodically being as weird and annoying as possible.

    So this one day, we had to go out and film things for some assignment or other, which translated to our wandering around campus for two hours. It was a double period at the end of a long day, and at some point I had managed to acquire a sea captain’s hat from the props box. Almost as soon as I’d put it on, one of the other girls has requested I take it off. My response was to deny that I was wearing a hat at all. This went on for roughly the entire lesson, expanding in scope so that, whenever any bystander students asked why I had the hat, I’d always reply with, ‘What hat?’ Which, in my head, was funnier every time. Sufficed to say that by the time the last bell rang, I was just about bursting from the effort of keeping my hysterics contained. I returned the hat to the box, grabbed my stuff, and raced off to find my friend – we’ll call him Spikes – and tell him what I’d done.

    Spikes, being of a more normal persuasion, was nonplussed when I told him the Hat Story. When I’d finished, I waited expectantly for his reaction, which I’d assumed would be laughter. Instead, he looked straight at me and said, ‘That’s really, really random.’

    And at the word ‘random’, my brain – which had thus far been repressing hilarity for nigh on two hours – decided that the only appropriate response to this was to cycle a random word to the forefront of my consciousness: specifically, the word ‘pineapple.’ And because the whole thing was so completely absurd, I burst out laughing – only I couldn’t stop, because every time Spikes asked me what was so funny, all I could think of was pineapple, which made it funnier, and so I laughed harder, and he was left standing there, bewildered and increasingly concerned – he actually asked, in all seriousness, whether I was OK or drunk or on drugs – and even though I said fine, no, when the only explanation I could eventually choke out was ‘pineapple,’ I’m pretty sure he didn’t believe me.

    The practical upshot of this was that I ended up on a genuine natural high, literally buzzing on humour, and so decided in this fit of inflated, pineapple-induced confidence, that now was the perfect time to reveal my feelings for Ashby. So I ran to the other side of campus, where I knew he’d be, bounded alongside him in what was clearly an utterly manic state, cracked a few jokes, and then, in response to some remark of his – I honestly don’t remember what – said, ‘Aw, Ashby, you know I love you,’ and then ran away again, laughing madly.

    My exuberance at having told him lasted about an hour. Then I crashed down, hard, on what an idiot I was, and began dreading what he’d think or say if he ever realised I was serious. Which, thankfully, he didn’t, though I had to wait several agonising days to figure that out.

    The moral of the story is, don’t tell boys you’re crushing on them while under the influence of your own idiocy, especially if hats and pineapples are involved.

    • There was a lot of flirting on my part, wherein I’d strategically wear my slightly shorter uniform on debating days

      Oh, this is excellent—I mean, it’s like something straight out of a movie!

      Also, I love the pineapple story to a huge degree. It’s a completely foreign kind of of story to teenage-me, only because I was a chilly, repressed creature with no sense of abandon, but all my best friends were exactly the kind of people who could become manically gleeful over imaginary fruit and then do things they regretted. Catherine, especially, was always doing things in the spirit of fun and feeling stupid afterward, and then we would have to take alternate routes through the school so we wouldn’t run into the latest object of her embarrassment.

      And on a semi-pineapple-related note—once my sister and I spent a whole afternoon laughing wildly and uncontrollably over the word nevertheless. I still, to this day, have no idea why it seemed so funny, but for years after that, it was like a private joke. Only, without a set-up. And there was no real punchline. Just, nevertheless.

  3. …has no problem scooping me up with one arm and carrying me around on his shoulder like a doll.

    It sounds like a lot of boys were picking or scooping or swinging you about in high school. Any thoughts on why?

    …we all fill out a survey in homeroom and get matched up with a handful of other students whose views and personalities complement our own.

    We did this too, but in seventh and eighth grade. I thought it was fun, but not terribly enlightening, at the time. It wasn’t until years later that I became appalled that the school sponsored it and how wrong that was on so many levels (the emphasis on relationships for 13 year olds, the inherent heterosexism, etc.).

    Re: crushes: I *always* kept my crushes secret. In high school, a few friends figured out my main crush of 3.5 years (the supremely geeky pale guy with the 180 IQ – no exaggeration), but they only taunted me a little bit. I was very good at keeping this information close to the vest, not only because I was a pretty private person, but also because guys were never a focus for me. Yes, I had dramatic fantasies, like how I would get to kiss Super IQ Guy if one of us needed mouth-to-mouth or CPR (what was wrong with my adolescent longings?), but I never told anyone about them. I knew, as you found out, that any disclosure could lead to much embarrassment and taunting, and I wanted no part of that. I even had an acquaintance use the tired but usually effective (with others) taunt of “What, are you a lesbian?” to try to get crush information out of me. She didn’t realize she was playing against 1) a stonewaller of much practice and 2) someone who couldn’t be threatened by sexual orientation taunts.

    Thankfully, nothing ever came of my many years of crushdom on Super IQ guy (who, while smart, wasn’t that nice and had way too many Republican leanings for me), and instead I met my now-spouse in my 12th grade AP English class. We were two of the three students who actually liked Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and initially bonded over talking about that. :)

    • It sounds like a lot of boys were picking or scooping or swinging you about in high school.

      Now that you mention it, YES. And I have a two-pronged theory on why this is. The first prong is that when I say I was a late bloomer, that is a huge, huge understatement. I didn’t acquire an even remotely grown-up body until I was 18, and I grew almost two inches *after* I was 21, so for the really big boys, I was kind of a novelty item—precocious and childlike (the Morrigan, anyone?). The second prong is that I was very self-contained in a way that makes people want to shake you around until you rattle. Inside, I wasn’t remotely stuck-up, but I seemed that way, and so there was a certain type of boy (big, loud, musclebound, football team) who thought it was just really funny to treat me like a toy and find out if I would crack.

      It wasn’t until years later that I became appalled that the school sponsored it and how wrong that was on so many levels

      Oh, yes. And we actually had the option of including our phone numbers in our surveys, so that our matches would be able to call us. Like, on the phone. Without warning. For no reason. I was so, so scandalized, but then, I’ve always hated the phone.

      Hooray for pale geniuses and being unaffected by taunts of secret lesbianism! (I never in my life could have predicted typing that sentence.) I think teenage crushes are so useful in terms of Practicing Having Feelings. You know, without actually having to navigate them with another person in the way, messing everything up, being all unpredictable and forcing you to adjust. Teenage crushes are the best! (Except on days when they’re the worst.)

  4. I was absurdly, terminally secretive about them in high school, for no real reason except the vague combination of, among other factors, a small high school and a fear of vulnerability. I was, at least, usually aware enough to know, but definitely closer to embarrassed, in a way that manifested in ignoring the person a lot, and generally only cool and collected in situations where it was very, very secret or more than six kinds of impossible.

    Interestingly, though, the sentence “He’s too stoned” was one that came up very, very often for me in precisely this context.

    • a fear of vulnerability

      ::bells and whistles:: ::a parade for you::

      And the funny thing was, when I was in high school, I thought I was so brave most of the time. I mean, I wasn’t scared of anything. Except people. Which I was terrified of.

      the sentence “He’s too stoned” was one that came up very, very often for me in precisely this context.

      I think to a certain subset of girls (people?), there’s just something so compelling about inaccessibility. If someone’s already unreachable, then you never have to worry about … well, reaching them.

  5. I don’t think I have ever in my life kept a crush secret. This is probably directly related to the fact that I almost always act on my crushes, in one way or another, in order to figure out whether they are just a passing thing or Something Else.

    Luckily I am married to somebody who understands that I am a flirt and is also a flirt and neither of us get bothered by this. Of course, being head over heels with him helps keep things from getting out of hand.

    • I don’t think I have ever in my life kept a crush secret.

      I’m trying my hardest to imagine this life.

      *imagining, imagining*

      Nope, it’s not working.

      Even with D, I never told people about him until we started dating, and then all my friends were like “Really? How did that happen? Wait, when did you meet him?”

      This is because I am irrationally private. Or secretive. Or uncommunicative. Depending on how generous you’re feeling.

      I’m getting better, but only because I finally realized that there’s no penalty for actually telling people what you like and want and what you’re doing.

  6. Oh man, I wish I was an amazing secret keeper. That is such an admirable quality! I am TERRIBLE with secrets. My friends and family thankfully know not to tell me anything they don’t want me to forget is a secret and mention months/years later – and I make sure to tell new friends this not-fabulous quality about myself when I need to, even though it makes me feel like the world’s biggest jerk. (idk why people like to confide in me, but they do… seriously, people, don’t do it!!)

    I never kept my school-days crushes a secret either – although I never talked to them, or told them myself. My friends did this for me. Sometimes it was good, when they’d set us up, sometimes it was terrible.

    The most embarrassing crush reveal was in seventh grade when my BFF gave him a tape she’d made – in front of everyone at lunch – and I had no idea until it was played that the tape was of a phone conversation between the two of us, where we were talking about how much I liked him. She cut out all of her parts and remixed mine that so it was me saying over and over how into him I was (and I was definitely the *tragic* type when it came to swooning over boys!)(actually, I still am)

    Ugh. my crush – who I was head-over-heels for until we were seniors – still remembered the tape years later. I never got over being horrified by it.

    • although I never talked to them, or told them myself. My friends did this for me

      This right here is, I think, the primary reason I refused to tell anyone anything. I had a low tolerance for embarrassment and was convinced that as soon as anyone knew anything about me, everyone would know. Basically, I lived in terror of your 7th grade crush-reveal.

      Also, despite my staunch ability to keep a secret, I’ve always been friends with the people who are biologically incapable. Like, my best friend for the second half of high school would be in the process of blurting out a secret, realize what he was doing, clap both hands over his mouth … and keep talking. It was like some kind of involuntary reflex that just happened to be filled with the potential for profound embarrassment. As a result, I was convinced that I should never tell anyone anything.

      • “Like, my best friend for the second half of high school would be in the process of blurting out a secret, realize what he was doing, clap both hands over his mouth … and keep talking.”

        OH THIS IS GREAT!!! And it makes me feel less alone :)

        For some reason I cannot fathom, my high school friends’ mothers seemed to think I was the best person to help them plan surprise parties for their daughters and I was incapable of saying no, so I spent most of sophomore year terrified (slight exaggeration – only *slight*) that I was going to blow a sweet sixteen party I helped plan and disappoint the world because I couldn’t keep my big mouth shut.

  7. Your not-a-relationship with #4 is like every chick-flick-romance-movie EVER. Have you noticed? I have noticed.

    I love crushes. I love having them. But I hate talking about the real ones. Always have kept them secret – that’s part of the pleasure of a crush, I think. That it’s a secret. Any time it stops being a secret, it’s almost like it stops being a crush.

    • Your not-a-relationship with #4 is like every chick-flick-romance-movie EVER. Have you noticed? I have noticed.

      Oh, believe me, it only gets worse, weirder, and more cinematic. Also, I think that really what’s going on is that every high school crush is just chick-flick fodder waiting to happen. Because art imitates … high school? No, that’s not right.

      Any time it stops being a secret, it’s almost like it stops being a crush.

      Yes! Almost like it gets contaminated by the real world. Because I think of everything in terms of Petri dishes, apparently.

  8. (ps. I don’t know what’s up, but your comments are showing up very strangely tiny. The post text is normal, but all the comments are to small they’re impossible to read without command+.)

    • (I believe you. But. I cannot for the life of me reproduce the produce the problem. And you know what that means, Gratton—without a recurring phenomenon, we have no basis for study! Let me know if it’s still That Way.)

  9. So, crushes.
    This is a fact; I like guys. Like, genuinely enjoy them. And I know how to talk with them. I get along with them. Sometimes they find me a little strange, but guys almost always like me. This makes crushes sort of silly and fun. I’m so NOT SHY that I tell my friends about it and flirt my head off. And it’s lovely.
    Except.
    There have only been two boys that I’ve ever met who just… befuddled me. It’s really quite pathetic.
    One of them was just a really beautiful latino guy, lets call him Carlos. The thing was, he was REALLY nice. And REALLY smart. And I had no idea how to deal with this. There was just something about the chemistry when I met his eyes that made me a complete idiot. I am not accustomed to being a complete idiot.
    One day, a couple girl friends and I went to lunch at the restaurant his family owned, and I was like “Okay you guys, there’s a guy here who is sooo cute. You know Carlos from school?” And my friends, who are quite used to my boy crazy ways just smiled and laughed and we went on talking. After a couple of minutes Carlos walked up to our table and smiled at us, and then looked at me and said something like “Hi.” and gave me a sort of… flirty look? He’s a total flirt, so it wasn’t personal, but because he had some bizarre affect on my hormones I turned BEAT RED. I do not blush. Like, ever. And then I sort of… giggled. I swear, my brains were dripping out my ears.
    When he left my friends looked at me with so much incredulity that I can’t even convey it. They looked like a cartoon of incredulity. Then they looked at each other and burst into hysterical laughter. And I mean HYSTERICAL. It was awful. Finally, when they calmed down, one of them looked at me (I swear to god she had tears in her eyes) and said “I have never, ever, seen you like this. And I’ve known you for six years. You are bright red, did you know that?” I am about 90% sure that’s a direct quote. They just could not believe it. I just don’t act like that. I am never shy. I am always able to brazen pretty much anything out. But for some reason this guy made me feel like a bowl of jello.
    They tortured me for the rest of the meal, which only turned me reder. But, when it came time to pay they didn’t make me go up to the counter, thank god. I had to beg them to let me slink off in shame. I couldn’t even look at him WITHOUT my friends around. There was no way I would be able to work a debit machine with them watching me.
    They still, on occasion, bring this up.
    Or they did, until they both died in a mysterious accident. I have no idea how deadly nightshade got into their diet cokes, but it was tragic.

    • I know exactly what you mean about the melting brain. Even at the best of times, I wasn’t the world’s most graceful spatially-aware person, but introduce an element of crush and I suddenly became a catastrophic Dropper of Things. Anything I was holding—books, loose change, half-full bottles of Coke—it all just kind of … flew out of my hands. It was like a nervous tic. Except, throwing things down on the ground.

      The thing my sister said to me most often during my senior year: “What is wrong with you?”

      I think she thought I’d contracted some sort of latent seizure disorder.

      Also, the threat of hysterical laughter was precisely why I refused to ever tell anyone anything about … anything. I liked being involved in other people’s relationship angst just fine—listening and weighing in. But I absolutely couldn’t tolerate being at the center of it. That just seemed too revealing.

      I have no idea how deadly nightshade got into their diet cokes, but it was tragic.

      Grace, you kill me. And in a totally non-botanically-toxic way.

  10. Brenna, have I ever before said how much I truly love your posts? It’s like my junior year is strangely mirroring yours… IT IS FREAKING ME OUT. (However, your life seems fascinating, so I’m pretty okay with it. :D)

    For discussion: Talk to me about crushes. Do you keep them secret? Tell all your friends? Are you cool and casual and cavalier about them, or do you feel embarrassed? Do you even notice when you have them?

    I said this last week as well, and since it’s good, I’ll copy+paste: I realized that a few of the people I’ve had “crushes” on, I didn’t actually “like-like” them. I just wanted to get to know them better, become friends with them, find out how their brain works, how they think and act and live… apparently, this is not a usual teenage response. At least, not an articulated one.”

    Historically, I kept crushes to myself. In a small school, a crush could wreck the entire dynamic of the 45-person grade. Then when I got to high school, I kept mostly to myself until around January of this year. Now, I’m pretty open about it. There’s one guy (M) I really like, but one other (E) that intrigues me. I don’t THINK I like-like E, I just think I want to know him better. I’m embarrassed about possibly, even remotely, liking E. I think the issue is that he’s younger, and also my friend, and friends with a lot of my other friends… it just feels weird to like E. With M, he’s my friend, and friends with my pre-HS friends, (and I’m friends with a lot of his pre-HS friends), but I’m pretty “cool and casual” about liking him. It’s not like it’s a secret, but I’m not jumping up and down with a megaphone or anything.

    I notice when I have crushes, but the issue arises when I try and figure out where on the spectrum they are. I use a barometer gleaned from NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST in order to determine the level of my like. I used to gauge it by whether or not I wanted to kiss them, but now I go more simple: Do I want to hold hands with them? It’s worked thus far. But as of yet, not a single crush has gone a way other than nothing happening and feelings gradually fading.

    Do you know of hannah Moskowitz? Something about this post reminded me of her, in a good way.

    I think I talk too much on your blog. (Sorry.)

    • “I realized that a few of the people I’ve had “crushes” on, I didn’t actually “like-like” them. I just wanted to get to know them better, become friends with them, find out how their brain works, how they think and act and live… apparently, this is not a usual teenage response. At least, not an articulated one.”

      Ha! I’m a teen and this happens to me too. Either we’re both weird, or this isn’t as uncommon as you think.

    • It’s like my junior year is strangely mirroring yours… IT IS FREAKING ME OUT.

      You know, one of the really funny things about doing these posts has been seeing how singular I felt in high school, versus how many people had/are having similar feelings and experiences!

      I’m developing a theory regarding a certain subset of girl—that we’re just a particular strain of recreational thinker, where all the normal adolescent emotions still exist, they just take a backseat to hardcore analysis. I just always had this driving need to solve things, make them coherent, with an identifiable narrative and at least *some* kind of cause-and-effect.

      I kept mostly to myself until around January of this year. Now, I’m pretty open about it.

      The amount my life would have been easier if I had done this … is a lot.

      Also, I love Nick and Norah.

      Also, I love Hannah Moskowitz.

      Also, there is no such thing as talking too much on this blog.

      • I’m developing a theory regarding a certain subset of girl—that we’re just a particular strain of recreational thinker, where all the normal adolescent emotions still exist, they just take a backseat to hardcore analysis.
        This sounds like me. I think your theory has a certain validity.

  11. I was kind of weirdly self-aware about my crushes during high school. I never did anything about them, primarily because somewhere, in the back of my mind, there was always a voice telling me that it was just a stupid crush, they weren’t really that great, and I’d stop liking them within a week or two. And generally that’s exactly what happened. (Whether this was natural or because I talked myself into it, I don’t know.)

    I also got (and still get) weirdly grumpy and sad when I have a crush, because a number of years of teasing in middle school left me with the deep-seated conviction that even if I liked someone, clearly there was no possible way they could like me back. That’s… honestly something I’m still working on getting over, and it’s been thirteen years.

    • left me with the deep-seated conviction that even if I liked someone, clearly there was no possible way they could like me back.

      I absolutely had this too, and I can’t even really trace it to any sort of baseline experience or social rejection (mostly because I mercifully did not have to go to middle school). It was still just this absolute belief—that no one I was interested in was ever going to like me back, and I would be alone forever. Which is a pretty weird conviction to have at 17. (I was way too obsessed with the idea that everyone in the world was looking for someone present and organized, who didn’t leave discarded sweaters and lone socks lying around the house or think it was funny to make baked goods that look like major organs or walk into walls and furniture because they were just thinking really hard.)

      Thankfully, this turned out to not be true and my husband appreciates the things I’m good at (not avoiding the furniture, sadly). But I spent about four years filled with absolute conviction that I was going to be a weird little spinster in a charming house full of cats and dogs and venus flytraps.

  12. “I’m seventeen years old, and even on paper, I’m not quite brave enough to get the words out. Forget saying them out loud.”

    Um… wow. I’m seventeen, and still struggling with words. And as for telling people about possible crushes, well, I don’t explicitly say “I like [insert name here]” because I don’t exactly know when I have a crush on someone, since there isn’t a set way of distinguishing whether or not you like someone as a friend, or as something more. However, if I find myself thinking about someone a lot, can describe him using more than just “nice”, and can’t help noticing things like this:

    “All I know is that I like his smile. He hardly ever smiles, and when he does, it’s usually this gun-to-the-head, bank-job-hostage, forced-march kind of smile, but on the rare occasions when he accidentally smiles a real one? Well, it’s pretty much exceptional.”

    … I try to casually slip their name into conversations to try to see them through someone else’s eyes. If the consensus is generally negative, then I think that people are either viewing him superficially and are missing something substantial about everyone other than themselves, or I’ve got a crush on a “bad guy”. Although, if his name elicits positive reactions, I have know idea what to think.

    • I don’t exactly know when I have a crush on someone, since there isn’t a set way of distinguishing whether or not you like someone as a friend, or as something more

      I think this is a really good thing to be aware of. And it really caused me tons of problems as a teenager, precisely because so many people around me just had this very lightning-bolt existence, where things were immediately obvious, and so I assumed that when the time came, I would feel exactly the same way. When in fact, I can’t even be counted on to notice that I’m hungry until I’m already ravenous and agitated and trying to figure out why suddenly I want to set everything around me on fire.

  13. Ahhh! This is a fun topic! Well…kind of.

    I’ve had more than a few unfortunate crushes. One was horrific and totally unrequited and extraordinarily pathetic. I cried into my pillow basically for a year and a half. It was probably the most awful crush ever.

    After that, I learned to be more assertive and actually act on how I felt. Usually, though, I was not very aware of my feelings until it was too late. It became an awkward spiral of constant denial. I’d have weird butterflies around a person, usually not a person I WANTED to have weird butterflies for, and would promptly stuff it in a box, and try to sit on the box and keep my feelings from coming out. The idea was that hopefully they would be smothered over time, die out, and never bother me again.

    That doesn’t really work. During the spring of my sophomore year of high school, I had a truly unfortunate crush. In the end, my attempts to keep it contained and hidden blew up in my face. I told myself that it would never work, he didn’t like me, and that I’d be better off forgetting about it and trying to move on. Then said crush announced that he was moving away, so I figured I would at least give myself some closure in the hopes of not pining away for this dude. Well, the feeling was mutual, and now we’re married. Go figure!

    Quite awful how embarrassed I would get around him. There was a lot of awkward blushing, stuttering, and running away. My poor husband was very understanding at fifteen when it came to my terribly awkward expressions of affection. The first time we ever kissed, I worked up the courage to be sneaky and try to surprise him. I was whirling him around in the weirdest dance ever when I “accidentally” knocked him down and kissed him. Thankfully, neither of us were injured, and he was not offended by my silliness.

    The second time was another flustered surprise kissing attack. We had been hanging out one evening, and I had been hoping for a kiss all night. We were standing outside my house, and he was about to leave. So as he was turning to go, I grabbed him by the hand, whirled him around, kissed him, and then freaked out completely. I literally ran screaming back into the house.

    I don’t know how it was that he stuck with me. I’ve asked him several times how in the world he was not scared off by my strange lovestruck behavior, and he said that he honestly found it completely adorable. He was a very shy person, and had trouble working up the courage to make the first move because I was so fidgety and nervous around him. Somehow, he was cool with my freakouts.

    We’ve been together for over ten years now, and I still get nervous butterflies around him sometimes. :)

    • I figured I would at least give myself some closure in the hopes of not pining away for this dude. Well, the feeling was mutual, and now we’re married.

      Good for you! Brave and excellent :)

      And the details you’ve disclosed about your awkward and manic courtship really encapsulate puppy love in its truest form—the cavorting and the wrestling and screaming and the knocking down. (Knocking down! That is the best.)

      He was a very shy person, and had trouble working up the courage to make the first move

      I’ve also always been a very shy person and loved it when other people made the first move. I have a really high tolerance for loud, erratic behavior, and for the bizarre. Most of my friends have tended to be the wild, awkward type and I’ve always loved them for it—there’s a certain balancing out that happens. That needs to happen. And since it was clear that they were the ones doing the picking, I always knew they liked me. (These days, I’ve gotten over a lot of this, but I still like to hang back and watch for awhile before I commit.)

  14. I pretty much kept all of my crushes a secret. Mostly because my crushes were on girls and I live in a predominately LDS (mormon) state and to some members of the religion, that is completely unacceptable. It is considered a sin. (Though my friends who were mormon who I happened to tell about my crushes, handled it very well).

    I also kept my crushes secret because a lot of them were on my best friends and I thought they would be so disgusted that I kept my mouth shut. Portia de Rossi said it very well. She would imagine having these great relationships and lives with her girl best friends and then would be crushed when they got a boyfriend. I did the same thing. Then she learned that she needed to be with women who have the same feelings toward other women because her straight friends would never love her back. At least not in the way she wanted. When I heard her say that, it’s like a light bulb went off and I said to myself that that’s what I need to do. But even after that realization, I still pretty much keep my crushes a secret. It’s hard for me to open up about my crushes.

    Lol hopefully that comment made sense. I’m the queen of rambling :)

    • I pretty much kept all of my crushes a secret. Mostly because my crushes were on girls

      It’s funny, but this was something I thought about quite a bit in high school, because I felt so (semi-)guilty about the fact that I was having a hard time with something that was not only socially acceptable, but actually expected, and how much harder it must be for all the people who were made to feel like what they wanted wasn’t even allowed.

      (Though my friends who were mormon who I happened to tell about my crushes, handled it very well).

      I’m really glad to hear this. I had a few friends in high school who wound up in same-sex relationships when they were in their 20s, and on the one hand, I was always sorry that they didn’t feel like they could talk to anyone about it back when we were in high school, but on the other hand, I totally understood why they felt that way. I like to think that things are getting better/easier now, but it all changes so slowly most of the time, and the social penalties are still just so much worse sometimes!

      Also, if you are the queen of rambling, then I am the empress, because I’m not even sure I’m making sense right now. Anyway. (Just, you know what I mean!)

  15. I’m in high school now. I got to go to a game with my crush about a year ago. We were going down to our seats in the football stadium with our mothers when I fell, and proceeded to have an asthma attack that caused a radical fall down thirteen levels of stairs and taking out two children in the process.
    My philosophy with crushes is test out your friends. I simply told a completely obscure name to my friends when they questioned me about it. Some told, others didn’t. Needless to say, I only trust a few, and for some reason they put up with me stopping in mid conversation to write bits of dialogue on my forearms.
    I guess it worked out even for my crush and myself. Although I wanted to kill him. Past tense; still do, actually, if he wasn’t the best bassist around.
    We were preparing a duet (bass and viola! sooooo romantic, right?). We were going in to play our piece for a judge and surprisingly nailed it (it never ceases to amazing me that people actually ENJOY the screeching that comes from playing in fifth position on my a string). The judge, who could not see us, but I knew as a family friend (it was an anonymous competition) remarked that we ‘took his breath away’, He inserted our score into the slot on the wall, and turned around to congratulate us. Crush remarks ‘it’s okay. I take her breath away all the time, even on the stairs.’ I go cold, smile a frightening look that I use in the haunted house that I currently am employed at, and reply, “It’s okay. I found out he doesn’t know how to pluck anything. You should have seen him when I changed my G String.”
    (NO, I am NOT PERVERTED. A VIOLA HAS A C, G, D, and A STRING. MY G ACTUALLY HAD BROKEN DURING PRACTICE)
    Of course, I am now moritfied that I said it, but the man smiled, laughed, and told me I really was related to my parents after all.
    About two weeks later, Crush has a seizure by the pool at summer camp. I saw it coming. My mother has seizures, so I knew how to care for him. I got him away from the water, called 911, and told the medics what type, how long, what level, ect. He was amazed that I didn’t push him in the water (I had threated to kill him in more painful ways in the days following the incident) and apologized profusely for making the comment and calling me fat. Of the latter I was not aware.

    Yeah, not my same crush anymore.

    • I fell, and proceeded to have an asthma attack that caused a radical fall down thirteen levels of stairs and taking out two children in the process.

      That is dramatic in that way that you just never want to have happen, even though it makes an excellent story!

      Also: I only trust a few, and for some reason they put up with me stopping in mid conversation to write bits of dialogue on my forearms.

      Best kind of friends there are, and the kind worth keeping!

      Also-also, wow. This whole series of events is straight out of some kind of quirky, snarky movie, great banter and all! I love that you have a rapport and hate that he made fun of you, but love that he apologized. After you responded well in an emergency situation and kept him from potentially drowning in a pool. And THAT is a good story!

  16. Hiya Brenna – I love all your posts but I especially love your HS posts. A Brenna HS Day is a good day.

    I have gone back to my blog after a two-year break [ongoing health issues, v boring] & your HS posts have inspired me to write my own – copycat I know. Call it therapy: I was not like you in HS. Just from reading, you were / are so self-aware, aware of what was going on around you, & had this amazing sense of self, ie Who Brenna Was [instilled by parents? Friends? Home-schooling? I’m truly fascinated]. I was a pathetic individual, totally unaware of anything going on around me, had no idea of who I was except for horrible negative stuff, I was desperately shy, years behind my peers in social & physical development, & I was also in very poor physical health. Oh did I ever get bullied . . . It totally destroyed me. I’m several years older than you I think & it’s only relatively recently I’ve got over “all that”.

    So, crushes. I went to a “mixed” private school so there were plenty of boys around, but I wasn’t remotely interested. I have two older brothers & their mates were always round our house, I thought boys were annoying & boring & stinky. I went for the older types . . . well I did when I eventually became interested in the opposite sex!

    And I have a pale genius too! A gorgeous Irish one. Yep, had to travel 15,000 km to find him but it was worth it. We’re coming up to our 10th wedding anniversary.

    Apols for such a long post. Thanks again for ALL your writing,

    x

    jules

    • I’m really glad you like the HS posts! Because I like writing them, and I especially like hearing from everybody about their own experiences (wow, I really am very story-oriented, but I keep forgetting and then remembering again). Anyway, they’re fun to write, but also a great excuse to ask incredibly nosy questions. So, in short: there is no such thing as copy-catting or too-long responses, only communication!

      Over the years, I’ve actually thought a lot about how teenage-me even came about, because I was just at such an opposite end of the spectrum from pretty much everybody I knew—i.e., totally sure of who I was as a singular being, and completely incapable of recognizing almost all social expectations. I just spent so much time alone or only with my sister growing up that by the time I hit high school, I was bored with me and wanted to know about everyone else.

      The one real saving grace about this was, by no virtue of my own, I wound up going into public school essentially bully-proof. Which does *not* mean I stood up for myself or anything noble and cinematic like that, just that I was already so set in my ways that it was an effort for me to internalize things, and so anything antagonistic was simply a really low priority. I look back and am so grateful for how easy that made my experience, compared to what I saw happening to other people.

      That’s interesting about older types—I was actually really opposed to dating anyone older than me, and for no logical reason. It just felt like this very important dividing line. Maybe all it really meant was that subconsciously I worried than an older boy would expect more than I was ready for, but that honestly never crossed my mind at the time. I just thought anyone who wasn’t in my grade was “too old” for me.

      And congratulations on your pale genius! They are the absolute best, and I enjoy mine every single day :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s