Like the typical single millennial woman, I consume a lot of media about being single. Whether it’s positive or negative or about wanting love or not wanting love, most of it rarely makes me re-examine any aspect of my dating life, but it sure is fun.
I just started reading “How to Date Men when You Hate Men” by Blythe Roberson and while it is an entertaining read (and this is by no means a full review), it got me to think about the differences between how I view crushes and how I view people I’ve actually dated.
She writes about the value of crushes. Which for one, is so validating! Crushes are awesome! You should have more crushes! Roberson how crushes are basically how we actually figure out what we want from a partner. They’re the blank slates onto which we project our romantic ideals. Crushes are rarely about the person you’re crushing on.
So I reflected on my long and illustrious history of crushes. There were a lot. Summer camp crushes, work crushes, that random hot dude with the eyebrow piercing I used to always see around campus. But among this esteemed and elite group, there were 3 who really stuck out. These were the Big Crushes. Like, if all my crushes lived on a deserted island, they’d be the ones in charge. And despite being 3 wildly different people who I liked at very different ages, the reasons underpinning my feelings for them were pretty similar.
The first one happened in fourth grade, and just in case anyone from Harrison Elementary will be reading this, we’ll call this dude Andy. I liked Andy for 3 reasons. He was HILARIOUS, profoundly kind, and thought I was really smart. Andy sat next to me in math class, and there was one time I was really frustrated because I kept getting these problems all wrong (because math sucks and is for ugly people). Andy was trying to explain it to me and I said something along the lines of “I’m such a dumbass” but in language more appropriate for a 10 year old. Most 10 year olds would have laughed, but Andy goes “you’re not dumb, you’re just really smart in a different way.” Which looking back is hella insightful for a 10 year old boy!!! Andy would later reject me in the 6th grade when I dropped a letter in his locker professing my love. I actually think he’s now a police officer or working towards being one so I dodged a bullet there, really. Both literally and figuratively.
The second was in high school and was equally ill fated. Again, this guy, let’s name him Peter, was really funny. But in a kind of witty, high brow way, or at least as highbrow as high schoolers in suburban New Jersey got. He was smart and the exact moment I realized I had a massive, crippling crush on him was after a debate in class. Because he complimented my arguing skills. Honestly, if you want me to fall in love with you just tell me that I’m right and I know how to fight.
And lastly my most recent all consuming crush, which happened in college. This I’ll keep to the barest of details because I’m not about to spill the tea publicly, but if you know you know. James obviously had a great sense of humor, but with the right to vote I also had expanded my definition of kind. Kindness now meant a radical compassion for the marginalized, and more than that, compassion that drove someone to action. And like his predecessors, I could tell that he valued my opinion and intelligence. That’s about all I’ll say on that.
So logically you would think that in dating I would seek out funny, kind, social justice oriented men, who appreciated my intelligence. However, I have always been a damn fool. Literally not one person I’ve dated has fulfilled those characteristics. None of them were funny (I was the primary source of lols), they possessed an average level of kindness and consideration for a young male adult (so not an overwhelming amount), and their interest in extended that compassion to the oppressed was performative at best. I mean, most of them were cishetero white men, so I really should have seen that coming.
I know this is really elementary stuff, but it just shows how powerfully women are influenced by the pressure to be partnered, to fall in love. I think I mainly dated these dudes because they weren’t terrible (for the most part), I was attracted to them, and they liked me. A cute guy wanting to hang out with you is a really good way of liking said cute boy. Throw in some loneliness conjured by a living in a city in your early 20s and an extroverted nature and that’s basically how boyfriends are made.
I always thought that as I got older I would ascend to a higher plane in the way that I approached dating. Maybe I would get into polyamory or have a harem or finally not be the girl who texts back immediately. But maybe 10 year old Sydelle was onto something (besides crushing on cops).
Think about this way: if you didn’t match with them on Tinder and they didn’t immediately ask you out for drinks, and instead, they were the barista at your favorite coffee shop or a coworker or your best friend’s boyfriend’s friend, would you have a crush on them? If the answer is no, do you just like them because they’re cute and available and interested and it’s still technically cuffing season? Often our standards for crushes feel higher than the people we are actually kissing and introducing to our friends. Which is bonkers!
I figure the lesson here is: treat your potential partners like crushes, also have more crushes. It’s good for you.