I recently asked a married male friend whether he still has crushes. At first he told me he didn’t, but after a little pestering he admitted that, fine, okay, maybe he gets a tiny little baby crush from time to time. I already figured this, though, because a life without crushing is not a life worth living.

I’ve been in the same relationship for a long time now. It’s a good one, too; we want the same things out of life, more or less, are both total weirdos, share Europeans (as in people, not cars), and have fought maybe a handful of times, ever. It’s swell. But I can also tell you that it wouldn’t have been the same all these years without some crushes.

I’m of the opinion that even the most happily partnered young couple requires a dose of extracurricular mooning. When you’re in your twenties, you hear a lot about other people’s sex and catastrophe, but you’re not really able to participate in the conversation if you’ve got a main squeeze. Instead, you nod and offer up a shoulder, mostly relieved but also a little bit envious because while you may have been spared cartloads of emotional horseshit, you have a lot fewer stories to tell your girlfriends over pints. The other, obvious downside of comfort is that it doesn’t mess with your head. And, sometimes, your head wants to be messed with. This is where a crush becomes useful.

I don’t get crushes often, but when I do I make sure to dwell on them as much as possible. It’s a gift of mine, and like all gifts, it deserves practice. After all, I can’t imagine a worse fate than unlearning to nurture a crush. My boyfriend doesn’t mind my crushes; he has a bunch of them, too. I hope he doesn’t stop having them, because that would make me feel like an asshole.

The thing with crushes is that they aren’t necessarily about outcomes; usually, they’re just excuses to hone the art of fixation. The point of the crush is to crush–to remind the dreamy teenager inside of us all not to be smothered by Serious Life Choices. Sometimes it’s about flirting, too. But mostly, I think about crushes the way a pornographer I once met thinks about people in general: “Everyone is so damn hot. This world–it’s like being on Ecstasy, man.” And, the more I think about it, the more I realize he’s right.

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