Some weeks ago, I executed a groundbreaking personal experiment. I confessed my feelings to my crush.
In general, I tend to be (or at least, try to be) pretty vivacious and social. I like to think that I have (and use) some sort of sense of humor, and I genuinely enjoy talking to people and getting to know them.
Too bad all that goes out the window if I start being romantically interested in someone. I become downright mean. Or awkward. Or both. I can’t joke with them, I clam up. I get serious. Maybe even mean. If I like someone, for some reason my visceral instinct is to convey to them that I don’t like them.
Worst of all, I think I’m deeply suspicious of love in general. If I’m romantically interested in someone, for some reason my brain (and my deep set impatience) skips the friendship and goes straight to the lovin’. And suddenly this crush on a pedestal is on trial instead—would I really want to spend the rest of my life with this person? How will he react to all my hidden secrets? Should I let him in?
And then my brain kicks in: no, girl, no. Don’t let him in (you’re only going to have to kick him out again, as Dua Lipa would say).
Anyway, to return to the incident: there was some buildup here. Crush and I had seen each other rather regularly starting last semester, and I had always kind of thought he was cute (but not in the obsessive crush way—at least, not at that point). We texted a couple of times and gave each other fist pumps every so often. We hung out a little at parties and even went to the same early morning workouts for a club we were both in (we had so much in common, or so I liked to think).
Anyway, my friends noticed and the customary egging of the girlfriends began— “Oh, I think he likes you.” … “Ohmigosh you should ask him out” … and so on.
Suffice to say that at that point I was completely off the diving board and into the deep end. I was obsessed with Crush. I’m still not far removed enough from the incident to admit that I read into things that shouldn’t have been read into. But I probably read into things that shouldn’t have been read into.
But I’ve been through this song and game before. I’d become obsessed with a crush, think about him for days (or… weeks), and do absolutely nothing (out of a mixture of fear and general ineptitude) and wait for the guy to fall off the pedestal when I saw him pick his nose or something.
Anyway, it was on the one train uptown when I realized that the problem with this approach is that, while it makes sense to wait for something to happen naturally, I end up beating myself up over the crush. I don’t give myself any rest.
And I was agonizing over Crush. Like thinking about whether I should have gone to a party last night to get a chance to see him. Or whether I should have worn something different, or said something more exciting to him the last time I saw him.
And keep in mind—I barely knew this guy. Objectively—in my brain—I knew we were pretty different people. But my heart kept reassuring me that we were essentially soul mates.
So on the rickety subway uptown, it suddenly occurred to me—in the midst of all this agony—that this can’t be healthy for the brain, and that I had spent enough time thinking about Crush. There had to be a way to end it. And I knew there was. If I could just straight up ask if he was interested, then I would get an answer—either Crush would admit that he, too, fantasized about running his fingers through his soft, curly hair—I mean, my hair—or I would get a No. And I would be humiliated.
I whipped out my phone. Without thinking too hard, I dashed out a “are you free today or tomorrow.” The subway was underground. No service. For about three stops I stared at the screen, wondering whether or not I should take the leap. The service bars on my phone flitted in and out of existence. On the fourth time I saw three bars—I forced my thumb down and sent the text.
The response was immediate. “Yeah, why?”
It wasn’t too late to back out. I could still flake. But at that moment I had decided that humiliation was better than perpetual agony. At the very least, humiliation was a familiar enemy I felt like I knew how to deal with.
The hardest thing I’d done at that point in 2018 was make myself send the crucial text: “Can we have dinner tonight or lunch tomorrow?” I told Crush there was “something important” I needed to tell him.
He suggested coffee. I tried not to think about the fact that the time between messages got longer and longer from his end.
The hour of coffee was upon us. I spent the day prep-talking myself into not being a nervous wreck (I did a pretty good job of it, if I do say so myself—I was pretty calm). I told myself the typical nervous-girl lines—I am a CATCH and if he doesn’t think so it’s NOT my problem—and so on. It helped that I was reading Wollstonecraft that day, too.
The worst thing that could happen, I told myself, was that he would express disinterest. And then, presumably, I could get on with my life. The key, the most crucial point, was that I could replace agony with embarrassment.
To make a long story short, the beginning of our brief one-and-a-half-hour coffee date was extremely awkward. He was nice about it, apologizing and talking about how great I was but.
I kept a careful watch on my own emotional state. Surprisingly, I had put myself in a mindset where I refused to be embarrassed. I got my answer, and it was what I was half-expecting. The agony was over. And our conversation was relatively normal.
Obviously, it wasn’t a magical experience or anything. I was definitely not vivacious or energetic. I was definitely not suddenly over him. But the conversation was good. We talked, and I realized that maybe Crush and I weren’t so compatible after all. We have some pretty different core values that I just couldn’t see when he was so high up on the pedestal.
We split the bill (I was a little chagrined at that—I had kind of envisioned paying for it myself). When we met, we hugged (and I was excited). When we parted, we hugged (and I was trying not to make it awkward).
And for the rest of the evening, I watched the Olympics, ordered takeout Pho, and ate ice cream with friends.
I thought about that hour and a half for most of the week. Inevitably, ex-Crush and I were awkward whenever we saw each other. I tried to embrace my humiliation and tell myself that the alternative—love-sick agony—was far worse. Humiliation, embarrassment—these are things I am familiar with. I know how to deal with these feelings.
And maybe there’s some truth to the idea that being straightforward has its benefits. Because not long after that brief, awkward, embarrassing experience, I got over ex-Crush. A week after the Date, when I saw him again, I looked candidly at his face and realized that my heart didn’t skip a beat.
And despite the fact that this was one of the hardest things I had ever done (you know, come clean with my feelings knowing that I was most likely going to be embarrassed)—I think it was the right thing to do. Obsession isn’t love, and it definitely isn’t the right way to start a relationship.
At the very least, I managed to clear my head. And now, weeks and weeks after, I remain grateful for that.