Even living a full, single life, occasionally, I get bored. While most of the time I don’t miss the drama of emotion that can accompany liking somebody.
However, I still sometimes yearn for the pick-me-ups—the sweetness of thinking about somebody, the blushing, and the overall flirty behavior. Somewhere along the way I discovered how to teeter in between worlds, and identified the perfect approach to having a crush that brought me all the high notes of liking somebody but omitted the difficulties of a having real relationship.
I spent many of my early single years fixating about the future outcome of every crush; one crush in particular, was agonizing. Will, who ran in my same circle, was always playful and flirtatious. It seemed that he went out of his way to be near me and would continually find a way to make contact if we were sitting next to each other. He lavished me with flattery and twinkled his eyes at me when nobody was looking. I loved all the attention and was constantly electrified with excitement. Soon I was addicted and eager for what was next. The more our flirtations advanced, the more I thought about how perfect we would be together; it killed me that he wasn’t making a definitive move to be my man.
I wanted to advance things with Will but was terrified to broach the subject. Instead, I started to analyze every small notion to determine if he really liked me and therefore might be my future boyfriend. My best observation skills went toward deconstructing his body language down to the most imperceptible movements. I constantly analyzed the distance between us, deciphering if he stood closer to me than to anybody else. I hung on to every “Babe or “Cutie” out of his mouth and studied it like it was gospel. After two months of exhausting my friends with investigative reports of every small detail Will displayed throughout the day, one of my friends put it to me straight.
“This is madness, you need to just talk to him.”
She challenged me to call and ask him what was going on between us. The idea evoked a fear greater than any I had felt before. I thought of all the things that might go wrong: being rejected outright and him not liking me back, looking like a crazy girl who was way too attached, messing up our current situation and therefore losing the attention I was currently getting from him.
I swallowed my dread and vowed to her that I would call him Sunday morning. When the day arrived, I wanted to throw up. Of all the things I’ve done in my life, asking a guy if he liked me was the scariest. I rang him and when he answered, I spent the first 20 seconds speaking nonsense and generally being awkward. After a number of failed attempts to ease into the conversation, I went straight for it and blurted out “What are we? I’m trying to figure out if you like me and if you want more…”
Over the next few weeks our interactions changed and all of our flirtations came to a screeching halt. Every single one of my fears was realized; I definitely scared him off, I definitely made our friendship uncomfortable, I definitely said all the wrong things and rocked the boat. I definitely looked like a girl who was attached too soon. I definitely lost the attention that I used to get from him every day. The void left by the disappearance of our daily flirting was large and cold.
This rejection shook me. I couldn’t believe I had read the situation so wrong. I felt dumb and because of my embarrassment, I avoided Will and any potential scenario I might see him in. Weeks dragged by as I continued to feel worthless, when I finally gave myself an intervention. It was about time to shift my perspective on the situation. Although I had been left out in the cold all by myself, I had to find the silver lining.
It was then when I realized that perhaps what I wanted from Will, I’d already had, and by trying to push it forward, I’d lost it. As with any good perspective, finding the lesson in a less-than-ideal situation was a good way to continue moving forward rather than wallowing in failures of the past, and I saw that the lesson here actually looked eerily like the age old Buddhist teaching– stay present. I had learned time and time again through all my failed attempts at beginners’ meditation that In life, and now it turns out in crushes, worrying about any future outcome can ruin the current moment.
The everyday butterflies and coquetry were what I enjoyed the most. I didn’t necessarily want a relationship; I merely got greedy with what felt good. Crushes put pep in my step, but it was easy to get lost down a slippery slope. So I determined the best way to not lose my footing was to stay in the moment and not think about the future. Sometimes a crush is just a crush and best left at that; over analyzing every little step would never be an accurate indication of what was to come. After a few more practice crushes, I had mastered the art, learned to stay present and savored the sweetness.
*This is an adaptation from the book No Plus One: What to Do When Life Isn’t a Romantic Comedy.