The girl crush culture has been a big part of my life. People talk about girl crushes all the time. It’s a cute way to express your admiration towards a fellow woman without involving your sexuality and sexual attraction.
Yes, it’s cute. But mainly when you’re straight. It’s not all that easy when you’re not.
When I was questioning my sexuality, I also started questioning my “girl crushes.” Were they really so innocent? Or did I fancy these women for real? Did I want to be them? Did I want to be their friend? Or was there something more to it? And how was I to tell?
It was a confusing time for me. I wasn’t sure how to distinguish a crush from a girl crush. I knew what being attracted to boys felt like, but what about the other genders?
Turns out, I was right to question it. I wasn’t straight, and those were real crushes.
What’s the difference?
We all know what having a crush means. It’s the butterflies you have when you see the person. It’s the rush you feel when they’re close. It’s, according to the Urban Dictionary, “a burning desire to be with someone who you find very attractive and extremely special.”
But what is a girl crush? Well, that’s where it gets complicated.
Here are some of the more popular Urban Dictionary definitions:
“A (normally) straight girl’s crush on another girl, often a celebrity. Is mostly platonic in nature.”
“Feelings of admiration and adoration which a girl has for another girl, without wanting to shag said girl. A nonsexual attraction, usually based on veneration at some level.”
“A girl crush is when a girl admires another girl. It is NOT a sexual attraction. It means you want to BE the person you have a girl crush on, or simply you just want to be there [sic] best friend. You pretty much just think they’re awesome.”
The definitions are, at best, murky. What the consensus seems to be is that a girl crush is a strong feeling of admiration towards a woman that is purely platonic and non-sexual.
So, it’s all about sexual versus nonsexual, right?
While this sounds easy enough in theory, it becomes more difficult in real life. When I started questioning the nature of my girl crushes, I thought I was straight. I hadn’t yet figured out what it meant to be attracted to another woman.
When you’ve lived your life under the assumption that you are straight, you get used to dealing with unwanted thoughts and feelings in a certain way. In my case, it was years and years of repression and questionable rationalizing.
Moreover, my crushes on men were never purely sexual in nature, either. I felt the butterflies and thought about them all the time. But I never spent hours thinking about having sex with them. I wanted closeness, sure, but it wasn’t all physical.
And if sex wasn’t the way to decide what a crush is and isn’t, what was the way? Where did a girl crush stop and a regular crush begin?
I figured it out, eventually, and that’s what I want to share with you. Here are 3 signs it’s not just a girl crush:
1. You think about her… a lot
How many times a day does she cross your mind? Do you smile every time you think about her?
When I had my first crush on a girl (that turned out not to be just a girl crush), I thought about her constantly. And it was never because I came across something that reminded me of her. It didn’t matter when it was, where I was, what I was doing.
I remember I would be sitting in class or talking to my friend and then my mind would wander. To her. I thought about what she was doing, what she would think about this or that, what the next time I could see her was.
She lived rent-free in my brain, and I didn’t even realize it.
The thing is, I wasn’t like this with my friends or the people I admired. No, I was only ever like this when I had a crush. If it were a simple girl crush, I probably wouldn’t have struggled to keep my attention on anything other than her at any point throughout the day.
2. You seek out little touches
My crush was cute and pretty and funny and smart.
I took every chance I got to be close to her. I would sit next to her on the bus, in the cinema, in the dining room. Whenever an opportunity presented itself, I was there, ready to go. When I sat next to her, our thighs could touch. Our hands could brush against each other. I could feel her warmth.
I didn’t do any of this consciously. It was like an instinct.
I’m not a very tactile person. I don’t love it when people touch me, and I usually don’t like to touch them either. But it was different with this girl. I wanted her to brush my hair. I wanted to get rid of an eyelash that got stuck on her cheek. I wanted to hold her hand in public. (Platonically, of course. That’s a thing, right?) I wanted to hug her every time we saw each other. I wanted to kiss her on the cheek.
I did all those things, as much as I could, and I longed for her to do the same. This should’ve been a clue. How I went so long without realizing what was happening is beyond me.
3. You get jealous
My crush had a boyfriend. And I despised the fact that she did.
I always thought about how he wasn’t good enough for her. Whenever he took one wrong step, I was all over it. I hated it.
But I hated it even more when he was sweet to her. When he would touch her and kiss her and hold her hand. He could do all those things — he was her boyfriend. I just wasn’t comfortable with any of it. I hated that he got to do it, and I didn’t.
Of course, I never framed it like that in my mind. I always thought about how he wasn’t good enough. I would never admit that I was jealous. Not to her, not to myself, not to anyone. It was always about him lacking things.
I also remember being jealous of her other friends. She was supposed to be my friend, and I wanted all of her attention. When we would talk in a group, I would make sure I was the one sitting closest to her. I would buy her a drink. I would hug her out of nowhere. It was almost like I was marking my territory.
This jealous habit of mine wasn’t nice. Neither was the way I couldn’t keep my mind off of her or the way I craved her touch. It wasn’t healthy. It consumed my life for a very long time. Had I known what I was feeling, I might’ve been better at coping with the situation.
That is to say, I didn’t really cope with it. I continued being jealous and tactile and obsessive while I questioned my intentions towards her. By the time I realized I was attracted to her, the crush had mostly fizzled out.
A year later, we sat down and had a chat about it all. I confessed to her. I told her about how I always thought I had a girl crush on her, and how I came to the conclusion that there was more to it. Of course, by that point, we were both out. Two proud bisexual women.
She told me she was going through a similar thing at the same time I was. All this time, we had a crush on each other. It certainly explained why she was so receptive to all the lingering hugs I gave her.
I’m sure girl crushes are a real thing, for many people. But a girl crush should be about admiration and friendship and platonic feelings.
During this time, I took a deep dive into my mind and did a lot of self-reflection. I learned that I had been using “girl crush” as a cover-up for feelings I wasn’t ready to acknowledge. I was so scared of admitting to myself what was happening, that I suppressed the truth for the longest time. I shouldn’t have worried, though. All love is beautiful, no matter the gender of the people involved.
All these signs are part of the package of having a crush. They are only worth pointing out because it’s easy to ignore them when you’re trying to convince yourself you’re straight. I spent so much time asking myself all these questions, while I knew the answer all along.
A girl crush is entirely platonic. A crush is more than that. That’s it. That’s how you can tell.
The only question you need to ask is if you’re ready to face the truth.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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