Ferrett Steinmetz talks about when it’s best to bare your soul, and when it’s best to keep your mouth shut.
When I’ve written before about how I often don’t tell women about the crushes I have on them, I got a lot of responses that were all like, “Oh, no, Ferrett! If you have a crush on someone, you should tell her!”
No; no, I really shouldn’t. And maybe, neither, should you.
Now, on a personal level, I have the issue that I crush easily, trivially, sillily; I can form a mild crush over a series of pretty pictures or one knock-my-socks-off blog post. My crushes are ethereal things – and though I hold them tight to my heart, if I told every woman I had a crush on, I’d probably spend my days in entangled in embarrassing correspondence. (A correspondence I most likely wouldn’t have time for, because honestly my poly web is pretty full as it is.)
Yet even if I did not crush easily, it’d still be a dick move to drop the crush on random people, because here’s the thing:
Telling someone you have a crush on them is an obligation.
If I go to you and say, “I have a huge crush on you,” that forces you into a situation where you have to respond. Someone’s showed up on your doorstep and dropped a big load of Unexplored Feelings on you, very like a load of dirty laundry, and now you have to do something with that.
And it’s potentially really awkward for the crushee, especially if s/he doesn’t feel the same way back. It hurts for you when your crush gives you the “no thanks,” but there are precious few people in this world who like dashing people’s expectations. And then that poor person has the stress of trying to figure out how to gently let you down –
– or whether they can afford to let you down.
Forrest Gump knew a thing or two about crushes: they’re like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Now, my particular crush is the kind where if you tell me, “Not interested,” I’ll shrug and ask you to a movie next week anyway, because I’ll still like you buckets even if we never do the smoochy-smooch thing.
Yet here’s the thing: even if I tell you all of that up-front, you have no guarantee I am who I say I am.
Because I could be the kind of dude who’s all like, “WHAT? You don’t like me?! Well screw you, I never wanted your friendship anyway” and then never talk to you again – thus ending a friendship that you valued, but didn’t have the chemistry of attraction in it. Or I could be the kind of creeper who never expected that you would turn me down and so meets your “no” with a seething outrage, marking you as The Enemy for leading me on, determined to screw you over now for breaking my heart.
Or I could be that kind of guy who shrugs it off with a “Sure, sure,” and then waits until you’re drunk to see if maybe you were lying about that whole crush thing. Or I could be the dude who thinks you’re playing the happy-little-denial game, and you get to watch as I move into full-on stalker territory…
Or maybe – and this is often the best-case scenario – despite all of my protests about how I’ll still totes like you anyay, once the attraction is defeated, our friendship subtly mutates from the happy evenness of “We’re buddies!” to “You hold a power over me that I do not hold over you!” and things turn terribly awkward and sad.
The problem with crushes is that people handle doused crushes in all sorts of astoundingly bad ways – and your crushee has no guarantee of how you’ll react. A dropped crush is often a variant on Schrödinger’s Rapist, where the concern of not knowing how you’ll react instills a lot of anxiety as they try to figure out just what your real intentions are. As such, dumping that crush on them just on the off-hand chance s/he might be into it is the height of bad manners. It basically says, “Fuck it – I’ll stress you out if it means I’ve got a shot of getting into your pants.”
Now, I’m not saying to never reveal your crush, because the “quietly suppress all attraction until their defenses are down” is a game played by sad jamooks everywhere. What I am saying is that I’ve met enough people – maybe not a majority of them, but enough to matter – to know that a lot of people are really discomfited when someone expresses a crush out of nowhere.
As such, I suggest that until you know they feel otherwise, consider restraining your crush.
Yes, I understand that’s more work, sifting through your interactions for signs of attraction and weighing the evidence until you come to the conclusion that they’re a) maybe possibly kinda into you, or b) maybe possibly the sort of person who’d be flattered even if they don’t respond in kind.
But the alternative is you saying, “I DON’T CARE WHAT THE FUCK THEY WANT! I WANNA SMOOCH! SO I’M JUST GONNA TELL ‘EM RANDOMLY ON THE OFF-CHANCE THAT I GET WHAT I WANT!”
There’s a word for that, and that word is “douche.”
As a general rule, until you get some signals that someone would like something – and people are emitting signals all the time if you watch carefully – it’s not a bad rule to default to not doing that thing until you know for sure they want that thing. That default behavior applies whether it’s kissing, crushing, helping someone across the street, informing them that they should dress better, touching their hair, offering diet advice, or any range of unasked-for “helpfulness.”)
Old Uncle Ben knew about crushes: “With great crushing comes great responsibility.” If you have inclued the signs that s/he is potentially into you, then fine! Take a rational shot. You’d be surprised how often there is a mutual crushitude if you suspect there might be one. But only do it if you’ve scouted the territory.
Which is why me, sighing over a couple of pretty photos isn’t grounds enough to drop the crush. Me, having been dazzled by an essay or two, isn’t grounds enough either. I should open up a conversation, do some back-and-forth, see if we’re actually compatible before going that route.
Other people asked, “Well, if I have a crush on someone, it’s going to affect our relationship! Shouldn’t I tell them, rather than swallowing my emotions?” And yes, there are circumstances where you’re desperately in love with your best friend and need him to know, and then you maybe should just to get that out in the open where it won’t fester.
But a lot of douches do that as a way of saying, “If you’re not fucking me, then I don’t need you in my life – so are you in?” In which case you should probably just end this so-called friendship, as you’re a crappy goddamned friend. And there’s also a lot of douches who go, “Well, the chick I work with at Wendy’s needs to know about my raging boner for her, and that’s affecting our relationship!” And once again, we’re back to “I want my shot at fucking them, no matter how uncomfortable it may make them.”
Not every attraction needs to be followed up on. Consider their situation, whether it’s something that’s going to benefit their life, and whether you’re actually improving their situation… or inconveniencing them to improve yours.
That’s pretty much it. I could have written this whole essay in two words – “Be courteous” – but I felt it needed some more concrete details.
Originally published at theferrett.com.