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2003-05-09 10:49 a.m.

A friend of mine asked me to define a crush and to explain what I thought the difference was between a crush and someone you really like.

I am enthralled with the convoluted workings of that part of the psyche we erroneously call the human heart. And I love the idea of crushes. Although I don't have them very often, the fact that I can have a crush reminds me that I am alive. [I had a brief crush on Andie when I first met her almost two years ago—it couldn't have lasted more than about a few days or weeks, though. It was quickly replaced with a very deep and very real love.]

Ah, the crush—shapeless as the fog and as solid as a whisper. It's amazing: a crush is so wispy and ethereal. Yet it always makes its presence known in our hearts and minds and behavior—and not in a subtle way, either. When it comes into your life it feels like a plane crash.

And these crushes—and the feelings they usher into our lives—don't discriminate. Death, taxes, and crushes. Committed or not, single, celibate, in love, in hate, alone, confused, or some mixed–up place between—nobody is exempt. Seriously, who among us hasn't savored the occasional roller coaster ride, the flash in the pan, the succulent and transient flavor of the crush?

But, what is a crush, though?

A crush is someone who makes your heart go pitter–patter even though you barely know them—someone who you are attracted to for reasons you can not explain with words or gestures or even your own thoughts. They're someone you want to kiss and touch in so many ways—ways that you'll probably never get around to.

You get nervous around them, wanting to say and do the "right thing", but it's unlikely you'll ever discover what that "right thing" is, as the nature of the crush is fleeting—unattainable. But it's OK, because these are the things that make them different from the others. This is their inherent crush–ness—that which sets them apart from all things non–crush.

A crush is a muse for a daydream.

Just because someone is your crush doesn't necessarily mean they're good boyfriend or girlfriend material. Sure, they look great, all shiny and new in the showroom floor of your mind—but do you actually want to take them to the cashier, pay for them, wrap them up, and carry them home into the reality of your everyday life?

Maybe. But often not.

In fact, upon close investigation, we frequently find we don't much like the actual person we crush on—surely not as much as the pounding of our heart had led us to believe. And, strangely, the more we get to know them as a real person the quieter the pounding of our heart becomes, until only an awkward silence remains.

But then again, there are those extremely rare times we fall in love with the real, actual person that lives inside the body of the crush—leaving the obsolete crush–dopplegänger to decompose in the shadowy recesses of our memory. But the odds of this happening aren't in our favor. It's hard to fall in love with someone you don't really know. And, that is exactly what a crush is: someone you don't really know.

And soon the roller coaster ride ends, as quickly and abruptly as it started. The crush dissipates like the morning fog, soon to be replaced with something new—new knowledge or new feelings or new who–knows–what. That's its life cycle; that is what it does. It stirs things up then it goes away. That is its place in the world. To expect more from a crush is like asking the moon for answers.

A crush is a muse for a daydream, and often a damned good one at that. And I think that's more than enough.