Is there any better song in the word about the sweetness of infatuation than the Gershwin brothers’, ‘I Got A Crush On You’? Composed by George, with lyrics by his brother Ira, it describes the giddy confusion that comes with harbouring a crush. “How glad the many millions of Annabelles and Lilians would be, to capture me. But you had such persistence, you wore down my resistance, I fell, and it was swell. I’m your big and brave and handsome Romeo. How I won you I shall never, ever know. It’s not that I’m attractive, but oh, my heart grew active when you came into view. I’ve got a crush on you.” One minute he’s quite sure of his big, brave handsomeness, and the next, he’s racked with doubts of not being good looking enough. Oh, the head-wreck of harbouring a crush! Ultimately, though, he does fall under her spell and his crush is happily received. And that’s why I like the song – because of the sense of happily-ever-after it leaves me with; which isn’t always how crushes play out in real life, where the endings can be, well, crushing.
I was out in town with T. last night and we met a certain someone who had an instant crush on T.. That split-second crush of him declaring, “you have beautiful eyes”; the urgent crush of, “can we meet tomorrow to watch the football final?” I looked on, as he let himself be drawn like a moth to the flame, only to be left with mild scorch marks of rejection. He was intact; half an hour interaction wasn’t going to cause too much emotional damage. But it was a perfect display of that inexplicable emotion in action; the fickle, un-rein-in-able, instantaneous crush that is so very often directed towards someone who does not feel the same way. He didn’t have a mission in wooing T. at midnight in Last Chance Saloon, no more than he could help himself in trying. Crushes: they’re as perennial as the leaves turning red, orange and yellow in autumn, they are something we never outgrow. Not from where I’m sitting anyway. I watch, hear, and observe the outworkings of crushes held, delivered and rebuked at every stage of life. As we live, we learn (hopefully) to recognise when we are chasing smoke; we intuit the need to crush our own crush before it wipes the floor with us. The problem, however, is that our emotions are the wildest of creatures over which we only have so much control, and we can become blind to the signs that tell us to wrap it up and try our luck elsewhere. It is a fact universally acknowledged that you cannot make yourself love someone, yet I do believe you absolutely can make yourself abandon a crush; leave it out in the rain, so to speak, and let it fade or get washed away. That conscious act of letting go will derive much less pain and heartache in the long run.
As usual, poetry delivers the best insights into affairs of the heart. Like the Edna St. Vincent Millay sonnet about the lost loves and youthful crushes from her past, now looked back on fondly with perhaps a tiny trimming of sadness: ‘I cannot say what loves have come and gone,/ I only know that summer sang in me/ A little while, that in me sings no more.’* Or take Auden, and his extended metaphor of the stars to represent the object of one’s desire; an object that does not reciprocate the adoration of the admirer. There they are, stars dazzling on high, ‘not giving a damn’ about the attention they garner. Yet their insouciance does not stop us from admiring them. Auden’s poem ends in hope – not hope that the stars will change their mind and bestow love and attention upon the admirer; rather, that if the stars were to disappear, although it might take a little time, we would get over it.
‘The More Loving One’, by W.H. Auden (abridged)
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be
Let the more loving on be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them,
say I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
*‘What lips my lips have kissed, and where and why’, by Edna St. Vincent Millay