Culture //

The Chemistry of Crushes

There’s something about having a crush. It’s the feeling that sneaks into the pit of your stomach. It’s the pangs in your chest. It’s the shortening of your breath.

I fall fast or not at all. Often unjustifiably, and always disproportionately. But I guess those two words almost perfectly describe the sensation of having a crush on someone. What has this person done to deserve my undivided, and totally loyal, sense of attention? Usually, nothing. They are, a lot of the time, blissfully unaware of my life-consuming infatuation with them.

I think the feeling of having a crush is one of those unique things that stays the same regardless of age. 

Birthdays are less exciting as an adult than a child. Everything seems a bit less shiny. You learn to expect disappointment, and your reactions adapt to the circumstances in which you find yourself. You contain your excitement, bite your tongue, and suppress outbursts to fulfil the social contract. 

But there’s something about having a crush. It’s the feeling that sneaks into the pit of your stomach. It’s the pangs in your chest. It’s the shortening of your breath. Regardless of how many people you’ve liked, a new crush always feels exciting. Sure, you might change the way you express those feelings, but your brain can’t seem to adapt and catch up to the rush you experience when you like someone. 

And what a gift that is. To know that your body is still capable of feeling euphoric. To feel utterly weightless in the presence of someone else, and be guided, occasionally, by your heart and not your head. 

This is not to amalgamate all crushes into one sensation. Even though those feelings stay the same, the infatuation and pangs and euphoria all perfectly familiar, our types of crushes shift — ever so slightly. 

As Emily Dickinson pines after her unnamed crush in ‘Wild nights – Wild nights!’, we see the sheer magnetic pull of a crush: “Were I with thee / Wild nights should be / Our luxury!” This is the type of crush that electrifies every fibre in your body. The type of crush that makes you insatiably restless. The type of crush that releases an unearthly amount of dopamine and norepinephrine into your brain. Volumes that make you feel simultaneously elated and giddy. In other words, the one where you can’t sleep. Sometimes this crush hits you the moment you first see them, almost instantly and totally unexpectedly. I remember the first time I experienced this type of crush at university. I became so caught up in the electricity of the feeling, that I forgot I had a purpose beyond thinking about this person. 

I was listening to a Maisie Peters song, “Wendy” recently: “You could take me to Neverland, baby,

We could live off of magic and maybes”. This song is so trite, but everytime I listen to it I can’t help but think of my younger self, who got so lost in the magic of this type of crush that she forgot who she was. It’s the type of crush that makes you think you’re the first person to ever experience this feeling. It’s the one that takes you to a new world, often against your rational volition. 

The first time I watched Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, I knew that all I wanted was a bond like Marianne and Héloïse. It’s the one we all yearn for. The crush that affects your body and mind equally, creating a bond that transcends physicality. The one that creeps up on you inch by inch, and then stares at you in the mirror like an old friend. There is no feeling more validating than realising that the other person feels the same way. And there is no feeling more devastating than realising they don’t. When they do, the experience is intoxicating and life changing. Those moments are as equally impossible to forget as they are to describe. 

Growing up, I never told anyone about my crushes. They were my place of escape, my secret happy places that I could come back to whenever I desired. I would lie in bed and think about the prospect, giddy on the high of possibility. Now, my crushes are usually something far more bleak. Often, they are about yearning for the memory of something that was, rather than yearning for something that could be. 

Unfortunately for me, my current crushes much more closely resemble the lyrics of “Message In A Bottle” by Taylor Swift; “’Cause you could be the one that I love, I could be the one that you dream of, Message in a bottle is all I can do, Standin’ here, hopin’ it gets to you”. This is the most unsatisfying and unfulfilling crush of them all. The one that is so irrational you could classify it as a para-social relationship. The cruel abundance of content you can tap through at any moment makes this one far worse nowadays. It’s not them, it’s the idea of them. Don’t get me wrong though, being told this does not help. Clearly, when you’re in a dopamine-norepinephrine induced love coma, this annoyingly succinct phrase means nothing. Who cares if you’ve spoken to them twice, or drunkenly made out with them once. When you’re in it, your brain has no inability to tell lust from love. You simply must sit with it, which is the best and worst feeling in the world. 

Maybe writing this was my attempt to justify my current “Message In A Bottle” crush. Who knows. In the meantime — hey Alexa? Play ‘I really, really, really like you’ by Carly Rae Jepsen.