I’m in love with a German film star
I once saw in a movie
Playing the part of a real troublemaker
But I didn’t care
It really moved me, it really moved me
These lyrics come from a hit for the Passions which charted when I was a teenager, and back then I could truly relate. The echoing guitar sounds are soulful; the song depicts the intensity of crushing on somebody unattainable. Most of us have experienced it, particularly in our youth, it’s a rite of passage working towards dating and real love.
From the innocence of childhood, a time when we changed BFFs as often as our socks, we usually move away from regarding our parents/ older siblings as idols, towards people in the wider world. A first crush might be a teacher, a friend’s older sibling or someone in a senior year at school, we admire them because they shine at sports or they’re the pinnacle of cool. They barely know we exist and we ‘enjoy’ the sweet torture of watching them from afar, turning ourselves inside out to catch their attention.
Our chosen subjects of adoration are [necessarily] unattainable. It’s a requisite that we never get to know them properly.
From the scraps of information we glean about our love interests, we fill in the gaps, creating a beautiful patchwork to suit our ideals. Our ‘dream love’ will never disappoint us, principally because we’re unlikely to meet them or get any closer. Crushing is a safe training ground, prepping our hearts for when we later form a 2-sided relationship.
It’s quite common for teenagers to fixate on a film, sports or pop star – think of the crowds who’ve gone wild for Marilyn Monroe, Donny Osmond (my first crush), Madonna, John Travolta, Harry Styles David Beckham or Rhianna – to name a few idols. Their public personas are carefully crafted to make them seem accessible with a hint of mystique, ordinary with a pinch of extraordinary, so it’s possible to imagine them as boyfriend / girlfriend material if you were ever lucky enough to meet.
In literature, it’s a classic theme to plant an insurmountable obstacle between the primary love interests getting together:
- Romeo can’t date Juliette because their families are at war (Montague v Capulet)
- Elisabeth Bennett can’t hope to marry Darcy because she’s below him on the social ladder
- Bella can’t sleep with Edward because she’s human and he’s a vampire
- Callum’s love for Sephy is forbidden because he’s a Nought and she’s a Cross
Challenges such as these create dramatic tension. Particularly in stories aimed at the YA market, they provide a legitimate block on the action moving into the bedroom. Readers remain enthralled by the “will they, won’t they?” vehicle, an interest which can fizzle out once the author puts the protagonists together.
Back to real life, skirting around the edge of dating can seem a safe option, flirting and fantasising about someone releases endorphins. [Scientists have proven that flirting releases adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These are the natural chemicals your body creates for happiness and euphoria]
Many people take their crushing into adulthood by forming one-sided relationships with someone already in a committed relationship, or of an incompatible sexuality to partner them, therefore out of reach. The same can happen with on-line friendships, an attachment may form, yet the participants have only presented a sanitised version of themselves. Once again the object of such a ‘crush’ can be furnished with the values and characteristics that the lovelorn wants them to have.
Being in a state of “unrequited love” is wonderful: striving to present the best version of ourselves to the world, aspiring for our love interest to be charmed by us. In the throes of a workplace crush, I would dress more carefully, styling my hair perfectly in case we crossed paths. I arrived at my desk early, working conscientiously as if they had “spycam” on me. I thrived on my secret love while obsessing about them.
In this post, EveRay describes how she’s currently basking in the happy glow of a crush – in fact the song I’ve referenced in the title is a favourite of Eve’s from 1981. We’ve discussed early crushes: after Donny I moved on to James Dean in East of Eden and later Terry Hall of The Specials fame. Eve has a stunning tattoo of the German film star Marlene Dietrich on her arm, so I’ll wrap by quoting the famous icon’s wise words on love. “Love for the joy of loving, and not for the offerings of someone else’s heart.”