Crush! Some random notes on desire

Posted: May 22, 2010 in Desire
Tags: , , ,


My first crush left me reeling like a punch in the stomach. I was fifteen, an awkward mix of mature for my age and completely innocent. Warren Chapman was a few years older. He played bass in my mate’s band: ‘Blind Alliance’. Tall, dark, troubled by acne, he was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. The crush began in autumn, on a coach journey to a demo in London. My friend Lizzy and I were sat at the back, playing tapes and giggling. When Mirror in the Bathroom came on, Warren turned round from further down the vehicle and asked me to turn it up. So I did and I was smitten. Later on he took off his top to reveal a red t-shirt, thinly covering his perfect torso. I thought I was going to be sick. Amazingly, over the months that followed, I got to snog Warren a couple of times. Drunk and dizzy, I was too overwhelmed to really enjoy it fully, and the next morning it always felt like it was a dream. Once he walked me home and I invited him back for coffee. He said ‘no’. This wasn’t like the movies. In the end, I put myself out of my misery and found myself a boyfriend my own age. He wasn’t nearly as attractive as Warren, but at least I could speak to him without wanting to faint.

‘Crush’ is the perfect word for what it describes. It’s not quite onomatopeia-but its sound is evocative of the feeling: the way your insides turn to mush and start swishing around, making it difficult to stand straight. Also in the word ‘crush’ lies the clue to the inevitable outcome: your hopes will be crushed; the story won’t have a happy ending. But it can suggest something more optimistic: a sunny afternoon, daydreaming, youth: raspberry crush.

Crushes on people you know and have to face in your daily life are horrendous; the potential for embarrassment and pain is too great. After pursuing a number of these, long after I lost the excuse of adolescent naiivety, I can honestly say I hope I never have another one again. My preferred forms of crush are on popstars, actors, even fictional characters. They possess an unreal quality, distant, unobtainable, working their magic up on the screen or stage. Jarvis Cocker, John Cusack, Martin Donovan, ‘Mike’ from My Own Private Idaho. I’m not so deluded to think these beauties will return my feelings. I love them all the more for that.

Being the type of person that has to excavate everything she experiences, I have uncovered some interesting analyses of ‘the crush’. Lacan seems to get to the nub of it when he says that ‘the first object of desire is to be recognized by the other. (Lacan, 1977 [1959], p. 58)’ According to psychoanalysis, desire is subconscious, and is actually quite simply our need to be known (and loved). So it is kind of irrelevant whether I am lusting after Warren Chapman, Vincent Cassell or Chloe Sevigny. What I am really doing is looking for recognition of my own self, my worth, my place in this world. ‘I am human and I need to be loved’. Morrissey got it.

Lacan tells us that desire is always to do with what we lack, or feel we lack. You can’t desire what you already have. This I find a little bit cruel, because it goes some way to explaining why actual relationships are so difficult. I’m an expert at mooning over a half-formed figure in my mind. Faced with the flesh and blood reality of someone who loves me and knows me, and wants me to love them and know them too I buckle under the pressure. I also, sometimes, lose my mojo in truly intimate relationships. I find it a regretful irony that my ex and I probably spent more time discussing Lacanian ‘desir’, than we did actually fucking. I often need distance, mystery, lack, to get my juices flowing. ‘I want the one I can’t have, and it’s driving me mad’ . Morrissey got that too.

Enter The Internet, stage left. Online communities are the perfect breeding-ground for the postmodern crush. Everything I learned so carefully, from Warren, from Lacan, from my own self-analysis, I managed to forget when I first ventured into the labrynth. Virtual reality gives us that perfect heady mix of the unknown and the tantalisingly available, the distant and the intimate, the real and the imaginary. I think I have a crush on The Internet itself. One of the reasons my desires are so fuelled by online communication is that I am a lover of words. And when it’s just you and someone else, typing away in your private worlds, the words take over. There’s no distraction from a noisy bar, an unexpected facial expression, or someone’s bad choice of jumper that day. And if the words are good then that’s it, I’m a goner.

I’ve met a few of my internet crushes, and inevitably have felt disappointed. Not necessarily by the individuals themselves, but by the depressing mismatch between my colourful imagination and the greyer reality. These days though, my appreciation of electronic desire is a little more sophisticated. Most of us realise we are playing, exploring the creative potential of virtual reality. And I still find it quite a beautiful thing when I stumble across a fellow ‘explorer’ on the internet. Someone who will share their words with me, offer a sexily fragmented, hazy, unreachable image of themselves. Let me get to work with my romantic, inaccurate, inventive imagination. I’ve got a bit of a crush on one of them at the moment as it happens. I wonder whether I should ask him back for coffee. I’m the one holding the keyboard so I call the shots. In this mini-super 8, he definitely says ‘yes’.

  1. dijeratic says:

    ‘I want the one I can’t have, and it’s driving me mad’ .

    Oh, but what a wonderful madness it is – you’ve said it all so perfectly, I can add nothing – I have found many of the same things (online and off) and find it endlessly curious how words, almost words alone are re-defining social and even romantic behavior. Wouldn’t it be lovely to find the one person who shares it the same way? So rare, so difficult – we keep exploring, excavating, as you put it.

    I especially like your ‘crush on the Internet’ – I think this nails it. If we turned it off today, how many would simply go insane? 🙂

    Beautiful post.

  2. Great essay–very effective blending of personal experience and intellectual analysis. And I think you’re right on the mark in alluding to the idealization inherent in crushing. It’s quite a human tendency to find things to idealize, isn’t it?

  3. i liked reading this very much thank you

  4. yearzerowriters says:

    A fascinating subject, one I’ve been exploring all my life. Started with Bowie, age 9 – graduated to a real-life person, age 19 – still quaking from the acute pain/thrill of that one, wary & guarded ever since, but always searching

  5. Thanks all for your lovely comments.

    @djeratic I know! we all have a crush on the internetz these days.

    @Jeremy Edwards I like a bit of idealising now and again. But we have to deal with reality too when it comes to actual relationships. which is both good and frustrating.

    @jerry shawback thank-you.

    @triplecherry David Bowie is a crush I endorse!
    Young crushes can hit us hard I know. I think it is probably something hormonal as much as anything!

  6. My first proper crush was 18 to my 13, and I used to ‘accidentally’ get the wrong bus home so that I could talk to him longer. He used to eat kiwi fruits like apples, skin and all. It was only a couple of years ago that I realised I was still copying this, and that the kiwi skins are really quite vile. Such is the power of the crush, huh?

  7. HI Betty,
    Thanks for finding my blog! That is a lovely image of you eating those kiwi fruit skins all those years. Glad you have kicked the habit now!

    I will add your blog to my links bar…


  8. Yewtree says:

    You have really put your finger on what the crush is all about in this post. Thank you for articulating these feelings so well.

  9. Mark says:

    I think I may have a bit of a crush on you, QRG. I look forwards to both our delicious disappointment.

    • at least I know for sure I’m not your ‘type’ and so can’t be disappointed on that front.

      I’m far too literate…

    • I said it before and it is true. You can’t disappoint me. You can lead me to feel utterly demoralised by aspects of myself, and also to feel frustrated, that life isn’t like I imagine it in my homo-intellectual head. But you can’t disappoint me. You have given me far far too much inspiration.

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