Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Ghost Of Crush-Mas Past

Years ago, when I still read Vice magazine (is that still a thing? I feel like its moment in the sun has passed a long time ago, but like with Teen Vogue, just because I move out of something's sphere of influence or interest doesn't mean it just, like, ceases to be), they published a great piece called "The VICE guide to being Totally Crushed Out!!!" I just re-read it, and while the whole dirtbag/cocaine thing is totally played out, they raise some great points. For example, cunnilingus? Terrific! Telling all your friends about your silly crush? Golden! Dammit, Vice, sometimes you get it right. But I'm still mad at you for teaching my generation of women that the best we could do for boyfriends were bassists with questionable hygiene who would eventually cheat on us, and that stability, respect, and not living in a flophouse was somehow for losers.

But crushes, man. I wasn't very awesome at high school - I made the mistake of loving every single boy except for the ones who were a) nice to me or b) into me, so I spent a lot of time crushing on unattainable dudes. They were unattainable for a number of reasons - no common friends, no common hobbies, no interest in dating a shy, squirrely weirdo like myself. I ruled at having crushes - thinking about them all the time, imagining talking to them, imagining dating them. None of this ever came to any kind of fruition: I was shy and weird and so unconfident that I was basically radioactive. I had to watch as my crushes dated other girls, girls that I still think were badly matched to these guys, but seventeen year old boys are easily seduced by pretty girls, even if they're dumb or mean or both. Some forty-seven year old guys are like that too, but thankfully, most men grow out of it.

I eventually grew my shyness and started talking to boys, and to my everlasting surprise, they talked back. I've dated, seduced, been seduced, and had boyfriends. I'm happy to admit that, even though we've been dating for months, I'm still totally crushing on my boyfriend. Even though I like him, and love him, there's a small corner of feeling that is reserved for what's commonly known as SQUEEEE! The excitable part of my brain that lights up at sugar and videos of kitties on the internet also goes bananas for my boyfriend. Go figure.

I recently saw one of my high school crushes, and by "saw", I don't mean the grown-up usage where you chat idly for a few minutes and then say how nice it was to see each other and move on. I mean "saw" as in, I saw him through the plate-glass window of my favourite burrito joint, but did not work up the emotional stones to even say hi. I stayed outside, fussing unnecessarily with my bike, and watched as he jotted down some notes in a Moleskin (pretentious!) and waited for his dinner. He was wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a wedding ring, and when I lurched inside to pick up my burrito, it was as though I was a teenage kid and all my confidence was gone.

I felt ridiculous as I pedaled away, but the truth is, I wasn't a confident young person at all, and sometimes, ghosts can be too weird to process, especially in the moment. I had no idea he even lived in Toronto, let alone had some proximity to my lifestyle. Oh god, what if my burrito joint is his burrito joint? Horrors. I would want to be all smooth - oh, so you're married? How's that going? He dated pretty, skinny, fragile-looking, artsy girls in high school, and part of me wants to know if he married some thick-ankled farm girl from Manitoba who could hoist him above her head without even unraveling her braids. I know he didn't.

Now that we're older, wiser (?) and definitely some of us are married, "the crush" has taken on a more fraught meaning. Does the presence of both a partner and a crush mean that one negates the other? Can we have crushes on people we're not involved with? Isn't that, like, cheating? Or doesn't it necessarily lead to cheating?

No. Idiot. Crushes are normal and healthy - it's not like I expected my boyfriend to quit talking to females when we started dating, and there are interesting, magnetic women out there. Fantasy is a normal thing - we do it when we're dating (what if we move in together someday?) and when we're settled (what's the story with the barista with all the tattoos?) Crushes allow us to examine things we like about our partner - for example, most of my crushes are into music, and it turns out I like music too - and what we wish we had. Crushes on marathon runners speak to a desire for your girlfriend to be dedicated; crushes on comic book inkers highlights a wish that your boyfriend was more creative. But real, grown-up love accepts our girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands and wives for the people they are, and also acknowledges that crushes are idealized. I can crush on the bearded, burly bike mechanic because hey, I'll never have to see him after he's downed nine shots and thrown up in a cab, or when he's been petty with a waiter. I'll never have to break it off or fall out of crush with him - I'll just be distracted by a new crush.

We all grow out of our crushes - either because we start dating them and that crush becomes filtered through other emotions (love is basically 100-proof crush, right?), or we get to know them and find out they're unbearable wankers, or we befriend them and their dorky human nature outshines the imaginary weddings we've planned in our crazy heads. Seeing old, stale crushes is like trying on clothes that used to fit you, years ago, but that aren't really your style any more. They're slightly unpleasant, because they can bring back that taste in your mouth; the taste of being young, shy, nervous and lonely. Who needs it? Crushes are best served fresh. Some of them might stick to your ribs, but they're usually the romantic equivalent of fast food: cheap, easy and best quickly forgotten.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


About a year ago, I was publicly snarking on my parents and their insistence I attend my grad ceremonies. How passe, I intoned. How overdone. How symbolic of a culture that SNORE whatever, moving on.

However. Like in many things, I was wrong. Grad ceremonies are kind of bad-ass. My sister graduated from Queen's University, a school whose reputation for academic excellence is matched only by its reputation for being fancily Caucasian. She now proudly wears an iron ring, a symbol of engineers, and her peers are diligently working on sucking all the remaining oil from Alberta's crust. My sister, because she is crazy, doubled up her engineering degree with an art history degree, leaving no question about who the smart daughter turned out to be - it's her. With a bullet.

Graduations are important because they mark the last time that getting up at noon requires setting an alarm...unless you plan on becoming an indolent writer-person. (Ahem.) They're important because they mark the first time you'll feel sort of like a loser when you say, "I'm an English major," because not anymore, you're not. They're important because they mark a time in your life when you've actually worked hard, gotten passing marks, and earned your way. I went to my high school graduation, which was great because I after I left Stratford I dyed my hair brown, lost twenty pounds and learned how to drink; I was unrecognizable. At my university graduation, I was fat, blonde, and relatively sober. Who wants to celebrate that?

No, I'm kidding. I didn't go to mine because it would have been fake. I limped towards my degree, which, I think, happens to a lot of people in their early twenties for whom their education is sort of secondary to tying to get their Shit Sorted Out. In my last year of university, I wasn't sitting thoughtfully in lecture halls, taking notes on Joseph Andrews and offering witticisms that relied on punning a 17th-century euphemism for penis. I was sitting in a room in CAMH, talking about how big a serving size is (smaller than you think) and how much I was drinking (more than I should have). I was getting my Shit Worked Out. And that took so much mental energy that I couldn't really get my act together to hand in essays about Shamela. Sorry. But as it turned out, going group therapy sessions allowed me to survive my final year, so I feel like the emphasis on all the academic stuff was sort of...well, there's always an excuse, right?

But my sister! Oh man. Okay, so: she not only got sick and had to take time off school, she switched programs, fell in love, and she fuckin' aced it. Sure, there were bumps along the way. But she's a smart cookie and a tough gal, and she came roaring back to the school she loved and the program she felt proud to be a part of, and she sailed over the finish line like she was racing a yacht.

So, dear sister: congratulations on your graduation, on your impending freak out about "what does it all mean?" a la Rob Gordon/High Fidelity, and I know that you charm, dedication, stick-to-it-iveness and talent will bring you success in your professional life - or your academic life, should there be a sequel (Queens II: The Iron Schwing!, also known as "getting your masters"). I love you dearly, and not only because I'll be asking off-topic questions about, like, the construction of bridges and if they're sturdy. But because you inspire me: you've shown me what a little hard work and dedication can do, which is a whole damned lot.