Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Should I crush someone who might have a crush on me?

Dear HTT,

I have a small group of loosely connected friends that I hang around with on a fairly regular basis, some of them more than others. I have reason to believe that one of the guys in the group has a crush on me. He’s never said so straight out, but it’s just a feeling I get. I like spending time with him, but I’m not interested in dating him. Should I tell him? I don’t want to hurt him or make it awkward for the two of us to show up at the same events, but I don’t want to lead him on either. I don’t flirt with him, but I am friendly, and it’s possible he could be misreading the signals.

Thanks for any advice you can give.


Dear Crushed,

You know, this whole crush business generates more visits to my site than any other topic. People who arrive at “Here’s the Thing” from Google leave a visible trail of search terms, at least half of which include the word “crush.” (Don’t worry. As I pointed out earlier, I can’t tell WHO is doing the googling, so your secrets are safe.) It’s fascinating, really, to imagine just how many people at this very moment are nursing a secret crush on a coworker, friend, teacher, buddy of a spouse, barista, bartender, or girl across the hall. As widespread as this situation appears to be, it’s puzzling that someone hasn’t figured out how to profit somehow. Or, more philanthropically, to come up with some kind of cure and distribute it widely, free of charge. I'm sure a cure would be welcome. Because by their nature, crushes are fun for a few weeks or months at best before they give way to frustration and pining and pints of Ben and Jerry’s. (Unless they happen to turn into relationships, in which case, they’re no longer “crushes.”)

After all, crush is violent word:

–verb (used with object)
  • to press or squeeze with a force that destroys or deforms.
  • to squeeze or pound into small fragments or particles, as ore, stone, etc.
  • to force out by pressing or squeezing; extract: to crush cottonseeds in order to produce oil.
  • to rumple; wrinkle; crease.
  • to smooth or flatten by pressure: to crush leather.
  • to hug or embrace forcibly or strongly: He crushed her in his arms.
  • to destroy, subdue, or suppress utterly: to crush a revolt.
  • to overwhelm with confusion, chagrin, or humiliation, as by argumentation or a slighting action or remark; squelch.
  • to oppress grievously.

  • the act of crushing; state of being crushed.
  • a great crowd: a crush of shoppers.
  • an intense but usually short-lived infatuation.
  • the object of such an infatuation: Who is your latest crush?

It’s probably no coincidence that “an intense but usually short-lived infatuation” that can cause no small amount of depression and googling isn’t called—I don’t know—a “nurture” or an “encouragement.”

So, getting around to your specific crushing issue: since this fellow hasn’t laid bare his feelings or asked you on a date, you can’t be certain he thinks of you as more than a friend. As such, I think it’d be a bit presumptuous to explicitly state that you lack romantic interest in him. For the sake of argument, though, let’s assume that he does have a crush on you. It’s quite possible that he already knows you aren’t interested and is just biding his time until the crush fades, as they tend to do.

I think your best bet is to remain friendly but pay attention to your boundaries. It’s flattering to be wanted, but continue resisting the temptation to flirt. If you usually only see one another in a group, keep it that way; if you have hung out alone in the past, maybe for a while it would be better to include others. If you have, or develop, an interest in someone, mention it to him as you would to any other friend, but take care not to be heavy handed or cruel about it.

Bottom line, treat this guy as you’d hope to be treated if the tables were turned.


What other advice columnists say

A friend and reader sent this to me. I'll try not to follow this example, even though it made me laugh.