Yesterday, I wrote a scene for a work in progress about a childhood crush. In this yet-to-be-named novel I’m writing, the man had a childhood crush on a girl who spent the summers with him in Cape Cod. At a certain point, she never comes back. He spends his life tracking her down, and then stalking her until they meet again under strange circumstances on the METRO in Washington D.C. This scene had me thinking about my own crushes through my lifetime.
When I turned 12, which was a lifetime ago, my dad decided he wanted us to have family time by learning how to SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). Yes, I had a privileged youth. I remember the nights we spent in the pool, learning how to breathe underwater. I also remember the book I was handed to study up on SCUBA, because all SCUBA divers have to pass a written test, even the twelve year olds.
That book with its blue cover sat by my bedside as I simultaneously thought of boys and played with Barbies. I had entered that time in my life where my body was changing and I was going through puberty, but I still loved my dolls. I straddled the line between childhood and adulthood, not sure where I belonged yet. As an aside, I also wore a heck of a lot of Laura Ashley jumpers. Twelve year olds today do not dress the way we did in the early 1990’s that’s for sure.
When the test day came I stared at the problems, and they looked like gobbly-gook. In all truth, I think there was a whole lot of Algebra. Math wasn’t my forte, and I hadn’t even started Algebra yet. (Now they seem to start it in Kindergarten, but then they didn’t).
And so, Phil, a tall, buff, blonde dive-pro at the shop sat next to me and gave me hints. He knew I knew the rules and how to dive. He just needed to give me a little bit of encouragement, so I could pass. And pass I did, with his help.
I’m sure dive-pro Phil knew I was in love with him. I made it blatantly obvious. I followed him around like a puppy-dog. I asked for him to be my dive partner on numerous occasions. I thought, me, a twelve year old child had a chance with this grown-up twenty-five year old man.
And Phil, knowing I was a child, dealt with it in such a nice way. He was kind. He didn’t blow me off. He never belittled me or was condescending. I’ll never forget, on one of our dive trips—I can’t remember if this was in Florida or in the Cayman’s—my mom burst her eardrum. I wanted to go back out in the water, because I was looking for sand dollars. So Phil went out with me, and he dragged his knife through the sand so we could find our way back to the boat, and took me out to a whole colony of sand dollars. This meant so much to my twelve-year old heart. He dealt with my school-girl crush with such grace, but he also gave me no allusions that he reciprocated (thank God—I was just a child).
Now I’m a grown-up, and I know the crush on dive-pro Phil was an adolescent awakening to the world of love and romance for me. It’s funny thinking back on those days and remembering how young and naïve I was. I had many more crushes after that, and I’m sure people had crushes on me. That’s just the way it goes. But the thing that makes crushes feel so poignant is the impossibility involved that doesn’t exist in a loving relationship. A crush is just that, a crush, and if it never moves forward it wanes and dies and both parties move on with their lives.
I don’t remember how I felt when I heard dive-pro Phil was getting married. I remember thinking it was logical, because he was an adult. But being only twelve or thirteen years old, it didn’t hit me the same way as other crushes who rejected me, who went on to get married, who left me when I felt like I needed them the most, or who moved on when they should have for the benefit of us both.
The thing about crushes, as illustrated in this story, is that they can teach you about love. Dive-pro Phil looked at me as a child, someone he could help teach to dive. He mentored me, and taught me about kindness, which is such a huge aspect of love. And he did it in a way that was appropriate, even knowing that I had a school-girl crush on him. I’ve learned a lot from all the crushes I’ve had, because pain also brings insight. I moved on and I learned how to apply that knowledge to my relationships, and now to my marriage.
Interestingly enough, another Phil came along when I was in college, and I thought I loved him so much. I put him on a pedestal, and I didn’t walk away even when he hurt me. I didn’t walk away even when I started hurting him. He was my best friend, my confidante, but the truth is a relationship wouldn’t have worked between us because we didn’t know how to communicate our deepest feelings with one another. It made the time we had together thrilling and fun, but it also made it hurtful, confusing, and frustrating. It took me a long time to move on from Phil2, and my relationship with my now-husband suffered because of my grief associated with losing my friendship with Phil2 and the possibility of what could have been between us. Once I processed all those heavy emotions, my relationship with my husband grew.
Crushes crush. They’re intense, yes, but they’re meant to end. Relationships bring a whole new level of love to your life, one that grows and changes with time. A crush is fleeting and not meant to last forever, but a lesson for how to love in your true and meaningful relationships.
Who was your first crush?
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