Live Through This

You’re the One for Me

A love letter to my biggest friend crush.

Illustration by Emma D.

I don’t date. I don’t fall in love. I rarely even fall in like-like. It’s not that I’m opposed to dating at some point in my life—and it’s definitely not that I’m opposed to being physically involved with people (boys, specifically). But right now, for whatever reason, those romantical feelings are just not in my repertoire.

However, I do get crushes. TONS of them. On boys. And girls. I get crushes on PEOPLE. Terrible, heart-pounding, light-headed crushes. Crushes that force me to giggle idiotically at their jokes, that cause my spirits to soar when I make them laugh. Crushes that make me want to yell, “Hang out with me!” then run away in embarrassment, because you can’t just yell at people, I get it, I understand that now. And my crushes are the best kind of crushes: friend crushes—the crushes you don’t want to ruin with a relationship that’s going to last for, what, six months?

There’s this one girl. She’s a standup comedian I really admire. We’ve spoken a couple of times—each conversation more disastrous than the last. The first time was on the street after one of her shows—I knew she vaguely knew who I was so I felt comfortable enough to say hello. Of course, instead of “hello,” I said “Did you just have a show? I didn’t see it. Did it go badly?” The next time (about six months later) she didn’t remember me. I took it in stride, though, by which I mean I laughed hysterically, half-yelled “I’m very forgettable!” and walked away. After each of these conversations, I’ve gone home and berated myself: Why did I say that? Why were my arms placed so uncomfortably at my sides? Was I laughing at her jokes or having a panic attack? At this rate this woman will never want to get brunch and talk about boys with me!

The most intense crush I’ve ever had was on a guy named Gerald.* I met Gerald during my junior year of high school—almost three years ago—while he was dating one of the girls on my water polo team. I’m pretty sure the first couple of times I was in the same room with him I was standoffish, if not downright rude. We never really hung out much. I knew he existed and I talked to him if circumstances required, but back then a mixture of angst and podcasts preoccupied most of my time. At some point, though, I realized I really liked Gerald. Like, a lot. I thought he was funny and smart and “got me” and tried to understand when he didn’t. We shared interests, and our conversations were fun. It’s hard to find someone who will run back and forth with you on a joke.

I’m a standup comedian, and so I connect with people through humor—or, rather, I connect with people through humor, so I’m a standup comedian. And Gerald is funnier than me. He’s quicker and cleverer, and—most important—he knows when to stop. Not once has he laughed at a joke when it didn’t deserve it, but not once has he let a joke slide by that earned a laugh. We shared a sensibility and interests, and I could tell he liked me. He even Facebook-chatted me first sometimes! And, cherry on top: I didn’t like** him. And he didn’t like me.

Suddenly I needed him to be my friend. The way that I need oxygen, food, and water. (As my brain is dumb and crazy, I failed to realize that we were already friends.) Outwardly, the biggest difference was a marked increase in my asking him to hang out—he was a senior at the tail end of high school, and I was a junior who didn’t care about her grades, so every night could be treated like the weekend. And I took full advantage of this “free time” (I’d like to retroactively apologize for my physics grade). Any night that seemed feasible I asked to get “fro yo” (hip slang for frozen yogurt), and on the nights it wasn’t, I’d start a conversation over text or Facebook. If my friends invited me to a party, I’d offer to DD—drinking at these things was never worth it—then leave them at the party, drive to his house, and essentially force him to hang out with me until they were ready to be picked up. I wanted to spend time with him. So I did.

Which is not the most becoming behavior in a person, I understand. Obsessive desire usually does not bode well for a relationship. Herein lies the problem with the friend crush. I, the crusher, sit around worrying that this person, the crushee, doesn’t want to be my friend. Have I pushed too hard? Did I ask for their number weirdly? Do they actually like me, or am I forcing them to like me by just always being around? These questions lurk in the back of my mind and needle at my stomach. Because when you want so, so badly to be friends with someone, you come to realize how terrible it would be for them not to feel the same way. The vast majority of the population you could take or leave, but this person? You can’t live without hanging out with this person.

And on the crushee’s end, this can be a dealbreaker. There’s something uniquely unappealing about feeling obsessively wanted. Something weird about having a person, someone who should be a friend and a peer, always seem nervous and uncomfortable around you. Excess attention of any kind makes my skin crawl. I don’t want to make any of the people I like and admire to feel that way.

Lucky for me, Gerald is a singularly passive person. He rolled with my crazy until the crazy burned out—if you’re reading this, Gerald, thanks for letting me unload my problems and watch movies with you until two in the morning—leaving one of my most meaningful relationships in its place.

We’re still good friends—I’d call him one of my closest, and I like to think he’d say the same about me. With college and work we don’t talk as often as we could, but he’s still there to help me through a problem at 2 AM, when I’ve drunk a little too much wine and need to know if “that’s good” is an appropriate response to someone’s telling me “I like you a lot” (it’s not)—or keep me company on the eight-hour drive home from college. And I wouldn’t trade that for all the candlelit dinners in the world. ♦

* Not really named Gerald.
** Like-like.

Shelby Fero is a comedian and comedy writer in Los Angeles.

16 Comments

  • Alex S. April 29th, 2013 11:36 PM

    I’ve been waiting so long for a post like this!! I too often go through the tendency of outwardly, and somewhat out of character of me, to be like “hey you’re cool lets hang out some time!”

    I just don’t understand why no one else uses the same technique, as it’s direct and to the point, and makes for a great “look back” on friendships beginning like that (thanks for not thinking I’m weird J.T. and Kristin).

    P.S. I’m in love with this post if that wasn’t apparent.

  • rhymeswithorange April 29th, 2013 11:41 PM

    I totally feel like this all the time too! Glad I’m not alone :)

  • Kaetlebugg April 29th, 2013 11:55 PM

    I love this!!! also proving that of course men who like women and women who like man CAN indeed be platonic friends! I actually like it when my straight guy friends have girlfriends cause then when I make an extra effort to hang out with them (the guys) my friendly intentions are crystal clear.

  • speechbubble April 30th, 2013 12:16 AM

    Wow! I am actually going through this right now, (I’m the crusher she’s the crushee) we go to different schools so I’ve gone a bit overboard with texts :/ luckily we’ve been friends a long time. Rookie you have remarkable timing!

  • gracegoessquee April 30th, 2013 12:37 AM

    OKAY THIS IS ALMOST CREEPY. rookie has a way of posting exactly what i need to read, right at the moment when i am thinking of it.. i honest to god just had a an at length conversation with my sister about friend crushes, and how bad they are. I THOUGHT NO ONE ELSE UNDERSTOOD AND I JUST-AGH. friend crushes suck so bad because no one ever talks about them or how to handle them! thank you rookie. so much. i love and adore thee more that words can express.

    • KatGirl April 30th, 2013 9:14 AM

      I know, right? The article “Sick Day” actually posted on a day I was sick! Rookie is magicalz :D

  • eremiomania April 30th, 2013 1:23 AM

    Friend crushes 4ever!!

  • glitter riot April 30th, 2013 1:45 AM

    any person i’ve ever become close friends with has started like this, except less crazy haha. I am usually the one to approach the person, and I know we will be best friends within a few conversations. Usually i’m pretty standoffish towards people because I don’t really trust them. But with certain people, even if i’ve never met them before, I can just tell we are going to get along and we usually do.

  • thisisaflag April 30th, 2013 2:15 AM

    Friend crushes are the best until you start like liking them. My stupid heart always crosses the line and ruins everything!

    • LettsFly April 30th, 2013 3:34 PM

      Ugh, I know the feeling exactly! Hearts can be a pain!

  • sophiethewitch April 30th, 2013 3:31 AM

    ABOUT AWKWARDLY TRYING TO START CONVERSATIONS WITH PEOPLE YOU REALLY WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH. One time I was trying to talk normally with this girl I was impressed by, and failing miserably, and I actually asked her, calmly and like it was totally normal (which it seemed in my head at the time), “are you a cyborg?” I swear to god.

  • giov April 30th, 2013 3:57 AM

    I have a massive friend crush on this (gay, super cute, super nice) guy who writes comics in my city. I went up to him at a reading and asked “are you -first name- -last name-? I’m a massive fan of your tumblr!”. and he liked that! he gave his number! said we should ride our bike and draw together soon! of course whenever he texts me I can’t read his messages for days because I’m freaking out too much. awkward.

  • GorillazFangirl April 30th, 2013 12:26 PM

    This is just what I need right now! Super glad to see that I’m not the only one (in this world of +7 billion) who has these intense feelings of platonic desire, mixed with a lil wanting and knowing that us two will be friends because I *will* make it happen. xD

  • kolumbia April 30th, 2013 6:46 PM

    This is so perfect!! I love the ending, because people are always saying that my guy best friend and I are going to realize that we ~like~ each other, but we just don’t, and our friendship is so much better than any romantic relationship. This was expressed so beautifully!!

  • kikikaylen April 30th, 2013 9:01 PM

    This article is perfect. I’m totally experiencing this right now. I’m going to college in the fall & there’s a Facebook page for the freshman class where everyone posts bios either looking for a roommate or just friends in general. Last night, this girl with really similar interests to me started fb messaging me & we’re already planning on going to a concert together in September! Mind you, I live a THOUSAND miles away from this college, but I’m already convinced that this girl and I are destined to be best friends. :-)

    I relate to everyone where with some people you’re super shy at first yet with others you just instantly open up because you know that you’re a good friendship fit for each other.

  • trassel May 1st, 2013 1:34 PM

    I recognize this so much! Meeting a new friend is so much like falling in love that I don’t know what I’m experiencing most of the times. Right now I don’t really have any close friends who live nearby, but a lot of potential friends that I really like and try to hang out with as much as possible, but I’m so afraid of being too pushy if I ask them to be with me. It’s like I can’t help but believe that they ultimately hate me and think I am obnoxious. I’m so tired of being lonely…