Illustration by Sofia Bews.

Illustration by Sofia Bews.

Ever been asked about someone you have a crush on at school and been really embarrassed about it? I HAVE. And I’m crap at hiding when I have a crush on someone! I never wanted people to know, yet somehow, someone was always asking me about my crushes in front of rooms full of my classmates. UGH, PEOPLE.

What am I talking about? Link your arm through mine, and let’s travel through the mists of time so I can set the scene for you:

It’s seventh grade, and I’m sitting at a round lunch table with my core group of friends. A girl we’ll call Jenny, whose life mission is to ruin my life for no apparent reason, wanders by me in the lunchroom. She stops and turns around to face me.

“Hey, Krista,” she says, at a volume sure to be overheard at lunch tables in New Zealand from where we stand in Wisconsin. “Do you like Zach?” She asks this with a sly smile, certain of the trustworthiness of her source, aglow with the knowledge that nearly everyone in our grade is listening to this exchange.

Now: I do like Zach. I really, really like Zach. Jenny knows I like Zach. She saw me writing his name in my notebook a few days ago. She hadn’t said anything then, and I thought she’d forgotten.

Everyone hears Jenny ask me this. Everyone is immediately interested. Everyone turns to look at me. My face is instantly on fire.

“N-no,” I stammer, blushing furiously. “No. I don’t!”

“Yes, you do,” Jenny grins. She glances around the lunchroom, making sure we still have an audience. “You totally like Zach. Oh my god, you can tell me. I won’t tell him.”

“I don’t! I don’t like him!”

“Suuuuuuure.”

“I DON’T!” my voice becomes shrill. Zach is watching. I am nearly in tears. “I DON’T LIKE HIM LIKE THAT!”

“Everyone knows you do. Why are you lying?”

Screeeeeeeeeech! Hold on. Do you see what’s happening here? Before this happened, I was a nice person who was quietly in love with a cute boy named Zach. Now, according to Jenny, I am a lying liar who looooovves Zach and EVERYONE KNOWS.

I get up from the lunch table, just barely containing my tears, and walk to the bathroom, where I silently cry with rage on a toilet seat.

Middle school can be really fun.

But hold on—this could have gone a lot differently! There is a way around a messy scene like this, and I learned it from my older sister’s friend (he was in high school! an elder!) when I was telling him this horror story in our living room a few days after it happened. He swore he had learned the technique from his older brother, and it had never failed him.

All you do is this: When some busybody asks you, loudly, if you like someone (whether or not you do like that someone), and you don’t want anyone to know how you feel, just take a deep breath, stay calm, and resist the urge to hotly deny it. Don’t deny! Instead, look the asker in the eye and say, without any emotion whatsoever, “Why? Do YOU like them?”

This does several things. First, it turns the unwanted attention directly around to the person who (it can only be assumed) was attempting to embarrass you. Second, the person was not expecting you to do this—they were expecting your instant denial, and were looking forward to teasing you while you denied. Third, because you remained calm, you look incredibly mature. Fourth, there’s really no way out of this for them. Sample convo below!

Busybody, loudly, to you and a room full of people: Hey, do you like Hanna? Like, like her?

Unruffled Human: ::stares coolly at Busybody.:: …Why? Do you like Hanna?

Busybody: What? No! I mean—I asked you first.

Unruffled Human: …So?

Busybody: Haha you do like her, I knew it.

Unruffled Human: ::continues to be incredibly, oddly calm:: You keep bringing her up.

Folks, let me tell you something: After seventh grade, I used this technique every single time someone publicly confronted me about a crush. In five years, it never failed me. It works beautifully. Now I pass it on to you. Go with my blessing. ♦