Having a crush sucks.
I’m not talking about typical Hollywood crushes most women probably have on celebrities. Morris Chestnut always and forever, baby! In second place is Jake Gyllenhaal. Polar opposites, but both are able to garner my unwavering support of their projects.
My crushes on them don’t suck. They’re pure flights of fancy. Crushes on tangible, real life people within but out of reach suck.
I was never a boy-crazy girl or teen. I’m drawing a blank on any high school crushes I might’ve had. Same for college even though I went to three for undergrad, and one for grad.
My first schoolgirl crush manifested at my first job. I was 16, office assistant at a consulting firm and had a crush on one of the consultants. A very grown man by the name of Bill P. He was white, handsome, muscle-y and had a gorgeous smile. I got hot, flustered and tongue-tied around him. And he treated me like the 16-year-old girl that I was.
In my early twenties, I worked at Borders (moment of silence for that wonderful, fallen bookstore) and had a huge crush on “C,” an associate on the music side. I was on the book side. He and his best friends, also employees at the store, played in a band, and I and another co-worker-turned-friend, supported.
That crush/borderline obsession snuck up on me. Never did I think I’d feel this way about a pale, scrawny Scotsman with a goatee. I found myself making sure I looked cute on the days I knew he worked; applied fresh coats of scented lotion before heading over to his side of the store and made a bigger deal out of simple gestures made out of friendship that pre-crush I didn’t think were significant.
He saved free R&B CDs for me. Employees bought (stole) fresh baked chocolate chip cookies from the café and shared them with each other all the time, but I made it special when he did it with me. Once, while I waited in my car in the CVS parking lot as he bought cigarettes (a nasty habit I disapproved of yet allowed him to smoke in my car), he surprised me by buying a cute pen with a feather on one end as a “Just Because” gift.
The excitement and butterflies I felt for him were absent with my first boyfriend from a year before. My ex was a friend with a crush on me. Knowing that I figured “why not?” to a relationship with him. Friends and family were tired of hearing me gush about C and encouraged me to tell him my feelings.
He told me that he liked me…as a friend…and that he already had a girlfriend. Where the hell was this chick at all his gigs that I attended and screamed at the top of my lungs? Where was she when I was hanging out at his apartment listening to music? Where was she when I gave him rides home after our shifts?
Years later, I had another workplace crush, though, not as intense. J was a realtor at the boutique real estate office where I was the administrative assistant/unofficial office manager. He was the top agent. Attractive. His cheekbones were ridiculous and he was an impeccable dresser. Extra starch at the dry cleaners, I’m sure. I can’t remember which African country his family was from, but he spoke French. Sexy. As is the case with me and guys, we struck up a platonic friendship. We shared plenty while working late or being the only ones in the tiny office.
Then came that familiar feeling. I didn’t look at him as just a friend. I liked him. A lot. But remembering that crushing rejection from C years before, I remained quiet. We were both in our 30s. He was a go-getter. If he wanted me, he’d come after me. Why else was he always flirting with me, to the point of other agents teasing us, and even accusing me of favoring him?
Prior to quitting my position at the office that summer, one of the agents had invited everyone to a get-together at his place. I’d already made arrangements with J to go with him. During the ride, I swallowed deep before asking him why he’d never asked me out. He smirked and said “Because I don’t like to shit where I eat.” Fair enough, but I no longer worked there. “Uh, it wouldn’t be a good idea now. I’m kinda in a situation.”
D was another sneak-attack workplace crush. We went from nonspeaking strangers, to workout buddies and working coworkers, to former workout buddies, but still working together coworkers. Because there was a gym the a block from the office, several people went there for lunchtime or after work workouts. We were both part of the lunchtime crowd, although sometimes I went in the late afternoon to avoid the rush. One day in the office kitchen he invited me to workout with him and two others. I invited a friend so that I wouldn’t be the only female.
I became a regular member of the group. He and I became friends. We talked about more than just working out and found that we’d both lost a parent to cancer. We sought each other out during office events. He stopped by my desk to chat as did I, even after my seat was moved to another floor.
I took it as a sign that he liked me if he rode an elevator to come see me for no reason! He checked on me post-workouts and offered me snacks. My boring workout looks of t-shirts and cotton leggings morphed into flattering bright and colorful tank tops and spandex leggings. (When you look good, you feel good). I made sure to apply a fresh coat of scented shea butter pre-workout even though by the end of the hour I’d be smelling like a man (in my mind).
I suppressed giggles and blushed when he told me he was impressed with my strength and ability, and shrank when I didn’t meet his expectations. Other people started to question if we had a thing going on. So I started to wonder if it were possible. I consulted with my guy and girl friends—both worked at the office and watched the evolution of the relationship. They were convinced his feelings were mutual and said I had to take control because men can be clueless, or punks.
One night, after we both worked late, but I was heading out first instead of us leaving together, I stopped by his desk. He mentioned how his new position that I helped prep him for barely left him time to do anything. Window of opportunity. I said “oh, so that’s why you haven’t been coming around as much. I thought you were avoiding me because you knew I had a crush on you.” I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me.
“I don’t believe you,” he said.
“Then why am I saying it?”
“I don’t know.”
My friends would not allow me to concede defeat, even though prior to that I had planned a small afterwork outing for his birthday with our other workout buddies and a mutual friend. A few hours before dinner, he emailed asking if it would ruin the reservation if he invited two more people. I assumed he meant guy friends.
One was a former female coworker of ours, but I knew they were just friends. I almost choked on my drink when a petite dark-haired woman walked in and he stood to greet her by kissing her on the cheek, millimeters from her lips.
You’d think I’d leave well enough alone with office crushes. I swear I don’t go looking for these things. Cheri (our nickname for each other) and I both worked at the office, but not with each other, for about six years. He was hired shortly after I was. I took notice of him because he was just my type—big, bald and black. Great physique. Gorgeous smile. He could be the model in toothpaste or dentistry commercials.
I knew him in passing at first and was more friends with his friend. This past summer, something happened and I busted out my old MO. Flattering outfits, fresh manicures, making sure the lip gloss was popping and the scented lotion was fresh before stopping by their area to say hi, which I’d done a million time without caring about any of those things.
To get my FitBit steps, I invited him to take walks around the block. We invited each other to pick up lunch, shared funny YouTube and Instagram posts. Nothing new, but now looked upon in a new light because I had developed a crush.
Via text I confessed to a cousin that pre-crush I didn’t care that I was usually, not always, the one to initiate communication via IM or desk visit, but now that I had a crush I was overanalyzing. She suggested that perhaps in the past he had reached out and I missed it, so he decided to fall back. He did ask for my number. He did compliment my locs, smile and scented lotions. He did not ask me out.
“I don’t like being a girl. Or human. Too many damn emotions and feelings.”
“Maybe the next life you’ll be a flamingo.”
At least I won’t be deathly allergic to shrimp anymore.
Picture credit: Adamsart