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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Why We Love Crushes & Let's Count the Ways

My first crush was a guy named Jeff who was going out with my camp counselor Sue toward the end of the summer. My friends and I scoped them out on an overnight and decided they were “in love.” I was not alone in my crush and in fact, having friends who were into the same guy made it easier, because we validated each other.

We also liked a guy named Jimmy who didn’t treat the ladies very nicely, but was fun anyway. He seemed to attract young women who liked to live a little more dangerously, and then drop them when someone else who was interesting came along.

Watching this happen was fascinating because it had the potential for so many life lessons. I was trying, fast and furiously, to learn all of them.

My next crush was in collaboration with at least three girlfriends and happened over the course of the next two summers. Our counselor Carol was beautiful and flirtatious and of course attracted a ton of wanna-be guys. She seemed most interested in a tall, not-so-good looking guy named Chuck and at first, I couldn’t understand why.

When I asked her what she saw in Chuck, Carol said she liked his humor and the way he saw things. When we got to know him a bit better, my friends and I agreed she was right. After a while, he started to grow on us too and before the summer was over, we all had crushes on him.

I still remember Carol’s guy because in many ways he became the prototype for what I was looking for. I think crushes can do that for us, letting us know in quiet and not-so-quiet ways the kind of person we want and don’t want. If the crush is a real, live person, he or she allows us to figure out what to say and do when there’s someone we meet that interests us.

My favorite thing about crushes is there's usually no possibility of any real romance, so you get to try out your flirtations without consequences. For tweens, in my view, nothing could be healthier.

If you’re a parent, you are rarely going to hear about a crush (nor should you), because it’s part of how our tweens are shaping their identities and who wants to discuss that with mom and dad? I think the closest a parent is going to come to knowing about a crush would be a celebrity poster on your tween’s wall—but that, at least, may give you an idea of where he or she is going.

In The Beat on Ruby's Street, my character Ruby has a crush on Jack Kerouac. I think that tells us a lot about who she is and what she wants out of life, and tells it more clearly than if she were to talk only about herself. It is, in fact, the start and the end of Ruby's storybut not the whole story.

If you do find out about a crush, I wouldn't tell anyone, including your tween. If it sheds some light on his/her romantic inclinations, that’s a lucky break, but no one needs to know about it unless your tween wants to share. I guess I think of crushes as the first steps we take toward autonomy--and they're bound to be wobbly.

I also think crushes rarely tell us something about our tween without telling us about ourselves, too. And that's what makes them interesting.

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