DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am a 35 year old cis gendered male (He/Him/His) and I live in Chicago. 5 years ago I saw a live taping of a podcast that has since become a favorite of mine. At that taping I immediately had a crush on the co host. Like, I was just watching her smile and laughing when she laughed, all while having no idea what she was saying. I would smile at her smiling. So, crushing pretty hard (Lydia Loveless lyrics that fit the bill: ‘European’ “I just want to watch your lips move till I don’t know what the words mean…”)
Sadly, at that time I was in a deep depression and was too chicken s
t to take an opportunity to flirt with her after the taping. Now, 5 years later and I still have a crush on her. It is not as intense as before but I am still finding her incredibly attractive, not just looks (but damn she fine like a ticket on the dash) but her sense of humor, how she laughs, her nerdiness, and how she carries herself. I mean, she mad good at being funny and charming on twitter I dig her, she cool. Aaaannddd, after having an opportunity to talk with her after she was interviewing a famous person at a local event, I was again chicken s
t and bailed…
So, my quandary is that I don’t know what to do with this? Just leave it as “oh, it’s fun to have a crush, now move on dear boy” or maybe I am just not enough of a romantic, and I should go for it? I hear stories of other people that see someone and are floored by them and then they meet and date and marry… but I can’t imagine that happening to me. Either to chickens
t-ness or me not being a romantic. If I try to find ways to be around her more or to communicate with her over social media I am worried about being a creeper. (I am now much too scared of ‘sliding into dm’s’)
So, when is a crush worth pursuing and when is it a harmless flight of fancy? If it is worth pursuing, how to go about it? Is it weird to try and find ways to be around her? She has a podcast and they have frequent live tapings and she frequently is used as a host for interviewing fun and interesting guest at various functions around the city. So the opportunities exist…
Help me Dr NerdLove, you’re my only hope…
Languishing Excitement In Another
DEAR LANGUISHING EXCITEMENT IN ANOTHER: This… actually puts me in an interesting position. I’m someone whose entire career came about because I started hanging out at the bar where one of the hosts of a favorite podcast of mine worked as a bartender; we became friends, he eventually invited me onto the podcast and over time I became one of the regulars (instead of a frequent guest and friend of the pod). That ultimately lead to my starting Paging Dr. NerdLove. And honestly, since then, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and make friends with a number of people whose work I’ve long admired.
So trust me when I tell you this, LEIA: You need to let this go.
What you’re dealing with here is a parasocial relationship; it’s what’s ultimately a one-sided relationship that feels like a deep and abiding friendship or connection with someone — usually a media figure of some sort, but always someone who has a very public presence. In the day and age of social media, this frequently includes authors, podcast hosts, Instagram models, YouTubers and more. There’s a feeling of intimacy and familiarity that’s unreciprocated and, honestly, almost always unearned. But because we have so much exposure to these people, especially as social media encourages us to share more about ourselves, we feel like we know them on a personal level. We feel connected to them in a very real and significant way.
And to be perfectly blunt: a lot of folks encourage this. Parasocial relationships are often a part of creating a devoted fanbase. Whether we’re talking about Nerdfighters (no relation), Spillios, the LoGang, Critters, Murderinos, Little Monsters or what-have-you, the sense of being part of a community that has this connection to their idol is can make people feel like they’re closer to the object of their affection than they actually are.
Most of the time, this is just a fandom thing. But sometimes feelings get involved. And that’s where things get awkward. Because those feelings are based around an intimacy that isn’t actually there and a sense of access and entitlement that’s been artificially constructed. It’s based around the illusion of access, the illusion of knowledge and the sense of familiarity that comes with exposure. The more you listen to your favorite podcast, the more you start to feel like you really know the hosts because, well, they’re always around.
(Which gets all kinds of interesting when you actually do know the podcasters in question, let me tell you.)
But while that is a great feeling, it’s also entirely one-sided.
Look, I get it. I’ve got a whole lot of various celebrities ranging from intellectual crushes of the “I find you fascinating, witty and I’m crazy about your brain and I just want to hang around you and listen to you be smart” to the more common “Well if the stars happen to align”, to the “well look Ms. Hendricks, the order doesn’t TECHNICALLY say I can’t be here…” So I understand the feelings you’re feeling.
I also have a number of friends in varying shades of “celebrity” or “public figure” and I can tell you for a fact that what you have a crush on is their “public face”. This is the version of themselves that they’re presenting to the world. It’s their mask, their persona, their false front that serves as the side of themselves that they want to project. Even folks who are incredibly open or upfront about their lives are still putting on their public persona; it’s the most polished version of themselves, the version that feels authentic, but has still been cleaned up for public consumption. It’s the shiniest version of themselves.
It’s real, but it’s not really them.
So part of what you need to acknowledge and understand is that your crush is coming from a place where you feel like you know more than you actually do, where you have the illusion of knowledge. Your crush is real, but the person you’re crushing on is less so.
That’s the first problem.
The second problem is that you’re a fan. And while I get the fantasy of a fan making friends or forming a relationship with someone they admire… it’s really goddamn awkward and uncomfortable for the people who’re on the receiving end of that fantasy. Hell, it’s awkward enough when a fan recognizes you on a dating app; when it’s a case of actually tried to engineer a “coincidental” meetup, it verges into nightmare territory. That’s where we start throwing around words like “creepy” or “stalker”. This is the sort of thing that really only works in movies (if you don’t think about it terribly hard) because in movies, everything is benign; we know the person’s motivations are pure-ish and it all will work out ok because the script said so. In reality, it’s disturbing as hell. It’s even more distressing to be put on the spot by someone, especially at a public event. Even if you don’t intend to, there’s now a lot of pressure on the person to respond in a way that they likely don’t want to because it’s all going down in public and folks love seeing the fantasy of a fan getting with his crush.
(This, incidentally, is why I intensely dislike the various “publically ask a celebrity to go on a date” stories that crop up every year.)
Now just for full disclosure’s sake: all of the folks whose work I love who I connected with? All of that came about organically. None of it was a case of my trying to arrange a meet or something I actively pursued. It all happened in the most banal of ways; we met at cons because we tabled next to one another or were on the same panels. We were guests at the same events or have friends in common who introduced us. We met before either of us were “names” and just happened to come up around the same time. We commented on each other’s Twitter posts and became mutuals. Occasionally, I contacted them — or they contacted me — for professional reasons and we just clicked.
But every time, I wasn’t trying to chase down a relationship — outside of basic networking in some cases. It was simply opportunities that came up because of the vagaries of life. And it would be really uncomfortable if they thought I had ulterior motives in meeting them — or that I’d somehow arranged an opportunity to meet them under false pretenses.
So, yeah. This fantasy you have? It needs to stay a fantasy. It’s something fun to think about, but not every dream is something that you need to act on. It’s fun to have a crush, but the fact that you have one doesn’t mean that you need to do something with it; sometimes the point of a crush is just to enjoy it.
So let it go.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I recently made an Instagram account just to follow friends. Just this morning I realised that another person (whom I don’t know and never met and is a gorgeous fitness model) has clicked to follow my profile. Turns out the profile is legitimate because it is linked to Facebook and when I saw some photos, a friend of hers is an ex work colleague.
My question is do you think it’s a good idea to contact her through Instagram and see if it leads to a date?
DEAR INSTAGRAM X: No.
Read what I just wrote to Languishing Excitement In Another. Then read it again.
You’ve never interacted with this person before, you know next to nothing about them except that she’s gorgeous and that you have a mutual friend. Trying to slide into her DMs out of the blue isn’t gonna be a good look for you. If you want to actually start being someone she would actually want to talk to — and then maybe see if you two have enough mutual chemistry to get around to possibly going on a date — start by being someone who can actually comment on her profile intelligently without making it about her looks or how much you want to bang her.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org