DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am a teenager who has a small dilemma: I often get crushes on people or fictional characters who are conventionally unattractive. They can be overweight, ugly, have terrible personalities, or be weird, but often I will have crushes on those people despite their flaws. Usually I will just look past the flaws and focus on the good things about them. This doesn’t apply to all of my crushes, but it is frequent enough that I wonder if it is wrong to crush on unattractive people. Is this weird? If it is, what should I do about it?
Thanks for all your hard work!
DEAR UNHELPFUL BRAIN: So, funny thing about crushes, UB: they just kinda happen. Despite what a lot of folks often believe – or, fear, for that matter – is that they don’t reveal any deep, dark secrets about you. Getting a crush on someone when you’re married or in a relationship, for example, doesn’t mean that you don’t actually love your partner, or that there’s something wrong with your relationship. Neither, for that matter does getting a crush on someone fictional mean that you can’t “handle real women”, or that you’re not emotionally mature or whatever. All a crush ultimately means is that you’re a standard-issue human with the standard issue wetware that we pretty much all get issued by birth.
There really isn’t any rhyme or reason why we’ll get a crush on somebody. You might realize you have a crush on someone (or develop a crush on them) because you had a particularly spicy dream about them, or because they did something that made you happy or feel validated. You might get a crush on someone – especially a fictional character – because of what they represent to you or because of some aspect of their personality or presentation. People get crushes on folks they know incredibly well, folks they see at a glance, people they talk to once or who they see over and over again but never speak to.
Hell, you may find yourself developing a crush on someone you outright loathe, which can really bake your noodle if you’re not used to them.
The only thing that a crush says about you is that there’s something about that particular person that just hits you in the exact right way. It may be physical, it may be emotional or it may be purely representational, but there’s something about them that tickles your fancy (or other bits). That’s it.
This is why every crush you have will have one thing in common: you find them attractive in some way, shape or form. Now, this can seem confusing to a lot of people; why would you develop that seemingly random infatuation on someone you don’t think is hot, or who you think is an awful person? But that’s the thing about attraction: not only is it not rational but it’s not strictly physical or emotional. Attraction is a multi-axis graph; someone may not be your usual type (more on this in a second), but there’s other aspects to them that appeal to you – their personality, their voice, their behavior, even just the attitude and aura they give off. You may, for example, find someone less than hot, but there’s just something about them that radiates sex appeal to you. Or they could be your mortal enemy and you wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire because you don’t want to waste the moisture… but the passion behind that feeling gets sublimated into desire. It’s weird, often surprising… but completely and utterly normal. It’s possibly distressing, in the event that it’s someone you actively don’t like. But normal.
Humans are basically ghosts summoned by shooting electricity through tapioca and are then tasked to pilot robots made out of meat; it shouldn’t be surprising that we end up feeling weird s--t about other people on occasion.
But I was a wee bit less than truthful when I said that crushes don’t reveal any deep dark secrets about you. Remember what I said about how someone may not be your usual type? Well, occasionally what you’ll discover is that your type… isn’t actually your type. That is, you may not be as aware of who you find attractive as you think.
Yeah, I know, this sounds insane. How could you, the person who gets the 24/7 feed of the inside of your head, not know who you’re attracted to? Well, that gets back to the whole “people are complex and weird” part. There’re a lot of things that affect not just who we are attracted to but to who we assume we’re attracted to. A lot of people, for example, don’t realize just how much social pressure can dictate who we approach or try to date. We believe we’re supposed to be into a particular type of look or build or personality because other people – society, our peers, even just cultural osmosis – have told us over and over again that we’re supposed to be into X type of people with Y bodies and Z looks. But sometimes what we think we’re supposed to want and what we actually want can come in conflict.
A lot of people who are into fat women, for example, often don’t fully recognize or accept their attraction until they’ve matured to the point that they’re able to own their attraction and not give a damn about the “but what do my friends/strangers think?” factor. Others have found themselves pursuing women who fit a particular look or aesthetic – Big Titty Goth GF, e-girl, Girl Next Door, gingers, large breasts, small breasts, etc. – more out of inertia than actual attraction. They were attracted to that type or look at one point in their lives, but their tastes have grown or changed. Because they still see being into that type as part of their identity, they have a hard time accepting that it may have changed.
Or for that matter, they may have told themselves that they’re not into a particular type or personality because they worry about what it says about them. Maybe they represent the opposite of the values they grew up with, or a lifestyle or personality type that they were always told they shouldn’t want.
Weird? Absolutely. But hey, attraction has nothing to do with logic or coherence. As the man once said, love’s not brains, it’s blood screaming at you to to work it’s will. So if you do a little introspection and look closely at the unusual people you’ve found yourself attracted to, you may well discover that what you think you find attractive and what actually attracts you don’t overlap perfectly.
Or it could be as simple as there’s just something about that person that just does it for you and it’s different for each unusual or inconvenient crush.
However is it wrong to get a crush on “unattractive” people? I’d say I don’t understand the question, except I suspect that you’re equating “having a crush” with “need to do something about it”… which are two very different things. Having a crush on someone is ultimately neutral, neither good nor bad, right nor wrong. It’s just a feeling. It’s what you do about those feelings that is right or wrong. If you’re attracted to people you wouldn’t want to date – which is absolutely a thing that happens – then there’s really not a problem; you simply don’t date them. A crush is not a mandate, just like a boner’s not a commandment. You can be attracted to someone and not do anything about it. You can get some pantsfeels for Jesse’s girl, but it’s only a problem if you act on it.
(And, y’know, if Jesse’s girl isn’t into you and Jesse and his partner aren’t monogamous, but now we’re getting way the hell off track.)
If you’re having crushes on people you don’t want to pursue something with, then all you need to do is nothing. Seriously. Just let things be, and the crush will fade in due time. Crushes are like fires; if you feed it, it’ll grow. If you don’t give it fuel, it’ll go out on its own. And yes, trying to repress a crush is feeding it fuel. All you’re doing is reinforcing the state of having a crush on someone. Instead, all you need to do is note it and name it – “oh, there’s my crush on Samantha” – and then gently redirect your attention elsewhere. It’ll fade on its own without any real need for prompting from you.
Don’t worry about those weird crushes, UB. They’re perfectly normal. If they’re not something you want to pursue, then just let them be, and they’ll go away on their own.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org