August 11, 2005

Must we talk about the "girl crush"?

I didn't get around to linking to this article this morning, and now it seems so yesterday... and it was kind of dumb in the first place anyway, but I thought you might enjoy talking about the supposed phenomenon of the "girl crush" or the way the NYT falls all over itself trying to tell us about cultural phenomena like the "girl crush."

Mostly, the "girl crush" seems to be a vogue phrase for something that has been around for a long time: a fawning but nonsexual interest one woman has in another. Basically, one woman is just way too interested in how fabulous another woman is, and if the object of the crush realizes this, it's not really going to work out very well as a friendship.

27 comments:

Rick Lee said...

I didn't read the article and I've never heard the phrase, but is this something that supposedly doesn't happen with guys? It surely does. It's happened to me and I've had some interesting conversations with guys about other guys who fawningly latch onto them and try to be best pals and get jealous, etc, etc. It happens to guys who are too nice to be rude.

Goesh said...

We usually fawn over the people who are deer to us. I really wish I hadn't read that article about lamb's fur. Rick is right. This is a common thing and not unique to any given geograhic area, and we really need to buck this notion of it being only a female thing. It's about like raving over the chocolate chips in a good cookie while ignoring the doe that binds it all. I promise I will stop this.

Ann Althouse said...

Isn't this sort of just the friend equivalent of wanting to date someone who is out of your league?

Serenity Now said...

But such impassioned expressions of affection were uncommon, for instance, in the 1960's and 70's, when homophobia was even more rampant than it is today, Dr. Caplan said.

"Even more rampant"? What an ahistorical perspective. This is the least "homophobic" period in the last couple thousand years of Western history.

Rick Lee: I didn't read the article and I've never heard the phrase, but is this something that supposedly doesn't happen with guys?

There was a great Seinfeld episode where George gets a man crush on Elaine's boyfriend.

James Wigderson said...

The other episode of Seinfeld that springs to mind is the one with Keith Hernandez. Finally Keith went too far and asked Jerry to help him move, and Jerry thought Keith was moving their relationship too fast.

amba said...

There seems to be a lot of envy wrapped up in this phenomenon. Or at least in one of them. The article is really talking about two different things: the initial "attraction" that draws you into friendship with someone compatible, and the imitative hero-worship of lower-status primates for higher-status peers, perhaps hoping some of the glimmer will rub off.

There's also a third phenomenon: little girls (and boys too?) do "fall in love" with older females. I had terrible crushes on an older girl, a teacher, and my camp director. There was nothing sexual about these attachments, but they were romantic, emotional infatuations. In the case of the camp director, even though I was 13, 14, and 15 by that time, only in retrospect do I realize she and most of the counselors were lesbian. (Who else would devote their entire summer to making an all-girl, all-women camp the best time of some girls' lives?) It was an innocent era, the camp staff did nothing to disabuse us of our innocence, and the possibility that they were lesbians was whispered and giggled about a bit, but marginal and irrelevant. The camp director was a wonderfully strong, androgynous presence, and I just totally adored her.

Timothy K. Morris said...

Rick Lee:

It's a silly term, applied to something that happens all the time, with both sexes. Usually most obvious in teenaged girls, but you are correct -- guys do it, too. Their behavior just isn't as obvious in most cases.

Richard Fagin said...

The entire establishment press corps has a "girl crush" on Sen. Clinton, so the Times article is timely and appropriate.

J.Bro said...

Solution, to the extent a solution is necessary, seems pretty simple to me - act on the crush. If you want to make out with another woman in public, I say go for it.

Sloanasaurus said...

Where is the outrage from the GLB community over the non-politcally correct implication of "girl crush?"

Kathy Herrmann said...

What's non-pc? It works all ways. I'm a lesbian and I've had guy crushes.

Bruce Hayden said...

amba

Maybe at the camp you went to, the staff were lesbian, but I doubt if that is the case overall.

My grandmother had a girls camp for a number of years. She wasn't. And we got enough wedding announcements over the years to indicate that most of the staff weren't. And my daughter just got back from a month at camp, and the counselers there asseredly weren't. Indeed, since they have four boys camps and four girls camps reasonably close together, there is an entire social scene between the counselers. Back in college, my best friend was a counseler there, and I saw the place a couple of weeks ago when I visited where he and his counseler girlfriend at the time would go and "make it". Always chuckle when I see it, esp. when my daughter is along, and I really can't tell her yet.

Bruce Hayden said...

I find this article interesting, esp. from the (non) lesbian angle. Erstwhile girlfriend occasionally has women get crushes on her, and some are, admittedly, lesbian crushes. Most are not though. I can tell, and she can't - I suspect because she is borderline Asperger's. She really can't distinguish between girl crushes, as described in the article, lesbian crushes, and hetrosexual crushes by guys. They all seem the same to her.

I can tell in a heart beat though. If lesbian, there is an immediate competitiveness from the woman. If just a girl crush, the women seem to almost transfer a little of the worship to me. Which of course, I don't mind.

leeontheroad said...

I don't follow what you mean, Sloan: what non-politically correct implication?

Ann, I think your question of equivalence is an apt one. I suppose any woman who is in a potential mentoring position relative to other women might experience the phenomenon with which I'm most familiar: the teacher crush. The crush part I think is harmless, provided the teacher doesn't let it go to her (or his) head.

But at a certain point crush might become unreasonable expectation of reciprocal interests, for example, outside the classroom or mentoring relationship. I felt awful about doing it, but I once "kicked out" a student from my office after we'd-- to my mind-- exhausted all topics of mutual interest; and the young woman was still sitting there, 40 minutes later (not having made an appointment). I wasn't going to expound on my brief, airy answer to a question about my personal life.

In that sense, I suppose, putting off a woman consciously or not so consciously "beyond crush" is like putting off someone one has no interest in dating: sometimes it's just necessary to be firm, polite but firm. Maybe, in fact, it's the same thing.

"Crushes" alone in professional (or other "structured" interaction) just seem to me to require the "crushee" to let the admiration run its course. It will.

Among peers, I don't see a problem with a "crush," between women or men-- again, unless the "crusher" has unreasonable expectations of the "crushee" which makes the latter uncomfortable. But I think differing expectations can happen among friends, absent any "crush" aspect. (e.g., a long-time friend going through a break-up expressed upset that I hadn't called during a busy period, but since we are friends, it was all fine in the end).

amba said...

Bruce Hayden,

I wouldn't mean to suggest that all girls' camps were run by lesbians. It just seems clear to me, in retrospect, that ours largely (not exclusively) was, and that the counselors lived for summer as much as the campers did . . . (not that we had any idea of their non-camp lives). The camp director was married to a man, FWIW. To us the women running the camp seemed pretty much asexual (which was perfect for us) and no-nonsense and competent. We saw it as we needed to see it. In my case, that was as a refuge from the miseries of high school.

Lou Wainwright said...

As with many things, I think this is little more than pointing out the extreme cases along a continuum. After all, not all friendships are perfectly balanced. I certainly have friends where I am more intersted in their lives than they are in mine [like the professional gambler with the 21yo GF, vs. my happy, but boring, life with wife, kids, stable job], and the opposite is true as well. But we can still be friends as long as the imbalance doesn't become problematic.

Elizabeth said...

Those who enjoy 19th century novels might be familiar with the "romantic friendship" of that period. Lilian Faderman has a book on it, I think. For some reason I can understand an academic book on crushes, but a NYT article? It's not like they're news. I'm gay but I get "boy crushes," usually on favorite actors. Oddly, I had one on Jerry Orbach, old and craggy, but so New York, so suave, so Broadway. A straight male friend of mine has boy crushes; for awhile all he could talk about was Jack Black, after "School of Rock." Well, Jack Black's cute as a bug, who wouldn't have a crush?

ploopusgirl said...

Sloanasaurus: What about the term is "non-politically correct" whatsoever? Does absolutely everything have to go back to goddamn ridiculous liberals, socialism and political correctness with you? Some things are not politically relevant at all. You need to realize this and you need to grow up.

gardenwidow said...

I never knew the name for it, but now I realize I have a "girl crush" on my boss. I'm happily married, middle aged, with a grown daughter. I recognised myself though, in the comment from the college professor who finally had to boot a student out of her office after an extended conversation. I end up looking for opportunities to be in my boss's office, and to talk about anything but work. She's been my boss for 5 years, and, to top it off, she's a lesbian. She also is in a longterm committed relationship just as I am.
The girl crush is fine, not really a problem, but it is probably not smart that she's my boss. Although, isn't that kind of like the professor/mentor with a student kind of relationship? I look at my boss as the leader of our work environment. And she's both strong and kind. These are qualities I admire, so I guess a girl crush may have been inevitable.

stranger said...

While I agree with everything by which these crushes are defined, having an innocent crush on a girl myself, I don't believe it should be pushed as a "phenomenon" known the "girl crush". As already stated, it is not exclusively a girl thing and it is not something that is new.

I don't know what this obsession is with same-sex relationships that seems to be overtaking the world, but I don't want my crush to be labelled and marketed like some sort of gimmicky fad.

CelticWoolf said...

I totally agree with Stranger!
I'm straight but have had many 'girl crushes' and currently have one on a particularly awesome tutor. They're not sexual, but they are 'genuine' and should not be belittled nor dismissed.

Debbie H. said...

i'm a teenager, and i think i've had a couple girl crushes before. But sometimes i even think about kissing the girl or just want to touch her. Is this part of a girl crush?

anoniem said...

I'm a teenager too. I'm girl (17 years old) who has a big crush on her teacher. I just think she is very cool, nice, just great..I admire her, she doesn't know. It's not seksual, but I do have these strong feelings for her just as if I'm in love. So I suppose she's my first girl crush and it is very confusing. At first I thought: oh god, I'm falling in love with my teacher. So I've been confused for two years now, thinking I was a Lesbian..It really drives me crazy. But now I know it's just a girl's crush and it has nothing to do with my seksuality..Still it's hard to deal with, I often get very nervous when I see her. And I'm always wondering if she should know, or if she might want to know about my crush..

Ann Althouse said...

Well, good luck. It's nice to have passionate feelings about a teacher. Maybe it's connected to your love for enlightenment. And it's probably a rehearsal for the real relationships you will surely have when you are older. I wish you well.

anoniem said...

Thanx..
And I'm sorry for my grammar mistakes (I'm from Holland).

Meghan said...

Right on CelticWoolf! Very well articulated. I agree and have had several girl crushes on bosses, teachers, friends, what have you for years. Every year it seems there's someone new, and I'm ok with that! I kind of love it!
I'm in a committed straight relationship, and admittedly even have sexual fantasies sometimes about my girl crushes. I have no shame or anxiety because of it and think it's perfectly normal. People are just people!
I like to think it's a good thing. Go ahead and admire someone, love them, respect them, aspire to be more like them. Often this kind of hero worship makes you want to be a better person, which is a great thing. Don't go off the deep end, keep yourself in check and be grateful that you have someone to look up to. I find it's helpful to acknowledge it in some fashion by telling them that you think they're awesome casually in conversation if you have a window for it. Say it often if you want! It shows you have nothing to hide and are confident in yourself. :)

lkris13 said...

I agree with you Meghan, however maybe you can offer some help. I am in an awkward stage of my life right now.. 19 and in college. Life is fuzzy and I have also had several girl crushes myself but they confuse me a lot. I have had more in the past during high school than I have now and they've never been sexual, thinking back on them they do seem like admiration crushes but I honestly go back and fourth in my head and I tend to get very anxious about it because some just included weird feelings and I couldn't really figure them out. Last year I went through a huge stage where I was totally just looking for someone and stressed that often to myself and others, then I had a bad first sexual experience with this guy i had interest in and everything went downhill from there without me realizing it. Since then I just get anxious and confused about my orientation cause I am scared these attractions to girls might turn into something even though I am sexually attracted to men. Idk, just thought i'd comment. I also tend to overanalyze things and make them bigger than they are. Just sayin.