Unless you're the rare asexual, we've all at some point felt something for someone. And sometimes it works out, but when it doesn't, those feelings don’t just evaporate. The first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy) applies even in love.
Well, sometimes. Sometimes it's easy to get over someone. I can list my middle school crushes without any twinges (though I did date the most popular girl in my middle school for eight hours; why didn't that work out?).
I also still remember my first crush's birthday (who I asked out three times - what were you thinking, Cazey?). We’re friends now, and I text her happy birthday every March 24. But if she hadn’t been my first crush, would I remember the date without Facebook’s prompting?
Some flames can't be put out. They glow six months later, through the seasons, and continue to burn even when you get their wedding invitation and you're not the groom (just kidding on the last one - hopefully).
You tell yourself you'll get over them - soon, too. It has to happen by next Christmas, right? You recount the last time you were hung up on someone, and you were really hung up on them. How long was it – two years? And that's including the year and a half you two were talking (you never dated; of course you didn't). But for the next twelve months, every Facebook status, comment, and picture had some manipulative angle where you prayed they would see it and think of you.
But now look at you: You never think of them and you're even disgusted you fell for them!
So when do I get over the current one?
Time heals all wounds, they say, and it's always worked before, so it has to work again. But then you recall tales of unrequited love that last through the ages, e.g. Severus Snape, Great Expectations, Atonement, etc. There is something sexy about two lovers awakening to the fact they have wanted one another for decades ("Why didn't you say something sooner?") - or is that just me?
Why can't we get over some people? Even as we loathe ourselves, we are consumed by them. Not every hour or every day, but when their ghost passes by, God help us.
It doesn't help when we hear stories where it works. Well, sorta works. A friend crushed on this guy all through college. They eventually went on a date that ended with injured psyches and embarrassed morals. (Quick lesson: Don't full-on hookup on a first date if you really, really like them - and especially don't question their virtue aloud afterward.)
Except she still liked him afterward.
Fast forward two years: He messages that he still thinks about her. And, cliffhanger, she isn't creeped out. She feels the same way. *Audiences aws.*
Of course, it still doesn't work, love is a biased coin's flip, but the confession didn't land him in psycho stalker territory. *Audience claps.*
Fear of reaction is why “love” stays a secret so often. And wax all you want about “What is there to lose?,” but some of us have pride and a rationality that rejects your Pinterest quote board approach to life. While I can’t control my heart and thoughts, I can control what I do because of those feelings.
So that's why I grabbed dinner with a former entanglement recently. (Oops?) I won’t lie, I did it because I was curious. And it was all dandy until she dropped that she and her boyfriend might break up. And she thinks about me under various guises - like when she exercises, checks Twitter, and breathes.
You're not allowed to say that, I wanted to say.
Worse than seeing her, I did a thing you should never do if you're trying to extinguish a fire (bad child!): I revisited our Facebook chat history. Aka I relived every moment she asked me to hang out three years ago and every bad joke I made and every excuse I offered for why I wasn't available to see her at the proposed time.
Personally, time may soothe, but distance exacerbates. It is far easier to be hung up on someone we don't see, who is unattainable if not simply unavailable - because then we have rationales for why it won't work: "They live too far away," "They're in a relationship," etc. We ignore the "it won't work" part of that thought. We live off sparks from prehistoric encounters. Since fire was found, it has never gone out - and so it is for romance.
You remember the moment you fell for them and the sleepless nights where you awoke with as much energy as your stomach’s somersaults. When not together, we can disregard the scenarios where they would choose someone else over us and/or our passion fizzles out (as every fire is bound to do).
Instead, we fixate on the Wednesday in spring where she sat too close and you realized you wanted her just as bad. In 36 hours you confess mutual feelings. And within the week, she's a memory that drove away only to be resurrected by texts that go nowhere and reunions that are amicable, restrained, futile, for the next three years.
Why am I still standing here? you wonder. They shouldn't call it a hang-up if you’re still on the line.
What put it all in perspective is when my roommate asked pointblank if I would date my former entanglement if she declared similar feelings. I paused, but the answer was no. The thing with being hung up is, you don't actually like them. You like their memory. And that’s why you’re hung up; memories never go away.