Puzzling Over Crushes

When I first came to terms with the fact that I’m on the asexual spectrum, my automatic assumption was that I was heteroromantic (thanks, heteronormativity). Recently, I’ve been exploring the possibility that I might be aromantic, which would make things complicated because I’m not nonamorous.  Now I’ve been second-guessing myself wondering if I might be more heteroromantic than I want to admit.

I’ll see if I can explain.

The first time I tried writing this post, I attempted to confront the issue by breaking the concept of a “crush” into a set of criteria and then seeing how much and/or how many of my varied crush-like experiences met those criteria.  This was an unproductive exercise.  Ultimately, I had to conclude that on the face of it, it would appear that I have, indeed, had several crushes, if you allow for not meeting one or two of the criteria.  And given the genders of the people involved, at least in the instances I was using for data at the time, it would appear that I am heteroromantic.  I can easily accept labeling myself that way — or at least, the “hetero” part.

But the issue I ran into, in this analysis, was that I feel a formless reluctance to name any of my specific experiences as romantic.  They exhibited most of the characteristics I could think of, by all appearances resembling the crushes that others describe — except for, in my case, 1) a more mild level of intensity and 2) a lack of this nebulous sense of character that is the “romantic”.  Setting aside cultural convention, what even is this term romantic meant to get at?

We just don’t know.

Certainly, in every case, I didn’t actually want to date the person, knowing that we were incompatible at a more pragmatic level — but having a crush doesn’t necessarily mean willingness to act on it, the same way that sexual attraction does not always translate into sexual desire.  It’s possible to have a crush and still recognize that romancing the person would not be a good idea (and proceed to act accordingly).  So what I just mentioned, not “actually” wanting to date the person, is not enough to disqualify anything.  If they’re not crushes, that’s not the reason.

Yet I can’t get over this hesitant feeling I have, and seeing no reason to just ignore it, I want to examine this feeling as meaningful.  Perhaps it is because I devalue or am suspicious of romantic attraction.  I don’t know where that feeling would come from, but okay.  That’s a possibility.  The only other possibility is that I don’t want to label them that way because… they aren’t.

Considering the data I drew up, however, identifying as aromantic would feel fraudulent — specifically because I hate the trope of “they have a crush and they just won’t admit it” — hate with a roiling passion, and the last thing I want is to give anyone, even myself, a valid, accurate reason to use that logic on me, ever.  Whatever my feelings are, I want to be frank about them.  I’m not exactly sure where my disassociation with romance even comes from, given that I’d be okay with a lot of traditionally-romantic behaviors and partnership, but between my options, I would rather risk claiming to have feelings I don’t have than to claim otherwise and later be forced to realize that I was lying to myself.

And yet, I remain ambivalent.

I continue to feel unsure about whether I know what a crush feels like, how to identify one, and which of my experiences count, a task that seems increasingly complex the more I look.

So I have to consider whether I’m using an insufficient method.  What are some ways around this, some other approaches for thinking about this?

I used to think that my crush-like experiences toward girls were distinctly different from my crush-like experiences towards dudes, with my same-gender feelings presumed to be permanently and solidly nonromantic in nature.  It’s widely recognized in the ace and aro communities that nonromantic emotional attraction can occur,* so upon learning the word “squish”, I found it fairly easy recognize some of my same-gender attractions as fitting the definition.

*(I have also heard recognition of nonromantic emotional attraction from plenty of allos/non-aros, such as represented in the repulsively heteronormative terms “bromance” and “girl crush”)

However, now that I think about it and what I remember, what if some of those experiences, too, were also crushes?  How much actual difference is there between what I previously categorized as “nonromantic” and “potentially romantic”, besides similarity and difference of gender?  Has it simply been my own internalized heteronormativity that’s been guiding me?  Is it that I do experience crushes, but crushes of a lesser caliber than most?  In what way do my conundrums resemble the issues facing other gray-aromantic and wtfromantic people?

…I think I’m developing a bad habit of initially not understanding certain labels and then realizing how much I fit the definitions of them.

It should be just a simple matter of laying out all the potential instances on the table and sorting them one by one, but the more I dig for certainties, the more fuzzy and questionable instances occur to me, and the whole thing just becomes a frustrating experience of muttering to myself “I don’t feel like that counts” and then doubling back to ask myself why wouldn’t it?

Even if I presume that I have more heteroromantic leanings, I cannot determine, just by looking at the data, which of it makes that so.

I’m not sure what I expected to get from writing this, except to put my thoughts on record for what it’s worth.  Since I can’t seem to interpret or classify my experiences retroactively, my new policy is to just start from scratch and see if any unamiguously-romantic attraction appears in the future.  Until then, the data is inconclusive.

17 responses to “Puzzling Over Crushes

  • Grey

    I’ve had similar difficulties in classifying my romantic orientation. At the moment I’m going with gray-aromantic, because it seems to capture the feeling of not really being sure. It’s incredibly difficult to know whether I’m being accurate in reframing my experiences retroactively, especially when I’ve gone through multiple frames of mind already. I started out thinking I was heterosexual/romantic, and I had a similar policy of labeling attraction to guys as romantic and attraction to girls as platonic. (I wasn’t even aware of nonbinary identities at that stage.) Then I moved through a questioning period to bisexual/romantic, which caused me to relabel most of my strong attractions to anyone as crushes. Now I’m trying out gray-A and gray-aro, and having to start from scratch like you! I even made a chart of all past attractions I could remember, and it really got me nowhere.

  • I think I’m… wtfromantic. Or maybe heteroromantic. Or aromantic? Or panromantic? AH I DON’T KNOW. | From Fandom to Family: Sharing my many thoughts

    […] post, below, is mainly a response to The Ace Theist’s newest blog post, Puzzling Over Crushes. It’s also just me mulling over a ton of thoughts I’ve been having for a while and […]

  • luvtheheaven

    The timing of you posting this is kind of perfect, because right before this new blog post turned up in my email, I had just spent way too much time looking at the wtfromantic tag on tumblr and just trying to think about my own romantic orientation. I’ve seen different definitions for gray-romantic and wtfromantic but from what I can tell, gray kind of implies a medium degree of romantic feelings – more than aromantics and less than “full” romantics. Whereas wtfromantic generally means “the concept of romantic vs. platonic feelings is too poorly defined, so I don’t know if I’m aromantic or not”. But it can mean different things to different people lol! *If* those are the definitions of gray-ace and wtfromantic, I feel like I identify most strongly with wtfromantic.

    I, like you and like “Grey”/(embodiedinlanguage) grew up thinking I was a heterosexual and heteroromantic girl. Actually I just saw her post: http://embodiedinlanguage.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/on-aromance/ on tumblr when I was browsing that tag!

    Anyway…. here’s my really long take on the subject/my story and how I got to the state of confusion I’m currently at:


    • acetheist

      Yeah, between those two definitions you provided, I think I’m more of the latter. Thanks for sharing!

    • embodiedinlanguage

      (FYI, just changed my display name to match my blog to avoid confusion. I’ve been messing around with it a bit lately, but I can’t seem to pick anything I like.)

      I think for me, both grayromantic and wtfromantic are useful concepts. I’m pretty sure I’ve had some (VERY rare) instances of clearly romantic attraction, but I get a lot more ambiguous attraction that could be romantic or platonic or something in between. But yeah, I can see why wtfromantic would make more sense if I couldn’t identify any of those clear moments of romantic attraction.

      I read your post just now–I feel really similarly about kissing! I’ve only ever kissed two people, and it really did nothing for me either time. And I definitely get the same feeling of excitement at getting to know a new person, which I used to identify as a crush, except now I realize that I don’t necessarily want romance with those people, so yeah. Attraction is super confusing.

      Oh, and I realize my comment may have led you astray in this respect, but I’m going through some gender stuff right now and would appreciate they/them pronouns for the time being! Thanks. :)

      • luvtheheaven

        Okay. I’m really sorry about the gendered pronoun thing, BOTH of you. I felt pretty sure you grew up as girls, from what I could tell from your posts, and I didn’t realize your genders were much more nuanced and complicated at the current point in time. I shouldn’t have assumed “her” was acceptable for either of you, but I did. So I apologize to both of you. embodiedinlanguage – I will keep your current pronoun preference in mind. ;)

        And it’s nice to hear that you relate to my kissing experiences and the excitement that I sort of have been calling a “crush”. :P At least my experiences are not completely… an outlier, like theacetheist just said in response to your other post. ;)

        • embodiedinlanguage

          I think that there’s a much broader range of experience–and more of us outside the “norm”–than many of us realize. So nope, you’re not alone!

          And RE: the pronoun issue, I’m totally not offended. I was raised as a girl, and I’ve only recently begun questioning that, so my online presentation of myself is pretty inconsistent. I just appreciate you taking note! Is she/her ok for you?

        • luvtheheaven

          Yes, I am very comfortable with she/her. ;)

          I, personally, have never felt the need to question my gender. I have been very girly in a lot of ways my whole life – I took ballet in elementary school, I signed up for multiple college writing classes that ended up having no guys in them because of the subject, I enjoy vidding and fanfiction-writing which are hobbies donimated by females, etc. At the same time, I have always done things that aren’t all that girly too – I’ve never regularly worn make-up or nail polish. I played with legos, k’nex, and matchbox cars when growing up in addition to dolls and whatnot. But those things don’t make me feel like any less of a girl in my own mind. I don’t know. I definitely should read more about people’s gender-questioning experiences in order to understand other point of views better. ;)

  • Calum P Cameron


    I haven’t really got much to comment, but I wish to register my approval that people are talking about this.

    When I encounter discussion of romantic orientations, it fascinates me on an intellectual level, because as a comfortably-aromantic individual it isn’t something I can consider much from my own experience.

    Although, that said, I have on rare occasion wondered whether it’s possible that my aromanticism might be a consequence of being, in the traditional meaning of the word, a romantic (ha!), and therefore having an idealised idea of what (romantic/erotic) love is which does not actually exist in real life, thereby making it impossible for me to experience what I would understand as love.

    Having seen people in that kind of love, though, I’ve more-or-less concluded that my preconceived notions on the matter were pretty-much right: it does exist, just not in me. I’m cool with that.

  • madischa

    The timing of this is kind of freaky, since I have spent the last few days puzzling over my own romantic orientation as well. I, like you, set it out in terms of a list of criteria, and, like you, emerged nearly as puzzled as I was at the start…

    • acetheist

      It’s a CONSPIRACY.

      Just kidding. It’s probably not a conspiracy. I figure there’s got to be several people out there in the world puzzling over crushes at any given point in time.

      Anyway, another thing I’ve thought since writing this post is shrugging off the distinction between “romantic” and “nonromantic” to instead split up emotional attraction into parts like limerence, infatuation, admiration, companionate love, and so on, but only as far as that’s useful to anyone.

      • madischa

        I tend to do the same – as in, separate out different kinds of attraction and see which boxes whatever I’m feeling ticks – but it’s still not very useful when it actually comes to acting on something :p and yes, I hope there’re people all over the world considering this question, since that would imply that there are lots of aces out there!

  • Romantic Orientation: N/A | The Ace Theist

    […] the past, I’ve puzzled over a pool of instances of might’ve-been-romantic-attraction, trying to sort them and […]

  • Anonymous

    So, I’m trying to decide between Aroflux (a term I think you should Google) quasiromantic, and shcromantic.

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