The idea of this post comes from that post that ShortAndAngry1 wrote because I was so excited by her expanded ideas that followed an exchange we had. I use the term celebrity pretty lightly since I have a crush I refer to as my NPR husband and he's not exactly on the cover of Vanity Fair. But I think he should be. The initial conversation we had was sparked by me wanting to change the culture of shame around expressing love for someone when that love is not reciprocated (including admitting that to one's self). For example, Chris Evans has no idea who I am. Dictionary.com defines crush as:
Larsen & Zubernis (2013) wrote a book, Fangasm, on the fan culture of Supernatural and note that Western Culture seems to shy away from anyone or anything who appears too exuberant. They make the observation that because of availability bias people tend to assume the worst of fans (an crushes) because it can conjure up the extreme examples which have made their way into the media or stand out across years of our life. Despite those challenges, Larsen & Zubernis also point out that researchers are backing away from the idea that all fans are pathological. A 2012 study happily failed to replicate the findings of a study from a decade earlier which asserted high celebrity adoration meant a lower cognitive ability or IQ (McCutcheon, Griffith, Aruguete, & Haight). Fangasm also recounts the story of a woman who runs into the then girlfriend, now wife, of her celebrity crush in a bathroom... while the woman is holding meticulously hand-altered Barbies turned action figures of her crush. The shame she feels is severe; the girlfriend would never make something like this, she assumes. The woman goes on to embrace her fan feelings and fan behaviors and it becomes a parable about self acceptance and accepting the joy in your heart.
"Watch out for each other. Love everyone and forgive everyone, including yourself. Forgive your anger. Forgive your guilt. Your shame. Your sadness. Embrace and open up your love, your joy, your truth, and most especially your heart."
There are neurotransmitters in the brain which are cranked up to 11 during the early stages of love and when we can't have what we want, just like a drug withdrawal, we crave it (Brizendine, 2006). Oxytocin and dopamine are the culprits here. Oxytocin is 'the love hormone' which makes it feel so good when we get something we have been seeking, thanks to dopamine. Orgasms reinforce this bond harder (hahaha) and in fact, sex creates a chemical storm comparable to a cocaine high (Brizendine, 2010). When your tummy does that little flip-flop of they are so cute/funny/hot/right/dirty/sexy! you're getting a burst of oxytocin. With tangible relationships, the more time you spend with the person, the less the drugs are needed to encourage your bond; this is probably part of the reason crushes can feel so good to sustain over long periods of time, we are still being drugged by our brains. Watching all those youtube videos and scrolling endless pages on tumblr is drug seeking behavior based on the biological urge to partner with someone desirable.
Unless you score as pathological on that Celebrity Attitude Scale, that feeling is good. That feeling is mostly harmless and like free drugs. Except, you know, harmless instead of teeth-rotty. That feeling leads people to explore new things. To accept new things. To learn new things about themselves and the world! That feeling is love and love is a comfort-- even when we're sad about it we return to embrace that feeling of love and get wrapped up in it. Whether it's rewatching Doctor Who, fantasizing about Chris Evans, imagining baking Dean Winchester a pie, talking about those lyrics with Rhett Miller and Ryan Adams... it's love. It's joy and it's comfort. Even on my worst day I can take a dose of those drugs and it may not change my mood but it does make me feel better. My beloved Pop Culture Happy Hour did a great episode on pop culture comfort food, which is down this alley.
Don't be ashamed of your crushes, celebrity or otherwise. Don't shame other people for their crushes, either. Embrace your own joy, even when it's unrequited love there is so much that we get out of it and remember that it brings that oxytocin rush for others, too. We deserve it. You deserve it. Feel. Good. Let your dopamine and oxytocin exercise your heartstrings. I'm going to part with you on a sappy quote from one of my favorite sappy books, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman:
"Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.”
Brizendine, L. (2006). The female brain. New York, NY: Broadway Books.
Brizendine, L. (2010). The male brain. New York, NY: Broadway Books.
Hurlock, E. B., & Klein, E. R. (1934). Adolescent 'crushes.'. Child Development, 563-80. doi:10.2307/1125797
Larsen, K. & Zubernis, L. (2013). Fangasm: Supernatural fangirls. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press.
McCutcheon, L. E., Griffith, J. D., Aruguete, M. S., & Haight, E. (2012). Cognitive Ability and Celebrity Worship Revisited. North American Journal Of Psychology, 14(2), 383-392.
Miller, R. S., Perlman, D., & Brehm, S. S. (Eds.) (2007). Intimate relationships. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
On having 'crushes'. (1933). The voice of experience (pp. 99-105). New York, NY, US: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers. doi:10.1037/13329-015
*I nabbed all the gifs from tumblr