While I was growing up, I had what I considered to be two best friends: a male and a female. I actually had a long term unrequited crush on the male. This crush waxed and waned over a long period of time, interrupted by periods when other young men drew my attention away from it. I kept returning to it; it was an emotional sweater to wrap around me in times of emotional chill.
My friendship with him began was when he showed me a reprint of a New York Times article on the rock group KISS. I was completely drawn to how they looked. Our main link for many years was that we both loved that group. It was facilitated by the fact that our names were alphabetically next to one another and our high school teachers loved nothing more than to seat us in alphabetical order. This gave me ample opportunity to talk to him most days.
Throughout high school, he was into heavy metal and hard rock music. He smoked pot, played drums and guitar, and dated a variety of girls. In every way, he seemed pretty much your typical 70s teenager. Conversely, I was pretty much isolated, awkward and studious. I got good grades and didn’t date, drink or do drugs.
I still felt a great affinity for him and I’m sure he (and likely everyone else) was well aware of the situation. Unrequited crushes are never much of a secret, particularly among teenagers. One of the reasons I think I was drawn to him was that he was always kind to me, perhaps in spite of any unwanted attention I gave him.
I recently read Breaking Hearts: The Two Sides of Unrequited Love by Roy F. Baumeister which made me think that there was likely a lot more going on than my teenage perception and ego could register in that situation.
The book includes a lot of case histories about both parties in an unrequited love situation. The most illuminating part is how unpleasant the experience can be for the person who is the object of unwanted desire. In popular culture, the focus is usually on the suffering of the pining heart of the would-be suitor, rather than on the emotional difficulties the unwanted attention places on the one who is desired.
After reading the books and seeing the other side of the situation more clearly, I felt bad for being such a pain. Part of me would like to get in contact with him and ask him how uncomfortable I made him during those years. Part of me can’t bear the thought of hearing the possible truth.