I don’t feel the same way, but I don’t want her to move on to greener pastures, either.
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In the last year I have made a new friend who I have become very close with. We talk at minimum once a day, and often for hours at a time. We’ve got a lot of shared interests and will equally talk about those and about issues in our personal lives. I have shared a lot of myself with her and she has shared a lot of herself with me in return. She is extremely kind and thoughtful and funny, and very dear to me. I do not have many other friends, and definitely no one who I am anywhere near as close to.
Recently, in a very consequences-of-my-own-actions way, I discovered she has a crush on me. She had posted about it on her Tumblr – a platform I am not on, but she has sent me links to posts she’s made many times (so I didn’t stalk her or anything to get her url). I like sometimes scrolling through her posts to see what she’s up to, although I’ve never told her I do this, because it is a little weird. In there, amongst it all, was a post about having a crush on me. There was no way this was a post about anyone else, either. It was unquestionably about me. I wish I had never seen this. I do not feel the same way. I really do care about her and value her friendship so much, and I feel so idiotic for not realising that she saw this as something else.
I can’t well bring it up, as I found out via stalking, nor do I think I should, but I am terrified she’s going to confess to me and I’ll have to reject her and it’ll ruin our friendship. I’m also terrified that she’ll get over it and decide she’s had enough of me and move on to other greener friend pastures. I feel weird talking to her now and pretending I do not know. I feel selfish being upset about this too: her feelings aren’t her fault necessarily, but this friendship is so important to me and I’ve never had a friendship with a crush involved end well.
Forlorn over a friend
At the risk of sounding like a teenage girl writing Anne of Green Gables fanfiction, are you sure you’re not secretly in love with your best friend? I only ask, because it seems like you might secretly be in love with your best friend.
I don’t mean “secretly” as in you’re blissfully deluded about your own desires and have been sleepwalking through life. Or “love” as in “repressed lesbian Casablanca.” But there’s a strange, electric energy in your letter which resists categorisation: neither romantic or platonic love, but a secret, more complex, third thing which is worth investigating.
Some experiences of love hit you like a volleyball to the face, and make your skull throb with the intensity. Often these first experiences become a yardstick. A crush so intoxicating everything else seems insubstantial. But there are other kinds of love that creep up on you over time, like insidious lichens. Feelings which don’t fall into easy categories. These feelings are no less powerful for being nebulous. In fact, they can be deeper and more fundamentally annihilating than whatever teenage immune-system compatibility you instinctively recognise as desire.
You explicitly say you don’t feel the same way as your friend, and I guess I should respect that. But on the other hand, have you considered you might be totally gay?
A few things strike me about the way you describe your relationship. You clearly have a deep and intense intimacy, perhaps something you haven’t experienced before, either as friendship or romance. It seems like you’ve stumbled upon one of those rare, inexplicable connections with another person that, if we’re lucky, we get once in a lifetime. I don’t mean to be a lesbian conspiracy theorist, but parts of your letter seem at odds with standard platonic friendship. The fact that despite talking every day, sometimes for several hours, you still seek out and secretly read her Tumblr. That your primary reaction upon discovering her crush is fear she’ll move on to “other, greener pastures.” Signing off with the word forlorn? Forgive me, but I’m not sure that’s an entirely heterosexual anxiety you’re having there.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s creepy that you read her Tumblr, especially since she’s linked you to it multiple times. She’s probably hoping you read her Tumblr. Nobody anonymously confesses their crush on the internet, when they know their crush has easy access to that information. I know it’s probably not what you want to hear, but she’s definitely at least flirting with the possibility of disclosure.
I can also appreciate your disappointment. If you’re not a person with a lot of close friends, there’s something intoxicating about developing a mutual obsession. I have no doubt it was a shock to realise your friend has feelings for you, especially if you felt your relationship had transcended banal categorisation. Maybe romantic love comes easy to you, and friendships are harder to come by, and therefore more precious. Perhaps that intimacy now feels cheap, or diminishes your understanding of what you two shared. But I think you can trust that the connection you have is heartfelt and genuine on both sides, even if somewhat categorically lopsided.
I can see you don’t want your relationship to change, and are panicking about losing her. But knowing her feelings doesn’t actually change anything. It just brings you up to date with the current version of reality.
I don’t know whether or not you identify as queer, but I think it’s worth speculation. Forgive me for getting autobiographical, but the first and only time I fell in love with someone who wasn’t a cis dude, it took me a long time to accept the situation. I was in my mid twenties, and had never for a second seriously entertained the notion of being anything other than strictly heterosexual, mostly because I was Boy Crazy Stacey.
I only mention this, because I think it’s a very common experience people don’t talk about, because it isn’t as narratively satisfying as “born this way”. I also think that when people come out in later life, there’s an urge to rewrite your own history. It’s so joyful to find that sense of belonging, it’s tempting to go back through your life with a magnifying glass, and search for corroborating evidence. But for me, it was a genuine shock to the system. Even though I had lots of queer friends and was halfway through a gender and women’s studies degree, I still experienced the same stunned confusion I would previously have attributed to a repressed Christian teenager in rural Wyoming. When I got older I realised my experience was common. But some things you have to learn the hard way.
The most interesting thing that experience taught me is we don’t always know ourselves as well as we think we do. It taught me that sometimes a feeling you have towards a specific person is more important than whatever categories of identity you usually subscribe to.
Maybe you’re reading this going, “uhuh, absolutely not.” Maybe you’re already gay and this person simply doesn’t appeal to you as a romantic prospect. But even if you were straight, and this friend was a man, I’d still be saying the same thing, which is: pay close attention to intense and unprecedented feelings. You never know when they might mean something.
I can tell how much you love your friend from your letter. I’m not saying you can’t still have a deep platonic relationship. But in order to do that, you have to be honest, and honestly is going to irrevocably transform your friendship, whether or not you want it to. Even if your friend finds a way to swallow her feelings, the idea you’ll be able to sustain this level of intimacy indefinitely is pretty unlikely. Either she’ll get hurt, or one of you will meet someone else, who might be uncomfortable with your level of contact.
I think you’re still in shock. Your first impulse is probably to shut your friend’s feelings down, and salvage what you can. But she’s already had a lot of time to process her feelings, whereas you’re just getting to grips with the situation.
My advice is to give yourself time. You don’t need to pull away, or rush a confrontation. Take a breath and process the news. As long as you need. And once you’ve recovered from the inevitable whiplash, go deep. Think long and hard about what this person means to you. Do you feel any romantic curiosity towards her at all? Are there parts of your friendship which don’t feel entirely platonic?
If your whole body and soul revolts against this idea, fair enough. It may be 2023, but they haven’t made being gay compulsory yet. I’m not trying to be a missionary. But it seems to me you’re in a deeply complex emotional situation you don’t have a map for. None of your past experiences, romantic or otherwise, have prepared you for a connection like this. It’s like trying to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics without a picture dictionary.
I’m not saying your feelings are obviously love in disguise and you’re too dumb to recognise it. I’m just saying that sometimes in our lives, we meet someone whose presence transforms us in ways we can’t predict, and it’s worth honouring those feelings by interrogating them, in a spirit of love and curiosity. I’m not even talking about being gay or straight, although I think that definitely complicates things. I’d just hate for you to make a snap decision and come to regret it later. Any feeling this strong is worth exploring, precisely because connections like this are so rare and magical.
I don’t know what the outcome will be. You might have to try and fail, to see whether there’s anything more than friendship there. You might fall in love. You might need to take a break or scale your friendship back. You might lose your friendship altogether. But that possibility was inevitable from the moment your friend fell for you. The bad news is the situation is entirely outside of your control. The good news is the situation is entirely outside of your control. All you can do is take your time, and choose how you want to react.