Don’t you hate it when a meme shows up that almost really, really resonates with you, but seems to fall just short of the mark in some way? That comes maddeningly close to describing some defining experience? Close enough that you feel like you’re kind of stuck with the term?
You are obsessed with this person who really bothers you. You can’t help but read her blog on Facebook/ Twitter. When you run into her, and sometimes you look for opportunities to run into her, your pulse races. You can hear your heartbeat pounding in your head. You pray for her downfall and plot to outshine her.
It is true, these relationships have much of the unpleasant intensity of a crush, the element of obsession, the need to bring it up at all times – and, most important, next to nothing to do with the object thereof. A “hate crush” is about you, about projections and insecurities. If a crush is about seeing the best version of yourself as you envision it, a “hate crush” is about the worst. I know many a friend – male and female – who’s fallen prey to the classic scenario, such feelings about an ex’s new partner, something social networking, Twitter and Google help exactly not at all. It becomes a reciprocal relationship – comparing themselves to pictures and interests and resumes and musical tastes. One cliched quote can provide an unwholesome sense of validation, even as it feeds the mania. And as in many a crush, they don’t always know you exist.
You and I, Russ, we’ve had our share of obsessive preoccupations with people that we didn’t like. Or people that we possibly kind of liked and kind of didn’t like at the same time. And people that we pretended to like, or not to like, because it seemed really funny. And people that we used to like but stopped liking — often in a moment of dry-heave-inducing epiphany. I like to think, in fact, that you and I have turned this kind of negative devotion into an art form.
But all the descriptions I’ve read seem to miss something elemental about the hate crush, at least as I’ve experienced it. There is so much giddy fun to be had in, oh, I dunno, obsessively researching your bff’s hateful wife on Google and emailing the choicest links to your mutual friends. And there seems to be an implicit assumption in these articles that any kind of obsession is inherently unhealthy and destructive — when in fact, I think that my hate crushes are fun, and possibly even cathartic.