And the mainstream media wonders why, particularly in this time of war, Americans are turning to other sources for their news.
Cool, smart, pretty -- it must be a girl crush
It's not sexual in nature, but the feelings it triggers among women resemble those of a new romance.
The New York Times
August 20, 2005
The woman's long black hair whipped across her pale face as she danced to punk rock at the bar. She seemed to be the life of the party. Little did she know that she was igniting a girl crush.
Susan Buice was watching, and she was smitten.
Buice, 26, and the dancer (actually a clothing designer) live in the same Brooklyn apartment building, so Buice, a filmmaker, later soaked up many other aspects of her neighbor's gritty yet feminine style: her layered gold necklaces; her fitted jackets; her dark, oversize sunglasses; and her Christian Dior perfume.
''I'm immediately nervous around her," Buice says. ''I stammer around her, and it's definitely because I think she's supercool."
Buice, who lives with her boyfriend, calls her attraction a girl crush, a phrase that many women in their 20s and 30s use in conversation, post on blogs and read in magazines. It refers to that fervent infatuation that one heterosexual woman develops for another woman who may seem impossibly sophisticated, gifted, beautiful or accomplished.
And though a girl crush is, by its informal definition, not sexual in nature, the feelings that it triggers -- excitement, nervousness, a sense of novelty -- are very much like those that accompany a new romance.
This is not a new phenomenon. Women, especially young women, always have had such feelings of adoration for each other. Social scientists suspect such emotions are part of women's nature, feelings that evolution may have favored because they helped women bond with one another and work cooperatively. What's new is the current generation's willingness to express their ardor frankly.
''Historically, talking about these kinds of feelings has gone in and out of fashion," says Paula J. Caplan, a sociologist who this fall will teach a course about the psychology of sex and gender at Harvard. Women have not been this blunt in expressing their crushes for several generations, says Caplan.
A safe experience
The phenomenon has been little studied, but some social scientists say they are glad it's being discussed more, because it can be a window into how women mature emotionally.
''It's a little bit like when you're in elementary school and you first fall in love with someone," says Leslie Hunt, 34, who manages an arts internship program in New York and who once had such a potent crush on a woman that she became sweaty in her presence.
Still, a crush is a relatively mild form of infatuation. People have killed themselves because of true love, says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University who has written extensively on human love. Think of Romeo and Juliet. With a girl crush, Fisher says, ''you won't kill yourself if she doesn't want to jump rope with you." For that reason, girl crushes can give women safe and valuable experience in the emotions of love.
Fisher, the author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, says girl crushes are as natural as any other kind of love. But they are romantic without being sexual. Love and lust are distinct urges, says Fisher.
''The brain system for romantic love is associated with intense energy, focused energy, obsessive things -- a host of characteristics that you can feel not just toward a mating sweetheart," Fisher says, adding that ''there's every reason to think that girls can fall in love with other girls without feeling sexual towards them, without the intention to marry them."
Crushes are typically fleeting, and infatuation often turns to friendship in this way. Lisa Lerer, a journalist, and Laila Hlass, a law student, both 25 and both of New York, started their friendship several years ago with a mutual crush. ''We're still in love," Lerer says, ''but the wooing period is over."
Tammea Tyler, 28, assistant director of child development services at the YMCA of Greater New York, has a crush that looks as if it soon will make the change. The object of her infatuation is a colleague, Denise Zimmer, senior executive for government operation, who is 48.
Tyler says she admires Zimmer's intellect and her inner strength. ''She really knows her stuff, and there's something almost sexy about that," says Tyler. ''There's just something really sexy and powerful."
Although Zimmer doesn't say she has a reciprocal crush, she does say she considers Tyler talented and grounded and that ''it's exciting to work with someone who has shown that kind of interest." She adds, ''It's a mutual respect."
Once a crush is revealed, it can change the dynamics of a relationship. ''I think that I will be more sensitive and more focused on sharing things with her that I think will help her achieve some of the goals that she has," says Zimmer.
Problems on pedestal
Sometimes, though, a girl crush is so strong it makes the object of affection uneasy, killing the possibility of friendship.
Jane Weeks, 44, a freelance art and creative director in Truckee, Calif., knows what it's like to be the object of another woman's crush. She has encountered a few women who have eagerly adopted her tastes in food and interior design, her favorite colors, even her hairdresser. ''At first it's flattering you're inspiring them," she says. ''When they parrot back parts of yourself, it's extremely uncomfortable."
Weeks, an outdoorswoman who has hiked through the Andes from Argentina to Chile, says some women are more enamored of what she represents -- ''some National Geographic chick" -- than with who she is. ''When you're on a pedestal, there's no way but down," she says. ''And it's lonely up there. You can't share your weaknesses."
Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington and the relationship expert at PerfectMatch.com, says she also has been a frequent subject of girl crushes -- from her students. Some have made it obvious by bringing gifts, including earrings, flowers and even poems. But Schwartz does not encourage her students to look at her with starry eyes. She would rather they look to her for guidance on developing their careers.
''You're a hero because they think you've done something unimaginably powerful," says Schwartz. ''Your job is to show them that they own something equally special."
A time past returns
Perhaps the last time that young women were as willing to admit their attraction to each other was in the 19th century.
"Back when Louisa May Alcott was writing, women were writing these letters to each other," says Caplan. ''They wrote: 'I miss you desperately. I long to hug you and talk to you all night.' " Referring to another woman as a girl crush, she says, is not dissimilar to that 19th-century behavior.
But such impassioned expressions of affection were uncommon, for instance, in the 1960s and 70s, when homophobia was more rampant than it is today, Caplan says. Women often were uncomfortable admitting to strong feelings for other women, fearing that their emotions would seem lesbian, she says.
Those same women, older now, can still be shy about expressing their emotions for each other. ''Women my age are more likely to say 'I adore' or 'I value' my women friends,' " she says, instead of calling their feelings a girl crush.
I can honestly say I know how these women feel.
I see the article touched you in such a way that you felt you had to share.
Darling, at my age any sort of touching would justify sharing.