The neverending crush
July 17, 2006 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone had neverending dreams well into adulthood about a childhood crush?

I seem to have these recurring dreams of someone I was in 6th-8th grade with in 1979-82. I had a strong crush on her the entire time (this was at an American school at an overseas Air Force base). The only good thing to come out of it is five days (!) before I moved back to the U.S. I called her and asked her out. She was sort of laughing and said "who is this really?" and soon excused herself. Though it was kind of a pathetic ending I've always been glad I let it out.

It did occur to me now in this Internet era to look her up and at least drop her an E-mail, but she's vanished, which I chalk up to her marrying and dropping her maiden name. I remember her middle name and birthdate and not even Zabasearch helps. I feel that using a detective service just to say hello would be pathological and kind of inappropriate, so all I can really do is just deal with the past and maybe see if anyone else has had this happen.

So here I am, over 20 years later, and I still have these off-again on-again recurring dreams of her... generally about us meeting after all these years with some sort of cozy, warm feeling of "being home". Argh. Does any of this sound familiar?
posted by hodyoaten to Human Relations (35 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This makes me sad. Just an unrequited crush, poor you. Enjoy being such a sensitive soul.
posted by sweetkid at 8:34 PM on July 17, 2006

I think your more in love with the idea of being with this person than you would be if you actually were with this person. Although its tough your best option is to try to stop thinking about this person. Also in 6-8th grades we were all different people than we are now. Thats before high school, who didn't change a huge amount in high school?
posted by pwally at 8:46 PM on July 17, 2006

I wouldn't say it's entirely unusual to think about old crushes from back when, but I've never gone so far as to call them or even do searches for them on the Internet. I have to agree with the idea of being with the person versus actually liking the person. Realize that that this was pre-puberty or early puberty and things change a lot. You like the nostalgia, not her -- sorry.
posted by geoff. at 8:54 PM on July 17, 2006

She's come to symbolize some unmet need in your life. If you were fully aware of what, your subconscious wouldn't need to be playing these sorts of games with you.

Face it, Air Force, this bird's taken off long ago; her drop tanks are sagging and she probably doesn't even do Mach 1 anymore. Time to hit up Orbitz for a one-way ticket into therapy.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:01 PM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ah, young love! Those dreams can be mighty potent.

Try here:
posted by crw at 9:02 PM on July 17, 2006

posted by crw at 9:03 PM on July 17, 2006

You like the nostalgia, not her -- sorry.

Sure, but it sounds like the OP realizes that. He doesn't seem to be asking if he should try to track her down in order to be with her.

Anyway, yeah, the sentiment is one I can relate to, although from a slightly later age. It's a strange feeling, because its existence doesn't make any sense, but it's still a strong sensation. It's good for writing songs about, anyway.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:03 PM on July 17, 2006

Yes. I absolutely have this. I have the occasional dream about a boy I really liked at that sort of age, and it they give me the same feeling you describe.

I almost never think about this boy (not a boy anymore, but I haven't seen him since we were 12) in real life. Sometimes when my old school comes up in conversation I think of him, and if my mum is talking about local families I might ask. I certainly don't think that anything would happen if we met up... probably. I had a very particular dynamic with this boy that I think has been central to my relationships since, and has grown as I've grown. I do wonder if he grew in the same direction, and it would be interesting to see.

I find it kind of embarrasing that I have these dreams though. I'm glad you asked this question!
posted by crabintheocean at 9:09 PM on July 17, 2006

There was this movie, see, about the strange life of a man who, on his deathbed, uttered a mysterious word that no one understood, that turned out to be a yearning for a lost childhood moment he could never recover.

Maybe you've heard of it?

So, not so very crazy or unusual after all.
posted by frogan at 9:10 PM on July 17, 2006

Interesting -- I had no idea that this wasn't so common. The dreams are really what keeps starting this up; when I do a search it's always the day after having one of those dreams. Interestingly a dream is also what started the crush in 6th grade. This whole thing is weird and reminds me vaguely of the Eastern stories of having to deal with old ghosts in one's life.
posted by hodyoaten at 9:13 PM on July 17, 2006

I really wish you had some way of finding out that she'd grown up to be excruciatingly ordinary (if not just plain ugly and stupid, as many folks seem in comparison to our memories of them from early childhood).
posted by scarabic at 9:16 PM on July 17, 2006

some sort of cozy, warm feeling of "being home"

I had these exact kind of dreams for, oh, about 10 or 12 years regarding a high school crush. (It wasn't quite unrequited -- we did hook up briefly, but it was all very "forbidden" and tragic and star-crossed in that terribly late-teenage way, and so it didn't go anywhere.) They were, for me, definitely about a sort of fantasy of safety, of being at home (signified by a longing for a person, rather than a place) when I didn't really feel at home with myself or with the people around me. They used to make me rather wistful and sad, but then I decided to embrace them as warm little visitations that would sometimes surprise me in my sleep -- friendly ghostly dreamscapes where I could feel at home, somehow, even if that sensation seemed to escape me in my waking hours.

In other words, I realized the dreams were less about HIM (and what I feared I'd lost or missed out on by things not working out with him), and more about ME and what I desired in my life. It was at that point they gradually started to fade, and eventually disappeared altogether after I started feeling at home in my own life.
posted by scody at 9:19 PM on July 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have dreams about someone I knew in Japan. There's nothing wrong with your dreaming about the past.

Although it does sound like she blew you off in a pretty shitty manner. I wouldn't waste any more time looking her up.
posted by drstein at 9:26 PM on July 17, 2006

This is pretty common—I just read a Psychology Today article about this very phenomenon. (August 2006 issue, if you're interested.)
posted by limeonaire at 9:35 PM on July 17, 2006

Ooh, maybe it's that her image has been appropriated to serve as the avatar of your anima.

I used to dream persistently about my first girlfriend, though there was a quite a bit more depth of history involved than what you describe - and as my adult life developed and moved on these dreams stopped completely, which makes me tend towards the explanation that her dream image has become a standin for something otherwise hard to visualize, namely the feeling of home. I think the brain in general and particularly dreams are very visual, the abstraction of language is something pasted on an eyeblink ago on the evolutionary scale, which is why (I theorize) dreams often have this deeply surreal, hard to articulate but very vivid aspect: because you are tapping into this very visual private language of the brain.

While I suppose the loss of the original home plays an important role in most people's life, it sounds like you probably had a fairly complex childhood, home-wise (I'm guessing that 3 year stint in middle school overseas doesn't begin to tell the tale of your childhood movings). If true, this might further explain why your mind would attach to a particular, emotive image when gnawing on that particular bone: the memory of her providing a touchstone of simplicity around an otherwise complex set of experiences.

But of course, in your conscious, waking life there is this added level of complexity that this person actually (maybe) still exists, out there somewhere, being herself just as you are yourself... But your analysis is correct, there's no further pursuit of that real individual that wouldn't step firmly over the line into crazy, so I guess you must live with the fact that the real her is forever lost, as most of us I suppose have irrevocably lost that place we once called home.
posted by nanojath at 10:01 PM on July 17, 2006

When I was about eleven or twelve years old, I was fanatically obsessed with a girl named Belinda who lived down the street from me. I had spent maybe ten minutes in her presence, and I fell for her big-time. I used to circle the block endlessly on my bike hoping to catch a glimpse of Belinda. I was devastated the day she and her family moved away. (I circled the block all day, watching the movers and her family pack the moving vans.)

There is no explaining the intensity of my crush on her. I hear music from that period of my life and it is completely infused with that infatuation. Now, over twenty years later, I don't dream of her, but I do wonder what happened to Belinda. In fact, I Googled her recently!
posted by jayder at 10:02 PM on July 17, 2006

I agree with nanojath that there's no "pursuit of this woman that wouldn't step ... over the line into crazy," but perhaps you can take comfort that there's a great literary tradition inspired by this kind of infatuation: consider Beatrice and Laura.
posted by jayder at 10:12 PM on July 17, 2006

Oh sure, jayder, encourage him to write poems about her for ten years and the spend another 13 casting her as a central character in a massive versical exposition of heaven and hell. That'll help him get over it.
posted by nanojath at 10:18 PM on July 17, 2006

It sounds like a nice daydream. Keep it and appreciate it.

Who knows? Maybe someday you'll be seriously injured in a horrible car accident in the middle of a frozen wilderness, and being able to occupy your thoughts with a comfortable fantasy that you've nurtured for a couple of decades will make the difference between keeping yourself alive until help arrives versus losing yourself in the pain and dying. As they say, "It just may save your life one day."
posted by cribcage at 10:42 PM on July 17, 2006

Pam Byer & Kathleen S.

Oh hell yeah.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:45 PM on July 17, 2006

In my dreams, I often confused my ex-husband with my kindergarten (all the way to fourth grade!) boyfriend. They were always nice, reassuring dreams. They stopped around the time our marriage fell apart.

Luckily, he has a really common name so any urge to Googlestalk him I had was pointless.

I often wonder, did I marry my ex because he looks like Jeff Clark?
posted by Gucky at 11:06 PM on July 17, 2006

Same here, child hood dreams, nostalgic sort of effect, often surrounding people I like(d). The day after I often try to find out where they happened to have ended up in life. This has increased with age too. In my 20s it happened maybe once a year, now its 2-3 times a year.

I think it is strengthened by that I left for a different place (country) before school finished, so I do not know what people ended up doing. Those I have caught up with and know about, tend not to feature very big. I wonder if those who know about what happened to their old friends do not have the same thing happen, or maybe not as frequently.
posted by lundman at 12:30 AM on July 18, 2006

I will probably be chastised for holding this viewpoint, but you will never be rid of this as long as you cannot either prove or disprove it. You can forget about it for periods of time but it will always come back equally as strong. The only way to truly get rid of it is to contact that person again (if you're still on amicable terms of course - stalking isn't cool) and learn that the reality does or (most likely) does not match the dream.
posted by datacenter refugee at 2:59 AM on July 18, 2006

I'll agree with everyone here who has said that following the inspiration from your dream to meet up with her again after all these years will End Badly, but I think what you're experiencing is totally normal. I have dreams all the time where the lines separating my elementary/middle/high school life and college life are blurred. Most frequently, I'll have dreams that are set in college but feature friends I knew in high school, or dreams that are set in high school but feature friends I knew from college.

A funny story, though I think I was just plain lucky to have it work out that way and you probably shouldn't do what I did: I was on one night, trying to see what I could find out about elementary school friends I hadn't seen since my family had moved from New York to Virginia. I ended up finding a girl named Amanda, who I'd developed an insane crush on in second grade, my last year in that school in New York. It was late at night and it seemed like a good idea at the time, so I sent her a quick message saying that I'd come across her name on Classmates, remembered her from school and had wondered where she ended up.

A few days later, I got an e-mail from her that began, "emelenjr, I was just screaming when I saw your name in my in box, because I recognized it immediately! A girl doesn't forget her very first crush, even if it was the second grade :) What a treat to hear from you." Of course, then she said her husband was curious about all the screaming.
posted by emelenjr at 4:42 AM on July 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have dreams about old crushes and old loves almost once a week-- it's like they've just become part of my dreamscape, the way the house I grew up in has. I think when someone makes an emotional (or in your case, emotionally unresolved) impact on you, they are very likely going to haunt your dreams. I don't see it as a negative thing because I know I'm not "obsessing;" I don't let it affect my daytime life, I just know that they made their mark on me. I have faith that their nightime visits will become less frequent as I grow older, and as I meet more people who impact me in the such a strong way. By the time I'm 80, I imagine it will get quite crowded in my dreams.
posted by np312 at 7:48 AM on July 18, 2006

I often have dreams about a junior-high science teacher and coach -- Coach Stolte. I dream about him more often than any other person of the opposite sex. I wake up, thinking I should meet him. I then realize he is probably well ito his sixties, and I am married.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:01 AM on July 18, 2006

I did get to briefly meet the adult form of the boy in my dreams. We greeted each other blandly. He looked prosperous in a vaguely tiresome way.
Those dreams still come back once in a while, which I welcome.
posted by of strange foe at 8:08 AM on July 18, 2006

Your post doesn't indicate whether you're in a LTR at this time. If you are, the fantasy may just represent longing for resolution to the imperfections of a non-idealized relationship (your current). Or, if you aren't in a LTR, sounds likely you haven't had the kind of unconditional love w/in a LTR that would otherwise displace the comfort/satisfaction of the fantasy of the crush.

Crushes are fun, primitive reactions, typically based on superficialities and unresolved desires (the real power) originating in childhood and early adulthood. Over time, genuine unconditional or unselfish or merely generous love of another can resolve the fantasies of a long lost crush. Not that they need to be extinguished. There's nothing wrong w/primitive reactions and superficialities now and then -- if they're enjoyable and don't hurt anyone.

The majority of human history males haven't been monogomous. Evolutionarily speaking, it's kinda a new thing. The primitive male mind strives for the simple, relaxing interactions of childhood -- not the complex, often frustrating demands of adult monogomous relationships.
posted by pallen123 at 8:13 AM on July 18, 2006

Just to echo, I have dreams about weird obsessions or significant places from childhood, and nighmares about exes that I've not spoken to for 15 years. Most dreams are just dreams.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:16 AM on July 18, 2006

I had a girl friend (not girlfriend) in HS. Very much the untrequited love thing. And we went to college together, drifted apart, she left school, etc. Thought about her off and on for a few years. I never had the desire to chase her down or find out what she was up to, but it was still on my mind.

Then, randomly, I had to run an out of the way errand 45 minutes away from my house. As I was driving through the parking lot, I did a double-take. There she was, walking towards her car. So we chatted, caught up, etc. I found out she had been married, had some kids, and seemed to be having a very happy life. We exchanged numbers and said we'd keep in contact. We didn't. I haven't thought about her since.

What I got there, and what I think you may be searching for, is closure.
posted by ninjew at 8:16 AM on July 18, 2006

I don't dreamof people I had crushes on, but the sense Iget from your description of the dreams reminds of dreams that i do have: dreams of rooms in my childhood house that are cozier than any of the rooms actually were, with all of things of my childhood that I loved around me, like the fish tank and my favorite sleeping bag and the big recliner.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:58 AM on July 18, 2006

That's totally weird, unless you're dreaming about Ilana Brown.

In which case it's perfectly acceptable.
posted by ImJustRick at 9:49 AM on July 18, 2006

There are have been several people from high school I've thought about in this way over the years and I graduated almost 30 years ago. The list gets shorter as I've bumped into them over the years. Once we re-meet the bubble sort of burst and what ever was left of the crush or "if only" evaporates. Afterwards I feel a sort of loss.
posted by Carbolic at 11:25 AM on July 18, 2006

Absolutely, yes. I dream about the first boy I ever had "real" feelings for, which happened when we were both around ten years old. We went on to junior high and high school together and I suppose I might have carried a mild torch for him even as our bodies were transformed but in my dreams he is as he was in sixth grade. And the most striking thing about these dreams is, as you say, not the visuals but the feeling associated with it, which seems to me like a kind of innocence wrapped up with bliss.

np312, I have thought the way you have but now at the age of 37 I am beginning to realize that I may never meet people who make an impression on me the way people did the first 25 years of my life. i am very fond of the friends I have made in my 30's but they could go away entirely and I would not be too upset, as long as I could find other people to take their place. i find this utterly tragic.
posted by macinchik at 12:05 PM on July 18, 2006


damn skippy. different situation, to be sure, but the dreams continued for the fifteen years it took the high school love and I to reconnect. timing was bad, because we were both married to people we had considered our best friends, but that small detail didn't stop us from wreaking havoc on both our lives.

a long distance, long term affair ensued.

our marriages have both survived the emotional sojourn, but it was touch and go for a while and it's still difficult for me to think about all the pain we caused our spouses.

at least I can listen to all those songs again; the ones which reminded me of him post-high school, so I suppose when it's all said and done there was some sort of emotional closure achieved.

it'll take another 15 years before I decide whether it was worth it.
posted by squasha at 6:38 PM on July 18, 2006

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