I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot lately, about the many different faces a friendship or relationship can assume. Qualifying relationships has never been easy for me, but after recently bumping into the term “squish” for the first time in a long time I’ve started to unravel some of my confusion.
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of vocabulary with the help of this useful image.
If you’re like me, all of these were familiar except squish. I had heard the term before, but hadn’t paid it much heed. This time, however, it resonated with me.
A lot of people I know meet people and immediately categorize them into friends or potential partners. I don’t do this; I meet a person and determine whether or not I want to get to know them through friendship first. Perhaps there is sexual attraction, but not always. Through getting to know them I can eventually decide whether or not I have a romantic interest, but until that happens everyone is basically in the same boat, regardless of whether it ultimately turns out to be a squish or a crush.
It’s a little bit like German speakers who learn English. In German, like in English, you have the simple past (I fucked) and present perfect (I have fucked) tenses. However, unlike English, these two tenses can be used interchangeably in German. Thus, “Ich fickte ihn gestern” (I fucked him) and “Ich habe ihn gestern gefickt” (I have fucked him yesterday) would both be translated into proper English as “I fucked him yesterday.” One difference is that simple past is primarily used in written German and present perfect is used more frequently in spoken German, which to some extent explains why many German speakers have difficulty understanding the difference between these two tenses when they speak English.
And so it is for me with squishes and crushes. I get that there is a difference between the two, but I don’t quite know how to apply them separately when I get to know new people—at least in the beginning stages.
One example of what I mean happened a few months ago. I’d been spending a lot of time with a guy who I liked having around. But I was unclear as to whether or not I was interested in something romantic with him. He also happens to be someone with whom I would enjoy cuddling (sensual attraction) and fucking (sexual attraction), which for a lot of people denotes something more in the direction of romantic attraction. Despite the various attractions, I just couldn’t decide whether I liked him like like him or liked him like like him like him (ahh, what sweet high school memories that phrase brings to mind).
At some point I asked him why it was we had stopped cuddling even though we had both previously admitted to liking it, and he replied that cuddling was something that for him was more appropriate with a boyfriend. Upon hearing this it became immediately clear to me that what I was feeling was a squish; when it became a concrete question of a romantic relationship I realized that wasn’t something I desired despite being open to all the rest. But I was only able to determine whether my feelings constituted a squish or a crush once the relationship issue had been forced on the table.
Another example happened with a straight friend of mine. We got very close, and other friends jokingly insisted that I must have a crush on him. For me it was always a bromance, but even at the time I had to admit that I was behaving in a way that might be misconstrued as a crush because I felt that same strong attraction to his personality that is often attributed to a crush. Eventually my friends’ teasing caused a lot of doubt and I felt compelled to discuss it with him just to make sure that he and I both knew there was no romantic attraction.
But here’s the catch: I do love him. Obviously saying two guys are in a bromance implies a certain level of love between the two guys, and the fact that this portmanteau includes the word romance would suggest a certain romantic aspect to the relationship, something deeper than just friendship.
In Cliffhanger (God only knows why Cliffhanger occurred to me) Stallone’s girlfriend’s hand slips out of her glove as he struggles to save her from falling into the chasm. Was that anymore heart wrenching than when Captain America tried in vain to save his friend from falling from the train into the chasm? I certainly think climbing out of the train and actually saving the friend would have been as bromantic as crawling onto the cable and actually saving the girlfriend would have been romantic. The former is simply a platonic romance.
If we accept the idea of platonic romance in a bromance or womance, it follows that both a squish and a crush can result in a loving (b)romantic relationship, the main difference presumably being the inclusion or exclusion of sex. The question is, can you be sexually attracted to a squish or does the attraction make it a crush?
The lack of a word like bromance or womance for a close heterosexual male and female friendship would suggest that the possibility of sexual attraction precludes a platonic romance on the grounds that one or both parties could at some point become sexually interested in the other. In the forums I read while looking for an equivalent word for a guy/girl platonic romance, the comments generally stated that such a platonic pairing is a “best friend”, that any sort of romance only enters into the question in such a pairing once sex is part of the equation. But “best friend” seems woefully inadequate even if sex could possibly become a factor in the same way that it doesn’t do sufficient justice to a true bromance.
Let’s take the cuddle buddy example again. I think he’s hot; from a purely physical perspective I would definitely do him. Actually, from a purely physical perspective the same goes for my second example as well. They are beautiful people, and objectively I find that sexually attractive. But I have no inclination to pursue that side of the attraction in either case. To me, platonic doesn’t necessary mean an absence of sexual attraction, it just means a non-sexual relationship, a focus on the intellectual side rather than the sexual side of the relationship. In other words, I can find someone sexually attractive without feeling a need to act on that attraction, a sort of aesthetic sexual attraction.
But to take it a step further, what if I were to hypothetically have sex with the would-be cuddle buddy? Would that confirm that it had been a crush all along? I think not. Consider Blomkvist and Berger in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: they fuck a lot, but they aren’t in the same type of relationship that Berger has with her husband. It may be a sexual relationship, but it’s aromantic in the sense of a marital or similar relationship, which would make it a squish with a sexual element. Friends with benefits, if you will.
If in my world sex, romance and sensual attraction can potentially be part of a squish, what, then, is that ineffable aspect that sets a crush apart from a squish, that distinguishes the desire for a romantic relationship from the desire to be close to someone? Fuck if I know. Which is why to me this is all like when German speakers use the present perfect and past tenses: I acknowledge the distinction but struggle to put it into practice.
That being said, in retrospect it’s clear to me that I’ve hardly ever had any real crushes. I can only think of a handful of instances where I felt an intense desire for a romantic relationship in the sense of being together with someone, most of which occurred at a time when I thought that I was supposed to want a relationship. The vast majority of cases that might have previously been deemed crushes were in fact squishes, a strong desire to get to know those people more intimately as cool, intelligent individuals regardless of – or perhaps in spite of – any sexual or sensual attractions. So don’t worry friends: if you think I’m crushing on you, in all probability I’m just squishing.