The Mortifying Ordeal of Inexplicable Attraction

My tastes at 40 are suddenly breaking pattern

Jess C.
5 min readSep 16, 2022


Photo by Leonardo Sanches on Unsplash

I guess I kind of thought I’d outgrow crushes.

I, possibly unfairly, find the idea of having a crush a quintessentially teenage experience — yes, even though I remember having my first crush in 2nd grade; yes, even though I was crushing hard on my wife before we got together in my mid-twenties. There’s something about that googly-eyed, dry-mouthed, fluttery-tummy, sweaty-palmed experience that just screams Awkward Teenage Phase to me. Possibly because I had a new crush about every other week during my Awkward Teenage Phase.

In the intervening years — the many, many intervening years — between Awkward Teenage Me and Awkward Present Day Me, I’ve found my fair share of folks attractive. Actors, YouTubers, comedians, podcast hosts, and even the occasional coworker would sometimes pique my interest or ping my radar for a hot minute. I rarely, if ever, seriously thought anything of it. They were just passing fancies — quaint distractions for the rare moments I got to let my mind idly wander.

Until 2021, when after a year-and-a-half of life with COVID-19, my district finally returned to full-school, full-staff in-person learning.

Enter Dee — not his real name, obviously — a teacher hired on during the pandemic year, while I was fully-remote.

Dee is a few years younger than me I’d wager, in his mid-30s; average height, relatively slender, sandy brown hair, blue eyes. He speaks softly and in easy, measured tones, even in stressful situations; favors dry humor, a leather brief case, and button-down shirts.

And I am absolutely head-over-heels batshit fucking buckwild attracted to him.

And I cannot for the life of me figure out why.

I’ve always been attracted to, uh, quirks, let’s say. Even in high school, the object of my affection/lust was rarely, if ever, the star football player, the head cheerleader, or the prom king and queen (Wait, actually, did we even have a prom king and queen…? Well, if we did, you can certainly tell how much of an impression they made on me).

And look, before it starts to sound like I’m getting too “not like other girls”-y about this, I am in no way implying that my tastes were better than other girls, or that my taste was so “unique” that other folks didn’t find any of my crushes attractive. The Genuinely Good Guy to Absolute Asshole ratio was about the same among the objects of my unfettered teenage lust as it was in the general population — my crushes were not special, and while some were genuinely good people, some were also absolutely shitty humans once you got to know them — and several of my crushes were in relationships, so clearly others found them attractive as well.

I’m just saying, the Venn diagram of what Popular Culture at Large thought teenage girls lusted after and what actually got my motor revving was, quite often, just two separate fucking circles.

I mean, I’m the person who had a long and infamous (amongst my friends) “God, I want to fuck Steve Buscemi” phase, for Christ’s sake.

Dee, in this case, is an anomaly in so much as he isn’t an anomaly.

He is probably, far and away, the most conventionally handsome person I have ever been this genuinely, intensely attracted to, and that, for some reason, bugs me.

In the past there has always been something tangible, often physical, that sparked my initial attraction to people. I mean, there have been, of course, instances where I didn’t have an instant infatuation with someone, but became attracted to them over time, through getting to know them, becoming enamored with their sense of humor, their genuine good-naturedness, their compassion, or their intelligence. While I feel like, over time, the intensity of my attraction towards Dee has only amplified as I began to know him (marginally) better, the initial attraction was still abrupt and powerful, and I have no idea what it was that spurred that flame to ignite so fast and so intensely.

Crooked teeth have always been a major attraction for me — doubly so if they were gapped.

Nope — Dee has very straight teeth.

Speech impediments have always done it for me, possibly because I had a significant one myself the first decade of my life and I find them endearing.

Nope — he’s got impeccable diction.

Long, slender fingers, gangly limbs, and sharply prominent cheekbones, collarbones, and shoulder blades all really get me going.

Nope, nope, no — he’s got perfectly lovely hands, but everything is in proportion, softly defined, and relatively graceful and coordinated.

Androgyny has always been, mwah, chef’s kiss, one of the most attractive traits to me; people who toed the line between defined genders were always incredibly sexy.

Nope — he’s not hyper-masculine by any stretch, but he’s very solidly and traditionally masc-presenting.

Piercings — especially facial piercings, like septum rings or snakebites — could always do it for me.

Nope — Dee doesn’t even have an earring.

I know that we spend our lives growing and changing, and that we should be open to always embracing new sides of ourselves. But there’s something disconcerting about being forty and suddenly having the most powerful crush of the last two decades on someone who does not display any of the usual quirks that spark the sort of instant infatuation that you feel, and certainly not with this kind of fervor.

Folks, we are at the, “jolt in my belly when I catch him in the hall unexpectedly” zone. The, “catch his eye from across the room and mutter ‘fuck’ under my breath” zone. The “walk veeeery slowly behind him in the hall because this might be the only time you see him today” zone.

The “my wife would never stop making fun of me if she knew how hot and bothered I was over this absolutely vanilla-seeming guy” zone.

Have you ever had an intense, inexplicable crush that absolutely went against “type?” Did you ever suss out exactly what it was that enraptured you about them? What generally makes someone attractive to you?

God, I don’t want to be the kind of person who talks unironically about their crush’s “je ne sais quoi,” but fuck all if I know what else to call it — this weirdly unweird, strangely unstrange hook that keeps pulling me back in.

Guess I’ve got to dig a little deeper.

I’ll crack this. I will.

You can find Jess at All Your Crooked Heart.
You can support them through the Medium Tip Jar.



Jess C.

Jess (they/she) 🏳️‍🌈 Educator/artist/writer/parent. Under-slept and over-caffeinated. Currently showing at Essex Art Center(thru Sept. 15th).