Every once in a while, when I'm pedaling away, huffing and puffing on an exercycle at the gym, the news flashes up in bold, block red letters and screams that a priest is being tortured in Kerala. Simultaneously, news runs on a smaller ticker that a man has been hacked to death in Madurai, while footage of unrest in Kashmir plays silently in the small square of the 'main screen'. The first thing that hits me is a touch of bile at the base of my throat. What is happening in the world? My first, gullible instinct, in true grass-is-greener form, is to miss being a child.
In our heads, it's this incredibly innocent time in our lives—one we associate with the partaking of cake and cartoons, and games involving locking ourselves in damp, bathroom cupboards for hours, because for some reason our friends thought 'hide and seek' would be fun. And yes, while we were somewhat blissfully unblemished by the horrific atrocities of the world in the minute-to-minute fashion in the way we are as adults, childhood had it's own unease that we've let this patina of nostalgia settle over, that lends it this vintage badge-value we forget to question.
But there's one thing about childhood that a lot of us forget to remember—and it's that unshakeable awkwardness that used to seep into so many thing because you had no f*cking idea how the world worked. A lot of us shed that discomfiting air about us over time, but as a kid, you're decidedly weird about certain things—and the key example that comes to mind in that case is...having a crush on someone.
Let's face it. Crushes are the most unease-causing version of attraction/love in the universe. They have this air of the 'cute' about them because we wrap them up neatly in adorable-nesses like 'puppy love' but, quite like 'puppy fat' and 'puppy genocide', it is wildly unpleasant in reality.
Think back to the days of yore. You're sitting in a classroom, scraping misshapen designs into a faded, wooden desk's surface as a clock ticks away with painfully soft clangs, and there's nothing to look forward to in that whole, Godforsaken looming hour except the sight of the guy/girl you've nursed a crush on for donkey's years.
Maybe he'll look in your direction.
Maybe he'll smile in your general vicinity.
Maybe he'll say something to his friend, and it'll be at least 7-8 percent about you.
The thing is, while we'll glorify the notion of it now because, you know, fidelity and cheating and betrayal and blah blah, but back in the day, it was a slow-burning fire. The wait between one set of twelve words exchanged on a Monday and another set of eight words exchanged on Tuesday would poison your being to the point of screaming frustration.
It may have been preferable to the rambling mess that is adult relationships, yes, but let us not divert attention away from the awkwardness and uncertainty that went with it.
"The whole day's gone by, and he hasn't looked at me once."
"Is there a reason he's spoken to that b*tch senior twice this week? Maybe I should hike up my skirt like she does."
"I heard one of his friends say he was buying someone a present. He kiiiiind of looked near me when he said it, but I think he was avoiding being too obvious. What do YOU guys think? Let's discuss it at a sleepover at my house."
A lot of people will counter with the old adage of 'simpler times', but they weren't simple. They only seem simpler now because, tragically, things have taken the downward spiral chute. Back then, they were all-consuming and supremely unnerving because they brought out the worst of both our internal and external locus of control. We thought of everything possible, from "the stars are against us" to "it's my acne that's the problem."
And we've all been there. Even our cockiest, coolest counterparts have dealt with the fear and nervousness of being in 'sort-of-kind-of-something-like' love. We may have the confidence to walk up, dripping in our best swagger, to a potential mate of our choosing at this point in our lives—but let's not deny there wasn't a titch of this when we needed it in third grade (or insert most awkward crush-era here).
Then, even the best of us had our hearts racing at a single glance from the paramour-of-our-fantasies, and were stung deeply when they walked by without so much as nodding their head they way they always did (the one we obsessed over because it was 'just soooo cute!').
The truth is, I do get a certain degree of pleasure of Facebook stalking those former objects of my undivided affections now, and looking at how terribly average they turned out. It's a little less disconcerting if they still have that unattainable quality about them, but for the most, I breathe easy. I'm glad that phase of nail-biting, every-word-analysing, emergency-'what-does-this-mean'-meeting-calling, hoping-he'd-look-at-me-ing, freaking-out-that-he'd-looked-at-me-ing, hating-that-he'd-looked-at-her-ing, gawking, wondering, wishing, and fingers-crossing phase of my life is over now.
Oh except, wait. It isn't.
Sigh. So much for adulthood being better. Take me back the phase where the only thing that accompanied the word 'boys' was a long and drawn-out 'Ewwwww'.