This is a series about crushes, and the question of how best to love people we don’t really know. Here, I’ll be investigating attractions: to celebrities, public figures, characters from fiction, and occasionally private individuals, if it’s interesting and doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy. By “crush,” I mean any passionate interest sustained and fed by a measure of distance — often romantic, but not necessarily. Crushing is a process where a person comes to stand for something otherwise inarticulable: an emotion, an imagined other life, an identity.

My interest, for now, is threefold: my crushes, other people’s crushes, and crushing in general — as a practice and a pastime; the ethics, the impact, and the history of its theorization, from Stendhal to Barthes to Dorothy Tennov, the psychologist who coined the term “limerence” in the 1970s. I am not an academic, just an experienced crusher who has written a lot on these themes.

There's another word for this mode of infatuation, and it’s proven useful as we grow more accustomed to relating to people we don't know: "parasocial relationship." I much prefer "crush." It feels more natural and more primary — most of us have known what to call our crushes for as long as we've been having them. It’s also more fun, and crushing is fun, although sometimes it's not.

In writing about my own crushes, I’m trying to articulate these attractions in such a way that they might potentially become yours. Something of central interest here is the basic ethical question of how we might square our fixed ideas of people with a respect for their separateness and autonomy. One answer: attempt to mine something worthwhile from the fixation itself, a third-party entity apart from the unknowable subject. Which is to say that my main objective is not to bore you, or myself.