To All The Things I've Loved Before — What It's Like To Crush On Stuff

Illustrated by Yazmin Butcher
You know the feeling. It’s that instant rush of want, that flood of endorphins and covetousness, and just … delight. The obsession to make it yours, the mild-to-moderate stalking, the endless daydreaming of your life together — in those first moments a crush is both a haze of desire and an eyes-only-for-you tunnel vision. It’s the best. But it’s also the worst. Often for your bank account.
When you’ve got a crush on a thing, it’s really not all that different from when Cupid’s arrow strikes and — thwack! — you’re a goner. You can’t control your thirst, and you can’t manufacture it. You can walk through department store after boutique after outlet mall with nary a stirring of your materialist loins, scroll endlessly through the internet without finding anything that stirs you more than, “That’s cute, I guess.” Crushes are the opposites of shoulds. If you’re the person that falls head over heels with, say, a sensible winter parka, tell me your ways. I’ll be over here lusting after a Max Mara “Madame” coat in a wool-cashmere blend that’s as beautiful as it is impractical for Canadian winters. Crushing on stuff is yes, peak capitalism, but it’s also identity-forming.
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The objects of your affection change as you age, and the feeling of crushing evolves too. I don’t think I’ll ever experience the kind of painful yearning I had for a porcelain doll when I was seven years old. I spied Emily, green-eyed and golden-locked, in a glass display case in Hamley’s, a British toy store, and she remains one of the purest loves of my life. But wanting a Furby, impossible to get for love or money in 1998? That was my first taste of hype, of falling in love with the thrill of the chase. (Susan’s mum’s cousin says she has a friend who works at Walmart who says there’s a new shipment coming on Tuesday!) My crush on a Juicy Couture sweatsuit a few years later was less about a burgeoning passion for pink velour and much more about not wanting to be the only girl in Grade 7 who didn’t have one. (I never got one, by the way. Much like the skunk-stripe highlights in vogue at the time, it was probably for the best I didn’t go there.)
These days, my stuff-crushes are rarer but more enduring. While there’s something to be said for the short-but-intense, gone-in-a-Zara-minute obsession, I find it difficult to find things I like. When I do, I fall harder. My Gucci loafers (Jordaans, never Brixtons, in a very specific shade of brown) were a love that snuck up on me after a year of seeing them on bloggers — it finally hit me, like when the sunshine hits someone you’ve known for years in a new way and you suddenly think, “Oh. You.” I stalked them obsessively on Matches for months, waiting for them to come back in stock (the curse of being a size 37), and then waiting for them to go on sale (they never did). One fortuitous discount code and a favourable shift in exchange rates later, and suddenly they were mine. We’ve been together for nearly three years now and couldn’t be happier.
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Other crushes have turned out with less-than fairy-tale endings. The Ferragamo Vara low-heeled pumps, for instance, that I've wanted since Alexa Chung re-made them a thing in 2013. When I got my hands on them in navy patent four years later — after many lingering visits to the Saks and Neiman Marcus shoe departments — I also wound up with the bloodiest set of heels on Bloor Street. Nothing has quite ripped me to shreds like those sweet, cruel shoes; despite repeated attempts to break them in, they have broken me. And my feet.
Not so long ago, my relationship with things started to wobble. Digging deep into the doctrine of Zero Waste (damn you, Blue Planet II), I began to feel a little silly for how much I just liked things. Minimalism, the dominant lifestyle trend of 2018, made me feel guilty for finding a gleeful thrill in a perfectly packaged lipstick (Charlotte Tilbury for always) and an utterly frivolous but entirely essential scented candle (Jo Loves spicy, incense-y “The Beaumont.” Pondering the environmental consequences of my avarice sucked, quite frankly, a great deal of joy out of my existence.
And then one day it didn’t. After much buying of bamboo toothbrushes and refusing of straws, I decided that it was okay for me to like things, to give in to the bubbly, butterflies-dancing-in-your-tummy euphoria of stumbling upon a beautiful object. Because a crush on a thing is so much more than a sum of its cotton or metal or (heaven help us) plastic parts. Like our crushes on people, our crushes on stuff are sometimes more about who we would like to be than what the thing itself actually is. My endless (and likely forever unrequited, due to the $$$) crush on a Celine box bag is mostly about how it symbolises the sort of woman I’d like to become (polished, elegant, summers in the South of France) than the stunning simplicity of its spare gold hardware and smooth leather. Crushes are a distraction from the tedium of the everyday (probably why I spend hours on transit zooming in on pictures of the “Directional Ring” on Erica Weiner’s website, studying its moody blue sapphire like I’m a gemologist). They’re also just good fun, like the Kule “Jilly” sweater in jaunty red and lilac that's currently sitting open in the browser tab next to this one. In a world where every refresh of Twitter brings fresh horror, and things feel both permanently terrible and moving-too-fast to absorb, distractions like these are welcome — and necessary.
Now excuse me. I have a Celine bag to stalk.
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