There aren’t many talents which I would proudly ‘fess up to owning, but if I had to name one (and SERIOUSLY girls, we need to get better at this self-respect thing) it is my ability to transform a ‘friend crush’ – a girl or guy you platonically worship, but can’t imagine ever feeling the same about you – into an actual, IRL friend.
One week I’m swooning over THE coolest beb I’ve ever met: a girl who guts and dices enough chickens for 70 people every night* while sporting the BEST eyeliner I have ever seen, for example; the next, discussing Bumble and chatting about what it’s like being a ‘girls’ girl’ in such a macho world. *It’s ok, she’s a chef.
One of the nicest – and most important, I think – features of friend crushes is that they tend to be people that in your day to day life you may not come across or have a chance to befriend. You assume that, because you didn’t grow up with them and or you’re not in their ‘set’, you’ve no chance. Well, I’ve news for you: if someone who grew up with square parents in the squarest suburb of suburbs, watching Newsnight only and with a radio tuned solely to Classic FM or Radio 4 can do it, anyone can.
All it takes is confidence, and the following tricks of the trade…
Say what you think of them
…but don’t overdo it, for god’s sake: there’s reasonable admiration, and there’s kissing the sticky floor they walk on. No one with a heart is going to reject a little bit of basic-level crushing, but don’t go too intense. Just tell them what you admire about them, whether it’s the clothes they wear or their band or their sporting prowess or whatever. Be specific (“You really bring the music to life”) and ask a question (“are your family musical too?”). If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from journalism, it’s that most people like talking about themselves… and by extension, they like a willing listener
The temptation is probably to be a bit self-deprecating here – say “omg I can’t even run 500m” or “love your outfit! I hate all my clothes” – but don’t do that. It’s not good for the mind. You’re ace. Crack a joke, though, if you fancy; tell an anecdote if you don’t, or make a relevant reference to something they may have heard of. E.g. “OMG, did you see Adele’s speech about Beyonce at the Grammy’s? What a dreamboat.” etc etc. There you go, easy.
Ask them for a favour
It could be advice (how to cook an aubergine) or it could be something practical. It’s a reason to be in touch again, and of course it’s another compliment for them to be asked. Asking my friend crush Rachel if I could borrow the notes from a series of lessons I’d missed, because her handwriting was neat and she was bloody smart, allowed me to take her for coffee as a thank you. The rest is ten years of close friendship (and exam results that without her, I probably wouldn’t have got).
My first friend crush, Emma, was in year four. I was lonely, unhappy with the fickle, cliquey friends I had at school, while at home my parents were on the brink of divorce. One afternoon during PHSE, my form teacher had a quiet chat with each one of us to see how we were and if there was anything that would make our lives better at school. I told her I’d like to be friends with Emma – and she went and TOLD EMMA.
To my great surprise though (Emma being prettier and funnier and cooler than me at the time, I thought) Emma agreed enthusiastically. We played on stilts all the next playtime, and many years later we’re still great mates (with more practical shoes). Of course, I no longer have a teacher to play messenger between me and my crush, but the value of simple honesty as displayed by my 8-year-old self has stuck with me and now, when I think I’d like to be someone’s friends, I’m pretty open about it: “Can we stay in touch”, “Do you fancy hanging out sometime” – even, if the right moment appears and I’m feeling brave and can make a bit of a joke out of it, “do you want to be friends?”
Use social media
What are Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook for if not communicating with people who aren’t yet IRL friends? Add them, follow them and like them – not incessantly, obvs, but enough to suggest a genuine interest in their life and happenings. Use the comments box: it takes a thumb twitch to like a gram or post, but it takes thought to comment on it. If they’re raving about somewhere you too love or want to go to, agree with them. It all prepares the ground for suggesting an actual meeting – and from there the only way is bosom buds, obviously.
Do them a favour
Perhaps you know someone who could help them in their chosen career, or with a project they’re working on. Perhaps you’ve seen something – an article, a concert, a gig, a talk – that you think they might be interested in. This is about being friendly but it’s also about testing the water. How they respond should give you a fairly good idea of how likely your chance of success is, and thus whether you should keep trying or move on to pal pastures new.
Blindingly obvious, I know – but it’s easy to forget, you’ve got a lot on your plate. No one’s epitaph reads, “Here lies Ellie. She was lit”; people are remembered for being thoughtful, kind and genuine – qualities that, funnily enough, we’re all capable of whether we’re climate change activists, ‘influencers’ or just teenagers with squad goals.
If you want them to be your friend, there is literally no point being anyone else. That’s just common sense.