Above: At the dentist, Gerrit van Honthorst, 1622
I’ve got a crush on my (older, married) dentist. It’s been going on for a while — I thought he was attractive the first time we met for a check-up, and even though he wears a wedding ring my feelings only got stronger when I saw him at a restaurant with a woman a few months ago. I think he’s picked up on my feelings because I was so awkward then, and later I booked an appointment just to see him when there wasn’t really anything wrong with me. Do you think there’s a chance he feels the same but is just trying to be professional — or do I have to let it go? If so… how!?
What a pickle! Emotions are confusing, but one thing’s for sure – this crush can’t be allowed to continue in its current incarnation. I’m afraid your behaviour is teetering on the edge of inappropriate, and arguably your pointless appointment crossed the line entirely.
Still, all is not lost. Your letter shows that on some level you know you’re out of order, and I think that leaves room to hope for your swift resumption of normal service. And if you‘ll humour me, I also think there’s scope for you to have your crush cake and eat it too.
First things first: you’ve been carried away on a flight of fancy, and now it’s time to come back to earth. And while I’ll do my best to make it a soft landing, I’m afraid we need to take an inventory of reasons that your crush is ill-fated at best, a little obsessive at worst. Shall we count the ways? Let’s!
He is married.
That’s plenty, but let the record show that I’m also not thrilled about pursuing people while they’re at work; I know a dentist is in a much more powerful position than, say, a waitress grafting for tips, but the object of your affections still has to smile and keep things cordial rather than make his feelings clear in the way he might not think twice about at a bar.
Speaking of which, I think if you had met at a bar this wouldn’t be happening. Here comes that cake I mentioned – because to me, it sounds like your fantasy hinges on its obstacles. This guy’s professional position is an impediment to your romance, and while the idea that he’s pining for you, held back only by duty, is the stuff of soft porn, I’m afraid it’s just as unlikely as any other Vaseline-lensed fantasy. And as I say, that’s the opposite of a problem if only you can lean into it.
Some crushes are not only destined to stay unrequited – they depend on it. I bet if this dentist of yours ever leant in for a kiss, you’d lurch backwards rather than into his arms; as such, I’m not sure you need to snap out of your infatuation so much as learn to revel in keeping it to yourself. Handled carefully, little fantasies like yours are one of life’s great pleasures – just make sure you keep them in your head where they belong. Externalised, this could be life-ruining; internalised, it can stay a sexy little secret.