Having a crush is only for the young. I mean, it’s weird to have a crush once you hit a certain age, right? Um, no. If this is your line of thinking, we need to talk.
Absolutely NO ONE.
Are you kidding?
Don’t be ridiculous, I don’t have crushes anymore.
Those are the replies I got when I surveyed a group of 50- and 60-something women about their crushes. Some are in a constant state of infatuation; others say they haven’t had a crush since they were in high school. And many of those who do have crushes felt somewhat ashamed of them, as if they were a scarlet letter of I for immature.
Who’s Your Crush? Tell us who gets you hot and bothered, and we’ll let you know who rules as the King of Crushes in a few weeks.
It’s odd that we have such opposing attitudes towards this kind of lustiness. Our generation was certainly weaned on crushes. Perhaps you were one of those teenagers doing a full-tilt freakout when the Beatles blasted off the screen of The Ed Sullivan Show. Or maybe you carefully hung posters of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy, or Bobby Sherman from Tigerbeat magazine on your bedroom wall and kissed them goodnight after finishing your fifth-grade homework. Or perhaps years later, you went to see Purple Rain about 300 times, mesmerized by Prince. In other words, crushes are something we know how to do.
So why do we have such opposing attitudes to them now?
Having a Crush: Head Over Heels
Some women say they still get crushes and relish them. “I love that feeling of practically going weak-kneed over someone—it’s like, ‘I still got it.’ I can still feel that sexy kind of connection…my hormones are still working!” is how Michelle puts it. The object of her affection: Great Britain’s Prince Harry. “Who knew a redhead could be that hot? It’s his rakish smile, even though he’s a royal and all. I see him and it’s just, ‘Oh my. That is a fine-looking man.’ I have dreams about him, too.”
Who else gets pulses racing? “My passion for Viggo Mortenson has not flagged in more than 10 years—it started when I saw him as Aragon in Lord of the Rings,” says Jeannie. “I swoon just thinking about him giving his speech to his troops outside the gates of Mordar. Oh, and full frontal Viggo in Captain Fantastic—better still. Purr. My husband knows; he just shrugs.”
Adds Lizzie, “I was going to say that I don’t have crushes, but then I remembered Mark Ruffalo. He’s a hot guy. It’s a fun kind of fantasy…a shot of adrenaline where you feel more alive.”
Getting the Rush Again
Other women say their crushes don’t stay consistent. Explains Willa, “I have a new crush almost daily. I need looks, smarts and sex appeal. Most recently, that’s meant Chris Cuomo, the Rock, Eddie Redmayne, Adrien Brody, Bono, Bruce…should I keep going? Part of me at this stage feels less in touch with my old sexy self. Guys don’t check me out the way they used to. I’ve entered that invisible zone. Crushes give me a rush of that vibe again. Love ‘em!”
“It’s a fun kind of fantasy…a shot of adrenaline where you feel more alive.”
In fact, these robust crushes reveal just how sexual many midlife women are. They feel in tune with—and totally open to—that kind of connection. “The reality is, most women fantasize about someone,” says Lori Gottlieb, a licensed therapist, author of the “What Your Therapist Really Thinks” column and the best-seller Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. “It may be a coworker or a celebrity, but these are the norm versus not having them. And no, they aren’t a sign of dissatisfaction with your current relationship. Women who have crushes are usually very satisfied and vital. The crushes are healthy and affirming.”
The Cougar Complex
But so many midlife women feel sheepish about crushes. Says Diane, “My most embarrassing crush is Robert Pattinson—you know, the guy in Twilight. He must be almost 30 now, and with him out of his 20s I feel a little less like a dirty old woman.” That image of an older woman lusting after a younger guy has been a punchline to bad jokes for ages.
According to Gottlieb, “There’s been the idea that it’s inappropriate for women of a certain age to express such feelings…that we’re childish or slutty. There’s been shame involved. But in recent years women are feeling more confident and not ashamed to be sexual creatures. They’re acknowledging it and proclaiming it, and the culture is starting to shift.”
What Good Fantasies Can Do
Indeed, indulging in a crush can be a positive force. “When you have those sparks, I say go with them,” says Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, a NYC-based therapist and editor of the anthology How Does That Make Your Feel? True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch. “Sex drive changes over time, and a crush can be a good way to spark your sexuality.”
Amatenstein doesn’t believe in crushes being kept secret, either. “You can say to your significant other, ‘Oh, there’s a new movie out with Viggo—I think he’s hot stuff. Let’s go see it.’” But she recommends adding, “You get to pick the next movie—anyone you want to watch, I’m in.”
“Sex drive changes over time, and a crush can be a good way to spark your sexuality.”
Plus, smart women appreciate that they and their partners can be the beneficiaries of these lusty infatuations. Amanda, 59, says, “Honestly, my sex drive isn’t what it used to be. It feels kind of buried. When the random crush strikes, I run with it. Fantasize. It’s like my trigger to feel ‘juicy’ again. And my husband is that much happier, whether he knows Blake Shelton (guilty pleasure!) is responsible or not.”
The Platonic Crush
Not all women experience their crushes as hot and heavy. Some have what they call “platonic” crushes. Listen to how Amanda describes hers: “I love Stephen Colbert. He’s brilliant, funny, articulate, happily married, and faith-filled, which isn’t usually a pull for me, but he’s so incredibly decent and honorable. It’s part of what makes him so attractive to me. It’s not like I’m daydreaming about hopping into bed with him—but I am really, really into this man.”
“My crushes have a component of ‘Wow, he’s so good-looking,’ but it’s also about feeling convinced that we would actually have things in common and be friends,” says Victoria. “With the guys I crush on, I imagine meeting them, and they are into me in a way that most men aren’t interested in a 62-year-old woman. There would be chemistry.”
Gottlieb explains these feelings: “As we age, women aren’t acknowledged in the way we were at age 25. The intensity and frequency of interested looks, of being checked out by someone, decline. Research says that we women desire when we feel desired, that’s a big turn-on for us.” So if some daydreaming about a celebrity unlocks that desire—gives us a way to channel that craving to feel we are seen and wanted—then bring on the Viggo Mortensen film fest.
A version of this article was originally published in November 2017.