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Crushes on Strangers

One of Us Is Naked Right Now

One of Us Is Naked Right Now
Credit: Trey Ratcliff

I was working on a freelance article that had necessitated the following Google searches: “how can I get sex online,” “best sites to hook up,” and “dudes nude.” A journalist wears many hats, and at the moment, mine was penis-shaped.

I IMed Thomas. “I have seen so much today that I can’t unsee.”

“This might be good fodder for your crush column,” he said.

“Crush?” I said. “I want to cry a little bit. This is the opposite of the crush feeling, which is light and happy and safe.”

“You’ve never had a crush on a random person you find naked online?” he asked.

In that question you can see the chasm between Thomas and me. Because: no. Absolutely not. I hate to play into female stereotypes, but on this count I am 100 percent cliché. Men, I have nothing against your throbbing purple-helmeted warrior, but I’ve only ever had crushes on the fully clothed.

I have always maintained that I am not attracted to random men I find online, period. “I get sad when I look at men’s dating profiles,” I told Thomas. Not because I feel sorry for them. It’s just, I don’t know: There is so much longing in the world.

It was 11 that night when a fact-checking question took me to a popular online dating site, and I started clicking on men’s profiles. I do this sometimes to prove to myself I shouldn’t join. I was on the third, maybe fourth, when I saw him.

I don’t know what struck me. Maybe it’s that he wasn’t smiling. He wasn’t looking away, either. It was the face you make when you didn’t hear what the other person said, the “Come again?” face. I looked at more photos: a black-and-white of him, leaning on a door jamb; a cropped shot of his full lips and the scruff of his beard. His profile answers were clever but removed, a posture that irritated me because I recognize it in myself. I was charmed.

I stayed on his profile a while, reading and re-reading. I didn’t notice that this thoroughly contradicted my earlier stance. Instead, I had that nervous feeling of discovery, wondering what it would be like to know him, and realizing it was entirely possible that I could.

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