Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Weird May-December romance, or just creepy?: I was at a family friend’s house the other day for a dinner party, and I was talking to their son. I’ve known him for years now, but we haven’t been particularly close. Since it had been a while since I talked to him, it’s like I’m just now getting to know him—and he’s great! He and I have a lot of fun chatting, and at the last several parties we’ve attended, we’ve spent the entire party talking to each other. The last time, we were basically the only ones from our generation, so it was just us, alone—and I think we were genuinely into each other. We took a walk outside together and he even put his head on my shoulder when he joked about how tired he was. I think I might like him a little bit.
The problem? I just graduated college, and he’s a senior in high school! Is this weird? I most likely wouldn’t pursue anything anyway because he’s about to go to college, and because of the family history. How do I get rid of this mini-crush ASAP?
A: If you’re not planning on asking him out, and you know he’s going off to college relatively soon, then I don’t think you have to do much of anything. The two of you had a nice time talking during a few family dinners, but the fact that you’re the only attendees not of your parents’ generation might make your connection seem more intense than it would be in other contexts. A four- or five-year age gap isn’t always an issue between adults, but at your stage of young adulthood, the difference between “recent college graduate” and “high school senior” is significant, and it makes sense that, in addition to the fact that your families are close, you’ve decided against pursuing anything.
Trying to “get rid” of these feelings will probably have a paradoxical intensifying effect. It’s like trying not to think about an elephant. When your crush feelings surface, you can simply acknowledge them: Yep, I think he’s cute and charming, and I like talking to him, but I’m not comfortable with our age gap, and the family history is too fraught to consider dating him, at least right now. That doesn’t mean you have to start ignoring him, but there’s no reason to go out of your way to find reasons to see him again. Your decision is a good one, and I think you can stick with it, even while dealing with “mini-crush” feelings.