By Lia Dun, 16, Senior writer, Marshall HS
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Lia says love is for suckers.

During freshman year, I had my first crush. I looked forward to school, something I previously loathed, just so I could see him. While I was studying, I would think about seeing him. People would be talking to me, but in my head I would be planning my wedding to him.

I saw him every day during English and P.E., and I always assumed he liked me back because he would ignore the teacher and talk to me … about how badly he needed a “girl.” He also talked to me about some weird stuff. Once, he asked me if my eraser was a sex toy. Another time, he told me about how he enjoyed “reading” Playboy. I sat there staring at him like, “Wow, tell me more.” Frighteningly, at the time I considered every word he said either clever or profound.

Toward the end of ninth grade my interest in him started to wane. I also started to notice his annoying traits, like how he was convinced all atheists go to hell. I’m an atheist, and it seemed like he took every opportunity available to remind me of my eternal damnation.

“So why don’t you believe in God?” he asked me once.

“I just don’t,” I said.

He frowned. “What if someone took a shot at you, but you tripped right before they pulled the trigger so the bullet didn’t hit you? Are you saying that would be all chance?”

“Yeah …”

He shook his head. “You’re going to hell.”

I had thought he was just very passionate about his religion. But later I realized that even passionate people don’t have the right to push their beliefs onto others.

After my infatuation wore off I began to wonder why I’d liked him in the first place.

I found a scientific explanation for my behavior

My dad always hounds me to read National Geographic because he thinks it’ll make me smarter, so one day he left an issue on  my desk open to an article called “The Science of Love.” I didn’t feel like reading the article at the time, so I immediately gave it back to him and told him to stop leaving things in my room. He tried to convince me to read it, but I wasn’t interested.

Illustration by Rachel Chung, 18,
University HS (2008 graudate)

Then one Sunday I had nothing to do. I found the issue of National Geographic on our coffee table and started to read it. About halfway through the love article, I was fascinated. I learned that in the initial phases of love, we have reduced levels of the hormone serotonin. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a type of mental illness that makes people anxious and obsessive about certain things, also display low levels of this hormone. I think this describes how I was acting: I was constantly thinking about seeing him.

I was going to read the rest of the article, but then my friend called me and asked if I wanted to play with her new Wii. As interesting as the article was, I’d never played Wii before, so I went to her house.

When I got home, my dad had thrown away the magazine. “I thought you didn’t want to read it,” he said.

“But I did want to read it,” I said.

My dad laughed.  “See, you should have listened to me.”

I really wanted to know more about attraction and its biological causes because I wanted to know if there was a reason for my acting like a moron. So I Googled “love hormones” and found a lot of information on the BBC website.

Love can be divided into three stages. The first stage, “lust,” is caused by the hormones testosterone and estrogen, which are released by both sexes. They cause sexual arousal and physical attraction.  I remember being attracted to the fact that he had really clear skin.

The second stage, according to what I found on the BBC website, is “attraction.” In this stage, you can’t think of anything else besides the object of attraction. Three hormones cause attraction: adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. Adrenaline makes you excited and causes your heart to race when you see the person you like. Dopamine activates the pleasure centers of your brain when you think about or are with the object of desire. Finally, serotonin levels decrease, which can make you sad and obsessive.

I had a hard time thinking about school while I had a crush on that guy. Once during a history test, I forgot to do the matching section because I was thinking about seeing him next period. I was just lucky there was an extremely low curve in that history class.

The last stage, according to what I read, is called “attachment.” It allows people to form long-term relationships and is related to two different hormones: oxytocin and vasopressin, which cause couples to become more emotionally intimate.

I was probably stuck either in the lust or attraction phase. Most teenagers don’t make it past those two stages simply because they don’t spend years with the object of their attraction.

Next, I learned about the reason people are attracted to each other. According to research at the University of Colorado, the main criteria for potential mates are scent and chemical signals called pheromones.

A scientist at the University of Chicago also discovered that women liked the scent of the T-shirts of men who smelled like their fathers. While I was doing laundry the day after I read that article, I sniffed one of my dad’s T-shirts to see if there was a scent. I was disconcerted to know that my future relationships would all be linked to my father’s pheromones.

Crushes aren’t bad things, but with school, extracurricular activities and trying to find time for family and friends, I can’t afford to be distracted by my hormones. People don’t have complete control over the chemical reactions in their brains, but there are some ways to curb them: When I meet a cute boy, I think of that first guy I had a crush on and promptly gag. On those rare occasions when that method doesn’t work, I remind myself that the reason I’m attracted to this boy is that he smells like my dad.

I’ve not had a crush on anyone since.

Click here to read Michelle’s story about being stuck in "the friend zone." (May – June 2008)

Click here to read Stacey’s story about her at-times awkward first date. (March – April 2008)

Other stories by this writer …

Shattering stereotypes. Lia, 16, says recognizing our prejudices will help us eliminate them. (September 2008)