Crushing on People in Monogamous Relationships: The Cacti of Tantalus

a picture of a pot with a southwestern desert scene painted on it. In the pot is a selection of different kind of cacti. Next to the point is a keychain with a tiny cactus in a plastic bubble. To the right is a blue plastic paisley pattern cup. All items are on a wooden desk.
by Page Turner (snapshot)

The Cacti of Tantalus

A few years ago, I took a trip out West and saw a cactus growing in the wild for the first time. The more I learned about cacti, the more I became impressed with how they’d adapted to withstand one of the harshest climates on Earth. It inspired me.

Plus, the little cactus gardens they sold at the gift shop at Meteor Crater were freaking adorable. So I bought one. Touristy, sure. But I brought a piece of the desert home with me.

And it might sound silly, but I feel a deep affection for my cacti. They’re basically desk pets at this point.

Perhaps it’s because I am always on the verge of petting them because of their cuteness but never do because of their prickly spines.

This fills me with an odd sort of tender longing and affection that is never appeased.

Basically, because I can never consummate my desire to pet my cacti, emotionally I am always petting them. Like Tantalus of mythology, starving and always reaching for fruit that cringes away from him. Or Sisyphus forever pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll the heck back down.

Crushing on the Monogamous

It’s been a rare occurrence, but every now and then, much to my chagrin, I’ll develop a crush on a person in a committed monogamous relationship.

And I’ll feel the same damn way. Become consumed by a longing that’s never quite appeased, never quite realized.

And in that state of perpetual limbo, that desire will intensify.

Or as Keats wrote in “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (thanks Brit Lit):

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
       Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
       Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
       Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
               Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
       She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
               For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!


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1 Comment

  1. I am currently feeling this, but as a bi/poly woman my crush is on both of the people in the committed monogamous relationship. I fantasize about being their “unicorn” and I struggle with the intensifying desire. It’s agonizing thinking about if I should cut them out of my life to eliminate the frustration or just enjoy their company and the friendship they offer even if it’s not quite what I hope for.

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