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Ever had a girl crush?

SHE HAS A FAB SENSE OF STYLE, AN AMAZING SENSE OF HUMOR AND CAN ACE A HISTORY TEST LIKE NOBODY'S BUSINESS. NO WONDER YOU'RE INTO HER! BUT WHAT DOES THAT *MEAN*? HERE'S WHY WE OBSESS ABOUT CERTAIN GIRLS-AND WHY IT'S TOTALLY COOL TO CRUSH.

Stella S., 14, had her first crush when she was just a tot. The object of her affection was her older cousin Karin. A girl. "She was alluring to me because she knew things I didn't know about yet, so I hung on her every word," Stella reveals. Since then, Stella's had other girl crushes. Currently, it's on a friend of a friend. "I met Sanam through my close friend Michelle. She ended up adding me on Facebook, where I saw that she liked the same music and movies as me, plus she was into bands I hadn't even heard of yet," Stella says. "She was also really funny and had a lot of interesting friends and went to cool places."

CRUSH CRASH COURSE

Stella's not alone-many girls have been same-sex smitten at some point. You know the feeling: butterflies in your stomach, nervous jitters whenever you're around her. Or maybe you ransack your closet for the perfect outfit to impress her, or check Instagram for something cool to tell her about. Sound familiar?

These feelings can be super confusing because they're so similar to what a girl usually feels when falling for someone romantically, says therapist Dr. Carol Schwartz. And while the sight of her might cause the same pitter-patter you get from that cutie in homeroom, most girl crushes aren't amorous in the same way that romantic crushes are.

"Generally, they're not sexual," says Dr. Schwartz. "And although there might be a degree of intimacy, often there is no desire to become romantically involved."

GIRLS YOU JUST WANNA BE

Just because your response may mimic feeling in love doesn't necessarily mean you are actually attracted to this girl-you could just love being around her.

Or maybe you want to be just like her. And this isn't unusual. In fact, having a crush on a girl isn't as unexpected as you might think-and it can actually teach you a lot about yourself. "A girl is often attracted to another girl's style, outlook, sense of humor or intellect," explains Dr. Schwartz. "When a girl has a platonic crush on another girl, she often wishes she could emulate the girl or be besties with her."

Whether it's a celebrity, a friend or someone you barely know, the qualities you admire in a crush may be a reflection of what you're actually trying to achieve for yourself. Does she have confidence for miles or the ability to slay a crowd with one word? If so, those might be skills you want to see in yourself, too.

Just ask Hannah K., 15. She says the reason she's into her girl crush is because "she's so organized and a leader." Rebecca B., 15, admires her crush's ability to make everyone feel at ease. She's "that person you look up to and love a lot."

On the flip side, the girl might be your opposite-maybe she's a fiercely free spirit while you're a total type A-and it's the difference that sparks the attraction. "It's not that we necessarily want to be that person, but we want to be like them. If they like us back, we feel those aspirations in us are validated and possible," says clinical psychologist Dr. Marilyn Zweifach.

GROWTH PATTERN

So where do these same-sex infatuations stem from? Dr. Zweifach says it's likely part of our DNA-and these feelings often start in the crib. "We've all seen babies light up with huge smiles when their moms come into view. It's a full body, heart and mind experience," she says. "That's what a 'crush' feels like-whether it's directed toward a girl, boy, coach or celeb. As we get older, those feelings become part of how we form our romantic and love relationships."

Experts note that one benefit of a girl crush is that it can provide a safe way to experience love, albeit platonic-you're able to emotionally invest in another person without the fear of being romantically rejected. By exploring these more meaningful relationships with girls, you can be fulfilled and supported, something that can be particularly beneficial during the often-tumultuous teen years.

BEYOND THE CRUSH

So how do you move past the smitten stage and turn infatuation into an actual friendship? The key is to let your girl crush know you admire her without scaring her away. Let her know you think she's the greatest, but also give her personal space.

And don't be surprised if that initial burst of infatuation fizzles a bit when you realize she's just a normal person with her own insecurities and faults.

But if you two actually have stuff in common, moving from crush to friendship is pretty seamless and may lead to an all-around amazing relationship.

Take Maddie B., 19, for example. Seven and a half years ago, she developed a crush on a girl who is now her best friend. Maddie values the friendship, remarking how awesome she continues to make her feel. "Whenever we're together," says Maddie, "I'm always happy." What's not to love?

MORE THAN JUST A CRUSH?

Is it just a crush ... or something more? Here are some key signs your interest may be more than simple intrigue.

* You're jealous of the person she's dating

* Your crush has lasted for months or even years without it turning into a balanced friendship

* You are physically attracted to her and imagine yourself in a romantic relationship with her

If this sounds like you (or even if you're not sure), Dr. Zweifach says it's important to chat about your feelings with someone you trust. If you don't have anyone you can open up to, contact an organization that works with LGBTQ teens-try advocatesforyouth.org, which has information on local and national resources for teens who are gay, bisexual or questioning.
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Title Annotation:gl LIFE
Author:Lundsten, Apryl
Publication:Girls' Life
Date:Feb 1, 2017
Words:1000
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