Apologies To Freud

The psychopathology of everyday life

A Valentine's Day to Forget

Did a supermodel just steal my boyfriend?

Instead of candy and flowers, Valentine's Day brings tears and heartache to many--and not just those who are single and unnattached.

When asked about the holiday, one thirty something Manhattan woman dreams of hitting fast forward, and going straight through until February 15th: "My husband is totally obsessed with Sofia Vergara from "Modern Family." I never let it get to me--until his co-workers pinned a cheesy fake Valentine "signed" by the actress on his locker. Everyone in the entire office saw it--I was absolutely humiliated.

Echoes a fifty-two year old Midwesterner, "I hate this holiday.  All my grown daughter talks about is Justin Bieber. This year she even sent him a Valentine's card, and ridiculous as it sounds, it made me feel kind of jealous. Ever since my husband and I broke up, I have hated the entire day."

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Real live people--real live Valentine's Day angst.

So what is about the holiday that brings out some of the worst cases of celebrity puppy love? And even though we all know that teens routinely look up to performers and professional athletes, one can't help wondering, is it really all that different with adults? Why do they become infatuated with celebrities, available or not, and regardless of posted facebook status? And when adults crush on the famous, does it signify a problem in their real life relationships?

One explanation might be that for some celebrities represent an extension of the self, a projection of who or what they hope to be. This is how it works:

Celebrities are perceived as successful, larger than life, glamorous. Their company is sought after. Their lives idealized. Celebrities don't get strep throat and wait on line at the pharmacy for an antibiotic. They don't sit at the service station for several hours while their car to gets an oil change, and they don't have to clean their own sinks, floors--or worse. At least in our imaginations they don't.

Feeling ugly? An imagined liaison with a gorgeous celeb might prop you up, make you feel prettier, and better about yourself. Feeling boring? Unpopular? Mental hookups with stars and members of the A-list help you jolt to popularity and serve to raise your personal stock--at least in your own mind.

And for the lonely, a celluloid friend might be all they have at a particular point in time.  Imagining a tryst might help a lonely guy boost self esteem or shore himself up against feelings of aloneness and despair.  That goes for women too.  And this goes on all within the realm of reality--only in extreme circumstances, such as when an individual suffers from erotomania, is there any danger to allowing the imagination to run wild.  So, even if a friend or relative is obsessively following the Twitter Feed of, say, Lady Gaga, you might want to hold off on obtaining that restraining order, or pushing him to dose-up on his prescription cocktail.  In most cases the person with the crush knows all too well that he or she is confined to love from afar.  For such individuals, thinking of the admired star represents a welcome diversion from the slings and arrows of the day to day.

Even if celebrity crushes are all in good fun, what do imagined assignations with the famous mean for real life relationships?  According to those who harbor positive feelings for beautiful and successful strangers: they are harmless, and have no significance at all--unless the significant other feels threatened. When this happens, arguments can ensue.  Then the best remedy is to demonstrate that the crush is insignificant.  Reassurances go a long way to soothing hurt feelings.

Back to the New York City man whose friends pinned the fake Valentine on his locker: "I got a kick out of the guys razzing me about my attraction for a famous actress. I know they think it's a big joke. My crush is fun, for my entertainment. It's all fake. But, my girlfriend is real. Being ribbed by the guys makes me feel tough, like a guy's guy. But truth be told, on Valentine's Day I just want to hang out with my honey, no one else. Celebrity crushes don't keep you warm at night."

Try telling that to the woman who is pining away for Justin Bieber!

 

 

 

 

Stephanie Newman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, as well as the author of Mad Men on the Couch.

more...

Subscribe to Apologies To Freud

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.