When my good friend Jenna Wortham—a New York Times reporter—and I decided to start a zine called Girl Crush last spring, we thought of it as a chance to be frivolous, irreverent, and earnest all at once. We created a website, Girlcrushzine.tumblr.com, and began soliciting personal essays. We e-mailed novelist Jennifer Egan, This American Life contributor Starlee Kine, New Yorker writer Amanda Fortini, former Missbehave editor Mary H.K. Choi, and other women we admire.
As varied as the submissions we received were, the answer to Fitzgerald’s question was clear: Woman worship, girl crushing—whatever you want to call it—is a positive trend. Fortini’s took the form of a singular devotion to the journalist Janet Malcolm, whose work she faithfully read and followed when Fortini was an assistant at The New York Review of Books. To Choi, a girl crush is a creatively inspiring friendship born of mutual respect and admiration—like the one she established with the sassy Times columnist Cintra Wilson. For Egan, it represents that moment in girlhood before boys have entered the picture.
After two months, we had dozens and dozens of submissions—more than either of us had anticipated. Had we struck a chord? I can’t help but believe our current generation’s embrace of girl crushing signifies something larger: evidence that a professional world once dominated by men has evened out—maybe not totally, but to a reassuring degree. When Didion first set out to become a writer, she copied the sentences of Ernest Hemingway; today, my friends and I copy hers.
That night, when I arrived at the bar to meet Leanne, I instantly forgot everything I had prepared to say. She asked me about my life. I asked about hers. We slipped into comfortable conversation almost immediately. We talked about books, travel, our hopes and dreams for the year. At the end of the night I walked her home. “Dear Leanne,” I wrote to her the next day, “So fun to meet you last night. I must bashfully admit that my girl crush is undiminished. Hope I played it cool. :)” Over the next year, we gradually moved from being acquaintances to friends. And that’s the thing—a girl crush doesn’t have to be purely aspirational. Still, I’ll never forget what Leanne wrote in response: “Your crush is reciprocated!”