real life

Who's your brain swoon?

Tony Jones

I’ll go ga-ga over Daniel Craig and Ryan Gosling. Give me a square jaw and a piercing gaze and I’m as blissed out as the next girl. But it’s not only a pretty face I’ll swoon over. Some people have sexy brains. Their writing is exquisite and their oration thrilling, and they can make my heart flutter just as much as the hottie in the tailored suit gracing the covers of glossy magazines. It’s a special type of crush, and I call it a brain swoon.

I keep my brain swoons secret. I know I’ll be ridiculed. Why? Because they’re embarrassing. Because the subjects of my adoration are rarely attractive, and crushing on someone unattractive is basically taboo. Most of my friends would think I’m weird.

It started at university. I had a semester-long crush on one of my lecturers for a flora and fauna subject. He had a ponytail and wore khaki, and would walk around the front of the lecture theatre in shorts and bare feet. He looked like an elf, had the body of a stork and spoke like a Roman senator. It was love.

But they’re not only unattractive. They’re often a little older. To be honest, old enough to be icky. (Sometimes they’re so old they’re dead.) These aren’t the sort of guys you’d make out with at a party, oh no. I’m more likely to crave a candle-lit evening with them, draped in something out of Downton Abbey, gazing into their eyes and hoping they’ll Impart Their Wisdom.

The most recent bout of brain swooning was inspired by Alain de Botton and the tour promoting his book, Religion for Atheists. I saw him speak (twice) in his delightful British accent that smacks more than a little of Hugh Grant, if Hugh Grant could speak in actual sentences. He’s a rockstar philosopher. He’s inspiring. He’s evocative. He’s nearly as bald as an egg. I would have married him on the spot. I got up the nerve to ask a question of him at an intimate meet-and-greet and spent three excruciating minutes trying to keep a straight face while he addressed me and only me.

Before Alain, I was crushing on a TED speaker. TED talks are a goldmine for inveterate brain-swooners. This particular speaker was a doctor by the name of Abraham Verghese, and he was bemoaning the modern tendency for doctors to distance themselves from their patients—a marked departure from an earlier time when medicine was a hands-on profession. He was soft spoken. He was passionate. Then he pulled out a sheet of paper and said those three words a girl longs to hear. ‘I’m a writer.’ And ladies, hold on to your horn-rimmed glasses: he is. His novel Cutting For Stone will have you weeping on public transport. (He’s also bald. I don’t have a thing for bald men, I swear. In fact, I have been known to inquire of dates, as casually as possible, if their fathers still have all their hair. You can slip it in if you’re crafty.)

I dream of hunting for fossilised hominid bones in Olduvai gorge with a young Richard Leakey. Being decked out in Trojan gold by Heinrich Schliemann. A friend to whom I can confide such things says I’m idealising these men. That if I really knew them I’d think them totally daft or pretentious or boring. But I don’t want to know them. I want to sleep with their books under my pillow and dream my chaste romantic dreams. My brain swoons are up on a pedestal and that’s where I want them.

Rhiannon Hart is the author of fantasy books for teenagers. You can find her on Twitter here.

Who do you have a brain crush on?

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