The word “smitten” is the past participle of “smite,” a word coined in the mid-13th century that means “to strike a blow.” If you were smitten in battle, you probably wouldn’t live to tell about it. Decades later, an addition definition was added to refer to a powerful psychological condition, that of being hopelessly infatuated (usually romantically) with someone. The use of smitten in the military sense seems archaic today, so it is currently most often used in the context of romantic infatuation. According to Psychology Today, a person smitten with another is often unprepared to adequately defend themselves, something akin to coming down with a difficult-to-control disease (thus, the term “lovesick”). Most of us who have fallen in love can relate to this. However, it comes with many potential pitfalls and may lead to a depletion of physical and emotional balance.
In response to being smitten emotionally, those affected may pursue a pattern of calculated (yes, even conniving), yet persistent, pursuit. As an example, I love the following story from a 2017 issue of Reader’s Digest. This paraphrased version describes how the editor-in-chief dealt creatively with his “affliction.”
He was drawn to a young freshman tennis player who, though slight in stature, moved about the court with the utmost confidence. She was tan, with long-flowing hair, and easily the most attractive girl on campus.
He was mesmerized. “Wow,” he remarked to his roommate, “she’s amazing…and cute.” The roommate made a face and shook his head, for this was obvious. She captured everyone’s attention.
One evening, later the next fall, he was fortunate to find himself alone with her at a party outside his dorm, and the two were having a spirited conversation. Years later she would remember that it was raining. He would remember that he was exceptionally “witty,” though he conceded that he never is. Then, when she left the party to go home, he left too…in pursuit.
Growing up in a house full of boys, he tended to eschew conflict, not to mention any type of romantic interest. But yet he found himself following her to her dorm, where, outside in the courtyard, he struck up a bargain. He said that, being the most sought-after girl on campus, she would experience a barrage of would-be suitors. Since she would tire of the endless, phony attention, he could serve as her anti-suitor whose only interest was to keep her company and provide some non-threatening amusement.
Many years later he would tell his son this tale. His response? “Dude, that is so lame.”
He admits that she likely saw through his pathetic attempt to be with her, but he recalls that she laughed. And they did spend a lot of time together. Slowly-but-surely, her resistance softened, and his presumed platonic interest was revealed for what it really was. It was worth it for being, as he put it, “in the game with her.” And he still is, over four decades later.