What I Learned About Relationships From My Middle & High School Notes

I was a serious about passing notes in school. Like, I probably spent at least 80 percent of my time writing notes to my friends, responding to notes to my friends, and thinking about notes I wanted to pass to my friends. Because I’m #TeamOlderMillennial, this was all pre-cell phones and I kept every single note, which means I have a giant plastic box that’s basically a time capsule of my pre-teen and teen years. Every bad poem, random thought, and crush that passed through my brain was recorded for… Posterity? Infamy? Embarrassment? The jury’s still out.

One of the main topics of these notes is — you guessed it! — boys. (And for me, sometimes girls, but usually boys.) Boys we liked; boys who liked us; boys who were our “boyfriends;” boys who were our boyfriends; and boys we were learning about sex with. My friends and I, like probably 90 percent of teenagers, were obsessed with love and dating and sex — and oh my goodness did we talk about it. We talked and talked and talked and wrote and wrote and wrote and I seriously have no idea how any of us finished high school.

While a lot of what we talked about was nonsense, I also found some pretty incredible gems as I dug through my giant box of middle and high school notes. I think we could all learn a thing or two from our teenage selves — and here are the top 13 things I learned about relationships from mine.

1. If Someone Says “I Don’t Know What I Want,” Run

I really like [redacted] a lot. What should I do?
Haha that's funny about [redacted] Hehe. I did tell [redacted] that I really like him. He did the whole stupid guy "I don't know what I want" thing. He did say he likes me though but he also likes [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], and [redacted]. Argh. Maybe you should find out from one of [redacted]'s friends if he likes you?

This one makes me giggle, mainly because I was probably 12-years-old when I wrote it and I also came across like, 50 other notes about this boy I had a crush on. I wish I could reach back in time, give 12-year-old me a hug, and tell her that if a boy says he doesn't know what he wants then what he's really saying is he doesn't want you. Run, not walk, away.

2. People Let You Know When They’re Into You

Hey, What's up? Just wanted to write to you cuz I'm bored and your cool. I am so glad we met — we seem so much alike and we have so much fun! I want to get to know you more so, if you want, you can answer some of these ?s plus tell me anything else you want to!!

Fav movie:
Fav singer:
Fav food:
Single or Taken?:
etc... that kind of stuff. Oh what are your views on dating older guys... like 2 yrs. older?
Write back or email or talk to me. Do you have AOL? My screen name is [redacted].
P.s. I just wanted to tell you your eyes are so magnificent!

This is hands down the sweetest note I found in my collection, at least this time around. I love how transparent this boy was about being totally enchanted with me and I wish I'd learned the lesson of "people let you know when they're into you" way sooner than I did.

Also, one tiny note. I met this boy in theater camp and he was very into musical theater and his current FB photo is an adorable one of him and his boyfriend. But that doesn't negate how sweet he was nor does it negate that fact that he thought he was into me "that way" when, as an adult, I can make the educated guess that he really just saw a potential good friend.

3. Friends Are Your Best Bet For Meeting Romantic Prospects

I want to meet your partner. Can you introduce me? that's why I wanted to switch partners. Ask him if he knows [redacted] from Camp Greylock. WB
After class in the hall I'll ask him and introduce you so stay close to me.

This is definitely 100 percent me, to this day. Clearly I saw a boy I liked, I figured out how to get close to him, and I made it happen. And even back then, I knew that friends were the best way to get an intro!

4. Being Nice Is Not Flirting

I guess were not best friends, we don't have slumber parties.
Nice, [redacted], nice.
You guys flirt a lot, LOL. :)
Wow, violent reaction!
You act like you like her.
Nope, being nice is not flirting.
So are you interested in her at all?
I knew it — don't you know that he likes [redacted]? or maybe it's [redacted]...

You're right, random boy from my past. Being nice is not flirting. I wish all young people retained that lesson.

5. Your Bestie Is Your Best Bet When A Boy Hurts You


I don't know what I'm going to do. I shouldn't care this much, I never did before. This always happens; it happened last time too!!! It would probably be better for me to just end it with him but I don't know that I can do that. [redacted] overheard him telling [redacted] that it means nothing but then again he may say the same thing about me. Why is he doing it if it means nothing?!? THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD!!!
No, that isn't right at all.

This is what a best friend looks like, hands down. The person who listens to you ramble about some stupid person who hurt your feelings and who reminds you that you're a) great and b) right. There's a reason this woman is still my number one.

6. Listen To Your Friends When They Disapprove Of A Dude

I think I am too — I'm just really run down — 15 DAYS TILL FRANCE THOUGH. Hows your throat??? AND HOWS [redacted] — are you guys "chilling" soon?
My throat is OK but it still hurts a little bit. I'm supposed to call [redacted] tonight... he never makes plans much farther ahead than a day. Whatever. I don't want to get my cavity filled today!!! How long is lacrosse?
(in circled area) YUCK

In this one, my best friend is telling me that the way this guy was treating me wasn't cool. She still does that even today, which just as much grace and a bit more subtlety than just a "yuck."

7. Age Ain’t Nuthin But A Number

Yo! Thanks for the note. It's like 9:00 at night, I'm not sleepy and bored as ever. To day really sucked every one was invited to this girls birth day party except me. I'm pissed. But life goes on. I really liked the play. It was great fun even with so many 8th graders. I'm going out with a 7th grader and everyone is like "Your going out with a 7th grader, wow!" and it's like "Kill you too!" That rule is the stupidest rule I've ever heard! Everybody's kind of teasing me about it. It's getting old. Sorry, Gotta go, Mom's calling. I'll write again later!

Hell yes, middle school friend! Dating rules are stupid and age ain't nothin' but a number! I hope she remembered both of those things as she got older.

8. Bad Boys Aren’t Worth It

I like the new ways of writing our names. Oh my god I just seen [redacted] walk by. He was smoking a cigarette. I don't like him anymore. He's just too much for me. He smokes pot and cigarettes and he just walked by again. He's grown up too fast. He's cute and everything but it just won't work. Just like [redacted], I don't want to hang out with him, in fact I don't wanna have nothing to do with him, because of that same reason.

PREACH SISTER, PREACH! God I wish I'd learned this lesson at this young of an age!

9. Boys Don’t Even Know When They’re Flirting

Yeah, she said you guys talk a lot... What do you think of her?
She's nice, pretty (unreadable), sometimes a little depressing to talk to but generally pleasant. Why? (Excuse the handwriting, no hard surface.)
Just wondering... Damn [redacted], you are a FLIRT!! Do you like [redacted] or are you holding out for [redacted] still?
I can never tell if I'm flirting. I'm not holding out for [redacted], so I'm open to new people.

This is a classic case of reading too much into someone's actions. HE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW WHEN HE'S FLIRTING! (Also that "just wondering..." has me dying at my own transparency. Uh uh, I'm sure you were "just wondering," past me.)

10. Form Your Own Opinions Of People

What exactly makes [redacted] a jerk? ie: what KIND of jerk is he?

Ask [redacted]. She knows him better. I'm basing my opinions on [redacted]'s opinion... probably not a good idea.
Why, she has a few biases?
I dunno. It's just not always a good idea to base your opinion of people on another persons opinion of them.
Well, definitely, as a rule, and maybe especially in high school.

I think this is a lesson we all should take, especially in the age of social media: Form your own opinions about people (and politics and current events) rather than basing them on those of your friends.

11. PUAs Did Not Invent Negging

No that's not cool calling me an a$$hole like that. It's not really Jill it's me [redacted] I really do like you that Jill thing was just a joke but i'm sorry if the other note offended you, but I was just really joking. w/b
P.S. will you go out with me? Pleeze?

Pick up artists may have coined the name "negging" but this seventh grade boy was definitely pulling that move years ago. Pro tip: It didn't work.

12. People Play Games For No Damn Reason

[redacted] is looking good today. so what have you been up to.
not much. Ah, my arm is bleeding. Oh well. Don't tell anyone though k? I thought you didn't like Hannah anymore! Do you like your step-dad?
No I do like her but I wanted to see what she would say if I said I don't like her.
Oh, ok. I get it now.

See this nonsense? Playing games for no good reason except to see what the girl's reaction would be. Also, it's painfully evident that I care more about this guy than I did about my friend, because I should have jumped all over him for this one — and I didn't.

13. The Approach Is Always Hard

I should I approach [redacted] to hang out? I think he's really cool and I just want to get to know him better AS A FRIEND. Should I just ask him what he's doingon the bus or something?
Yeah, that's a fairly good idea. I really don't have anything to say.
ARGH! I'm just gonna chill about this one. STOP being dumb, basically.
I think you should hang out with him, but with other people so you don't jump him.
I don't want to jump him. And we don't have common friends.

First lesson here: Trying to figure out how to approach someone you like is never easy. Second lesson: I have literally never, in my entire dating life, been "chill."

Images: Emma McGowan (14)