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

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!!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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)