Much like the villain in any horror movie franchise, your middle school experience follows you anywhere you go: Even when you think you've finally triumphed over it, it's still in the background, stalking your movements, influencing your decisions, and making you feel extra self-conscious about that stray hair on your upper lip. And nowhere is this more true than in the world of dating in your 20s; a landscape that is, tragically, exactly like middle school. If love is a battlefield, then twenty-something dating is full of middle school faves like pointless anxiety, obsessive crushes, blazing self-doubt, and also, probably, bedazzled track pants.
But as disheartening as that all may seem ("I have to do this all over again, only with casual sex?"), you do have an advantage this time — you've made it through middle school before. You know that there's a light at the end of the insecure, confused tunnel; that every stage of life includes an incredibly awkward phase; and that there's something to be learned from all the angst that you feel. Plus, you have, like, totally gotten to first base now (and not with some made-up person that you met "at summer camp").
So come along with me, as we revisit the ways that the horrors of modern dating parallel the horrors of middle school. Hey, at least you're allowed to drink this time around!
1. THERE'S A WHOLE LOTTA NOTE PASSING going on
Then: Use beautifully colored gel pens to write notes that get important information out there, like how Ginger Spice is the best Spice, and how you heard that Mr. Bentley, the social studies teacher, used to totally work in a dildo factory (source pending).
Now: Use your beautifully colored (and painfully expensive) smartphone to do very important things, like wait for your date to text you, text your friends complaining about how your date hasn't texted you yet, and forward your date's text to your friends in order to confirm that "We should chill sometime" definitely means "I love you forever" (source pending).
2. LITTLE THINGS FEEL LIKE THE END OF THE WORLD
Then: Forced to wear a dorky shirt in the band recital? Yeah, your life is effectively over. Nothing to do now but go into seclusion for a few decades, and wait for the world to forget.
Now: Made eye contact with a hottie at a bar, and then totally tripped and spilled your drink? Better pave over your vagina, ma'am, because it is effectively closed for business.
3. the drama never seems to end
Then: You lose whole days obsessing over the huge fight you had with your best friend about who started wearing polkadot Keds first (you did, but whatever).
Now: You lose whole days obsessing over the huge fight you had with your brand new boo over whether or not you guys formally made dinner plans for tonight (you did, but whatever).
4. there are A LOT OF RUMORS
Then: Katie told Ashley that Stefanie said that Deena is so annoying even her parents don't like her.
Now: Katie told Ashley that Stefanie said that your crush had, like, nine different girlfriends last summer, so if you think they're relationship material, think again.
5. you have to cope with CONFUSING SEXUAL URGES
Then: Why does watching this footage of people dancing at the MTV Beach House make me feel the same way as that time I slid down the bannister too hard?
Now: Why do I keep hooking up with my absolute worst ex? Especially since I now totally know how to "slide down my own bannister" on my own now?
6. YOUR PARENTS DO NOT GET IT
Then: "Yeah, sure, everyone will want to be my friend when they find out how beautifully I play the recorder. GREAT PLAN, MOM!
Now: "Oh yeah, if I would just let you give my phone number to that woman in your JCC group whose son is a periodonist, I would finally find eternal love. GREAT PLAN, MOM!"
7. TALKING TO YOUR CRUSH IS A NIGHTMARE
Then: Merely asking them how their day is going is a stomach-sickening, palm-sweat-inducing ordeal that you need to spend days preparing for in advance.
Now: Merely asking them how their day is going is a stomach-sickening, palm-sweat-inducing ordeal that you need to spend days preparing for in advance.
8. YOUR BODY seems to EXIST SOLELY TO PUNISH YOU
Then: Your life is constantly ruined by zits that pop up (and pop) every hour on the hour, growth spurts, your new pal Menstruation, and all sorts of hairs showing up in all sorts of places.
Now: How can you still be getting zits at your age? HOW CAN YOU BE OLD ENOUGH TO HAVE LIVED THROUGH AN STD SCARE, BUT STILL YOUNG ENOUGH TO HAVE ZITS?!
9. STANDING AROUND WAITING TO BE ASKED TO DANCE IS your worst nightmare
Then: Horrible, soul-crushing, self-esteem reaming.
Now: Even worse, because now it is probably happening at your college roommate's wedding reception.
10. YOU'RE SURE THAT EVERYONE ELSE KNOWS SOMETHING YOU DON'T
Then: None of the other kids in school could possibly feel this broken, hopeless, and alone. They can't be suffering like this! Especially the cool kids. Should I get a new shirt from the Gap? Would that help?
Now: None of the other people on Tinder could possibly feel this broken, hopeless, and alone. They can't be suffering like this! Especially the people whose photos have a dog in it. Should I get a dog? Would that help?
11. YOU'RE JEALOUS OF THE LUCKY ONES WHO WERE SPARED
Then: The elite group of popular kids, who somehow maintained flawless skin, had perfectly stylish clothes and basically never had to suffer any of the indignities of puberty.
Now: See: Your friends who are happily married to their college sweetheart.
12. YOU MAKE YOUR FRIENDS DO SOME OF YOUR ROMANTIC LEGWORK
Then: Demand that your friend ask your crush to slow-dance with you to "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" at the the Winter Wonderland dance.
Now: Demand that your friend engineer a "totally natural" meeting where you can "accidentally" bump into her and her cute coworker.
13. Your LIFE IS CONSUMED BY OBSESSIVE CRUSHES
Then: I can't eat, I can't sleep, I've never felt this way before! No, we have not ever spoken ... what's your point?
Now: I can't eat, I can't sleep, I've never felt this way before! Yes, I know he's a TV character ... what's your point?
14. you've been told THe PAIN IS TEMPORARY
Then: Someday, I'll be a high schooler, and then everyone will respect me! Right?
Now: Someday, I'll be in my thirties, and then I will definitely have my entire romantic life figured out! Right?