Here's a likely summary of your high school boyfriend: always had an illicit cigarette on him, looked good in baggy jeans, knew his way around a skateboard... but something was missing. But what? Let's call it the Seth Cohen trait, i.e. what made him the best boyfriend on The O.C. This trait was how much he grew up — emotionally, not physically, obviously.
This was the thing that a majority of our high school boyfriends or girlfriends lacked, because most people as teenagers aren't drawn to qualities in their beloved that they'll treasure as adults. Take me, for example. Age 15, all I wanted in a partner were the following attributes: they should play guitar at parties; if possible, be in a band; have at least a couple of tattoos; and be surly, because that seemed sexy back then.
This now sounds like a nightmare. Men who play acoustic guitar in public give me rage-goosebumps, because it's too cheesy for words. Men in bands (and who treat that as A Thing, rather than it just being their passionate side project) don't do anything for me. I personally think tattoos are played out, and I have no time for an adult man who's adolescently moody on the regular for no clear reason.
Enter Seth Cohen. At the beginning of Season 1, he's kind of a laughing stock. His image is so nerdy that even his neighbor, Marissa Cooper, doesn't like to fraternize with him in public despite being the same age. His parents are concerned about his lack of friends. He has literally no game when it comes to girls and just seems to think that by drooling and stuttering around his crush Summer, he'll win her heart.
And yet, I believe Seth Cohen has all the potential in the world. Not because he's a sensitive loser, because actually, this leads to him being pretty jerky around girls for a few seasons (see: the whole Anna/Summer mess, which would a more experienced boy might have been better equipped to swerve). Nope, I'm talking about his qualities which you wouldn't have thought were so amazing as a teen, but which give him all the durability of an expensive bottle of wine — he's just going to get better and better.
To start, all that time on his own means he's got a whole heap of interests that have nothing to do with beach culture, partying, or popularity. He's got an encyclopedic comic book knowledge, which is going to make him an ideal Marvel movie-viewing companion in a decade and a half's time, and even better for post-movie dissection over beers. His love for Death Cab for Cutie and Bright Eyes is promising: he'll have definitely refined his palate during the college years and have given you a shared Spotify playlist with some unlikely gems on it, some of which he selected.
He's emotionally open as a teenager, that time when so many of us were a whole bundle of insecurities masquerading behind a James Dean too-cool-to-care swagger. This is played up by the contrast between Srth and Man of Stone, aka The O.C.'s very own James Dean, Ryan Atwood.
Heck, remember when Seth downright demands that Summer acknowledge him and smooch him and him alone at the Kissing Booth, declaring his love for her in front of the entire school on top of a coffee cart and proceeding to make out with her in public? Ryan would have never pulled such a stunt with Marissa. Sure, as a teenager, this could very well have been mortifying. But as an adult, this is everything. Being openly vulnerable is half the battle in a relationship.
But best of all, at an age when his peers were concerned about being their most hip, adult selves, Seth Cohen is unabashed about being an overgrown kid. He invents the "greatest super-holiday known to mankind," Chrismukkah, which mashed together Christmas and Hanukkah. He has his own plastic toy pony, Captain Oats, who prior to Ryan, he confides secrets in.
Basically, he's totally chill about letting his inner child out to play. Not so groovy as a teen when all you want is to be older, but so damn appealing in an adult. Imagine coming home from your 60-hour work week in a boring office to find, in your apartment, a perfectly constructed pillow fort. Imagine eating ice cream and pizza for breakfast. Imagine the fun of dating Seth-Cohen-the-adult.
No one's going to judge if you thought Ryan was the sexy one back in the day. He wore a kicky vest and was mysterious and monosyllabic. But in 2017? Seth Cohen looks like the most desirable boyfriend of all: Someone who'd get better and better as the years passed.