Thirst Trap

Dating in middle school

Those were different times

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Editor’s Note: Thirst Trap is a weekly column on dating and relationships in college.

In the second half of elementary school and on into middle school, we used to play this game called Zap. The gameplay was fairly simple. Basically, the zapper approaches the zappee and with a chest full of confidence that could only be brought by outlasting your entire class in the mile run, declares “I zap you to __” and then inserts a name. The zappee is then tasked with the mission to hunt down this target and ask them out.

In fifth grade, I got zapped into asking out a boy with bright blue eyes and a face full of freckles (we’ll forget about the inappropriately retro frosted-tips). When I asked him out, he said yes. Come to think of it, we never actually broke up.

I guess middle school relationships are just different. Nowadays, in all our wisdom and maturity, we would never dream of leaving something like that unresolved. If I had been zapped to this boy now (or started dating him by methods less weird for my age) and he no longer wished to continue seeing or talking to me, he would share that information with me directly instead of ignoring my texts. As college students, we have surely left any of those middle school dating practices far behind us.

Middle school relationships had two speeds. Either the couple met in homeroom and were wed before second lunch by an eighth grader who saw a wedding in a movie or the couple spent four whole semesters playing footsies in band class before one of them confessed their love for the other via a premeditated game of truth-or-dare. All college relationships function at a normal pace. We are far too grown up and adult-ish to ever commit too fully right off the bat or spend too long waiting for the perfect moment to make our move. By this age, we have pacing down to a science.

Middle school relationships always had to be some big secret — sneaking in little hallway alcoves for a chaste peck, telling your mom you were going to the park with your friend from the neighborhood when you were really meeting the bad boy from the grade above, playing games to guess each other’s crushes.

Thankfully, days of secrets are far behind us. We no longer suffer through an endless sequence of he-said-she-said to get to the juicy bit of gossip. Everyone adult enough to be in college is certainly adult enough to be honest and upfront about details pertaining to their love life when necessary.

Middle school relationships were often superficial. Thank God college students never have superficial relationships. We never date just to date. No one ever just dates for the sake of parading someone through the cafeteria like we did in middle school. Dating for clout — or even worse, out of boredom — never happens at this age. I have never seen someone get into a relationship just to fit in with his completely paired off friend group. We are too mature to feel that urge to fit in and pin down a partner early in life as society demands of us.

That kind of chaos of people switching pairings as though one combination would click the locker open is finally over. College dating does not feel even a tinge like that. No one uses their friends of friends as a dating pool. It's just nothing like middle school anymore.

We were so young and dumb back then and we got our hearts broken by a new boy every other week and now looking back, we can’t even remember any of their names. Our perspective on current dating drama will never change like that again.

Twenty years from now, everything that hurts now is bound to still hurt because we’re in college, not middle school. By now, we are fully matured adults and will have the exact same point of view and attitude toward relationships we have in this moment for the rest of our lives. In the six-or-so years it has been since our middle school days, we have all definitely figured out what we want in a relationship. We have all figured out how to be more considerate of the feelings of others. We are all ready for love. We’ve come a long way.

Reach columnist Hannah Krieg at Twitter: @Hannah_krieg

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