Ah, it is springtime and love is in the air (this was drawn to my attention this week as I noticed more and more couples exchanging some PDA in the hallways during passing periods…). When it comes down to it, we spend so much of our time “finding the right mate”. In elementary school, we make Valentine’s Day boxes and encourage our kids to make special Valentine’s for their secret admirers. In high school, we sponsor proms and Sadie Hawkins dances to encourage dating. We are constantly talking about relationships, constantly listening/singing songs about relationships, constantly reading books and watching movies about relationships; even ‘The Lego Movie’ involves a relationship plot line.
I stand in the hallway every passing period to greet my students as they walk in, which gives me a very interesting perspective. Some of it is actually very pathetic, actually. I have one student who stands and knoodles with his girlfriend until THE VERY LAST SECOND before the bell rings; he gives her a ‘good bye’ kiss, goes to class, and immediately pulls out his phone to tell her how much he misses her. I have another student whose boyfriend tries to sneak into the classroom three minutes before class is over just so they can see each other. Oh, what it is like to be young and in love. Then, of course, there are those situations when you can clearly tell the awkward girl is throwing herself on the popular boy, of which he is too naive to notice. Or, watching kids pass love notes to each other and their faces drop, because, I am assuming, the writer scribes something along the lines of, “Yea, I asked him and he just isn’t that into you”.
Watching the awkwardness that ensues from teenage relationships makes me think about how grateful I am that I can now date “in the adult world” and don’t have to worry about some of these problems. And, of course, because it is me, I have been compiling a list of the differences between dating in the teenage world and the adult world.
Here is what I have come up with thus far:
1. Your friends don’t care if you ditch them for a date.
When I think back on it, ALL of my friendships that ended, ended because of a boy. Whether is was my friend liking the same boy I was dating and going behind my back to say some not-nice things about me, or my friend being jealous that I had a boyfriend and she didn’t, or my and my friend liking the same boy (but, of course, he didn’t like either of us…), it always ended poorly. A common remark I hear from my high schoolers is, “Yes, he is just so different now that they are dating. They are practically married. I never get to see him anymore”, and then some kind of drama happens.
However, what I have noticed in the adult world is that we often egg on our friends to ditch us for a date. When we have plans with each other and then suddenly “the boy” calls, you completely understand and encourage your friend to go on that date, even though it probably means you are going to be sitting on your couch, alone, eating ice cream, watching “New Girl” on Netflix allll night. But hey, you legitimately do not get mad, because this could be your friend’s only chance and you don’t want to stand in the way of true love.
2. When you break up, you (hopefully) don’t have to worry about running into them/their friends in every single class/passing period/social function.
The sucky part of breaking up in high school is you are probably going to run into that person multiple times a day. The chances of you having the same friends and even the same class schedule is very high, which makes everything that much more awkward and embarrassing the next day. I remember I had a boyfriend in high school who gave my best friend a break-up note to me to read before school started. I remember trying to hold myself together all day, and of course, since it’s a close-knit community, everyone already knew before I did, so I had to rehash the story in every class, at lunch, before/during/after practice.
3. Your dating style is a little more defined: In high school, no one knows who they are and everyone is just trying out different personalities. When you are in your 20’s, you have a little more life experience so you have a better idea of what personalities work well with yours, what kind of dating style you have, etc. When I first consider dating someone, I make sure to tell them (a) I am very busy and you have to schedule me in advanced and (b) I don’t get great service at my house so if I don’t respond back, that is probably why. You kind of come to dates with a set list of interview questions. If someone answers the questions to your liking, great. If not, no big deal–you will just keep searching.
But, in the adult world, the chances of you running into each other post-break up is less likely (unless, of course, you made the mistake of dating someone you work with, you moved in together, or you share alllll of the same friends, of which your friends are probably going to have to pick some sides….). Or, if you are dating someone and it gets suppppeerrr awkward, you can cut the cord a little easier, maybe by just not responding back to their text messages anymore. There is still the chance you will run into them when you are out and about, but hopefully you have someone with you so you don’t have to face that awkward meeting alone.
And……those are the only three distinct differences I can think of between dating during youth hood and dating in the adult world. You still have to go through the same procedures: the awkward first date, the awkward first-meeting-the-family, the awkward “What-Are-We-Are-We-Seeing-Other-People” conversation (although, I think in high school, a text message usually suffices this conversation). You still have those awkward moments of skirting around subjects but still trying to gauge their views, especially about politics, racial jokes, and using the “L” word. You still make really awkward giggling noises when you first talk to that person, your face gets red and twitter-pated whenever someone asks about them, and your friends start making fun of you. And, in some cases, you still have to ask to borrow your parents car.
All in all, I think dating is universal, no matter how old you are, what culture you come from, what gender you are. I would sum it all up in one word and that is AWKWARD.