Last weekend, two of my good friends celebrated their 22nd birthdays. On Friday night, we strapped on our heels, went to a fancy downtown lounge and proceeded to drink until everyone was making out with strangers. Saturday night, my friend threw a “Seventh Grade Bar Mitzvah Birthday Bash,” where the attendees dressed up in their middle school finest of butterfly clips and warm-up pants and, well… drank until everyone was making out with strangers.
As much as we like to pretend we’re all grown up, let’s lose the façade of sophistication and admit it: When it comes to dating, we may as well be back in middle school. The girls may not wear belly shirts anymore, and almost all of the boys have stopped frosting their tips, but in Isla Vista, the dating rituals are the same as they were in eighth grade.
An even sadder theory: The dating rituals haven’t remained the same over the years. We actually made progress with the opposite sex before college and then digressed back to our 13-year-old mating strategies. Think about it — we were fine in high school! Most of us had semi-serious “relationships,” in which we did physics homework together, lost our virginity and, on graduation night, made a pact to stay together throughout college.
The summer before I went off to college, I told my high-school boyfriend I loved him — and the sad thing is I really believed it. I think we all did. Either we were young and naïve, or our relationship maturity level reached its climax in high school and has steadily declined ever since. As soon as I moved into the co-ed mecca of Anacapa, I forgot about what’s-his-name. And somewhere in between the shots of Popov in the dorms, the themed parties on Del Playa, the lame but oh-so-convincing pick-up lines from older men and the inevitable one-night stands that resulted from all of this, I forgot how to date.
When we were in middle school, we had an excuse to behave like idiots when we interacted with the opposite sex. The girls lived in constant fear that they would start their periods in third period, and the boys were too nervous to approach girls because of their inability to control boners. Except Chad. Chad had his left ear pierced and was the first guy in the grade to receive a blowjob. Every middle school had a Chad, and of course he was never nervous, but the rest of us were shaking in our Mudd jeans at the prospect of running into our crushes between classes. It’s no wonder we had to pass notes instead of talk to each other in person and have our friends sit between us at the movie theater. I still remember how my heart pounded every time Steve Weinberg walked by my locker. I kissed him once — without tongue, obviously — at an afternoon dance and never looked him in the eye again.
Sound familiar? That’s because college is no different than junior high. Aside from the fact that alcohol aids us in making our bad decisions and that we’re getting laid instead of getting hickies, our 22nd birthday celebrations are eerily similar to turning 13. I know I’ve skipped class on a Monday to avoid running into the guy whose bed I slept in the Friday before. And every time I see that dude I went down on three times freshman year, I blush uncontrollably, giggle at inappropriate moments and remind him why he never called me again.
At the Bar Mitzvah party last weekend, my friend dressed up in overalls, wore fake retainers made out of paper clips and displayed to the world what she looked like in the seventh grade. But as soon as the hot guy she had been hoping to see walked through the door, it wasn’t just her clothes that were reminiscent of seventh grade: She hid in the bathroom until he left.
We may be no better at interacting with the opposite sex now than we were in middle school, but look on the bright side. At least we don’t have to worry about our braces when we give a blowjob.