I think we can all just go ahead and agree that we were dumb in high school. About everything. We were naive, and still thought we knew everything. And we sure as hell weren’t going to listen to anyone else. No matter how many teen rom-coms you watch, you never really understand the reality of dating until it’s right in your face. You won’t know what’s good until you’ve undergone something bad and you won’t know what you need until you’re in a relationship where someone refuses to give it to you. Because of all that, high school is somewhat helpless. You can’t know and you won’t listen to those that do. But if we could somehow go back in time, we’d have a lot to tell our younger selves, and if any high schoolers out there are willing to listen, here are 15 pieces of dating advice we all could have benefited from at that time. Maybe you still can.
1. You don’t have to conform to societal beauty standards to get a date
In high school, you start to feel like you have to look a certain way, and you start to realize that looking that certain way isn’t easy. Society implements impossible beauty standards on every girl from a young age. Young girls quit sports because they don’t want to be seen as too “masculine” (whatever that means). They feel ashamed or awkward about their natural body shapes. I didn’t wear jeans for a year because I felt so ugly in them. But the only way to survive in life is to feel healthy and good in your body, no matter what society says about it. And when you’re confident, everything changes.
2. Look good for yourself
How you look is all about you. It doesn’t involve other people. It’s not up to society. It’s about what you need to do to make yourself feel good and happy. I dress up because looking cute makes me feel productive during the day. My roommate rocks gym clothes always cause that’s her safe space. Do whatever you want, but do it for yourself, so you can feel good and confident, not because you want others to see you a certain way. Shave your legs if it’s what you like. Wear dresses or makeup if it’s what you want. If it’s not, then don’t. Do you and you’ll find people later who’ll truly appreciate who that is. Those are the people you want around anyway.
3. Don’t change yourself for a boy
This is the #1 most important piece of dating advice: no matter how confidently you do you, you’ll eventually come across someone who wants you to change that, or who makes you want to change so they’ll like you more. I knew a girl in high school who lost a ton of weight because this huge, not particularly cute guy told her he wouldn’t date her unless she was skinnier, and I get sick to my stomach every time I think about that. There’s nothing wrong with losing weight and getting healthier, but that’s not someone else’s decision to make for you. On a less serious note, I once pretended to like Green Day for an entire year to make a boy like me! That boy never ended up wanting to date me (Honestly, thank god.) and I still really just don’t care about Green Day. Changing yourself for a boy is silly and not worth it.
4. Being cute doesn’t mean you can be a jerk
I would like to put a HUGE “@Boys” at the end of this sentence, but I’ll try to be nice and admit that this piece of dating advice applies to both guys and girls. Middle school and high school are superficial places. Pretty people start to stand out and realize that looking good allows you to get away with a lot, including treating others poorly, which it really shouldn’t. Being cute does not make you God’s gift on earth. Whether you’re cute or not cute, recognize people are treating you and others differently and do what you can to rectify the situation. Don’t get bitter. It’s a natural problem in our society and the pretty people can’t help it a lot of times either. Just try and befriend others without taking into account how they look.
5. There are these things called glow-ups
Cut to college when you’re grateful as hell you took the time to be nice to everyone because suddenly these little things are happening called GLOW-UPS. Shocker: people change! Their acne clears up. They hit a growth spurt. They learn about deodorant or hair gel or grow a beard. Mostly, they start caring about and figuring out how they can look their best. Tons of people you know in high school who aren’t that good looking are going to majorly change once you get older and it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
6. Be careful who you trust
Learn that people want things from you. Even if they don’t necessarily have the evilest of intentions, they still want something from you. It’s an important thing to keep in mind when you start dating and to be a little wary about. People will tell you you’re special and it’ll feel good because your hormones are still going crazy and you feel alone in life. And yeah, it’s just nice to be told you’re special, so you want to believe it. But think rationally about the situation. Are they sincere? Is it safe? Are they gaining something you don’t want to give? Don’t give your trust over right away to just anybody.
7. Be suspicious of older guys
In high school, I was so impressed by girls my age who were dating older guys. It was just so cool. But now when I look back on it, it’s kind of gross. We were just so young, and they were having to function on the level of much older people. I’m not saying there was anything wrong with the relationships. Just be suspicious of significantly older guys, rather than romanticize them, especially in high school when the age gap means more than it will later in life. Of course, there’s always the Clueless situation. If Paul Rudd wants to date you, you can throw all of this dating advice out the window.
8. Sexism is unacceptable
Don’t. Excuse. Sexism. It’s not okay. The jokes are not okay. The innately sexist language is not okay. The way our society works is that we define our standards and ethics via how we communicate and the words we say to each other. Words bring ethics into being, and ethics are how we decide what actions are appropriate, so if you’re using sexist language, then that will transfer into sexist actions. So just don’t accept any of it. Especially because practices you don’t get rid of in high school will hold fast into college, and those habits are even harder to change. The same goes for ways you deserve to be fairly treated. If you let a boy get away with double standards now, he’ll just keep thinking he can. Do humankind a favor and make no exceptions.
9. There’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable
While most of my dating advice does kind of encourage young girls to be cynical and untrusting, that doesn’t mean you have to lock up all your emotions and never trust anyone. You’re going to get hurt in life no matter what, so being a little careful is a good idea. But it’s good to be vulnerable too. It’s important. Show your emotions without worrying about others perceiving you as too needy or week. Being able to openly talk about and access your emotions makes knowing yourself and getting to know others much easier. Don’t be afraid to give parts of yourself to other people. It’s the only way you’ll get truly close.
10. Value your friendships
For most people, who you date in high school isn’t who you end up with forever. But lots of people never forget their high school friends. Don’t throw away the girls who really care about you to follow some romantic fling. Being supportive and there for each other is much more important than whoever you have a crush on this month. If you’re a good friend now, you’ll gain close sisters for a lifetime.
11. Don’t let anyone treat you poorly
This took me way too long to learn, well into college. It’s one of those things I didn’t realize until it was too late and I’d spent months letting someone treat me way worse than I deserved or needed. This is one of the most important pieces of dating advice for your own mental health. Know how much you’re worth and what you need and don’t let anyone give you less because that will only lead to your own unhappiness. You won’t learn how to need less, you’ll only learn how to accept being unhappy, which no one should have to do. So just notice when a partner isn’t good for you and get out, rather than waiting around for them to get better.
12. Everyone is at their most immature
Maybe not literally, but god it sure feels like it, especially when it comes to boys. So this is kind of me telling you to not waste your time. Or at least don’t take things too seriously because you’re probably not gonna be running into super high-quality dating situations. Enjoy yourself. Crush hard. But at the end of the day remember you’re both young and still have a lot of growing up to do.
13. Things’ll get worse before they get better
Boys do mature and progress as they grow into college age, but that doesn’t mean they automatically get better. A lot of boys who were nice in high school go through a period in college where they realize they’re cuter than they thought before and now they can get girls, which sometimes causes them to be not so nice to said girls. Combine stuff like that with alcohol experimentation and things can get frustrating to say the least. Yes, you can totally find a guy in college, just be aware that no one instantly grows up and becomes mature. It takes a while and lots of learning and a ton of reading up on dating advice (lol).
14. You’re going to infinitely change
This is less dating advice and more just life advice. Just like guys are going to change, so are you. You change sooo much between high school and college, not just because you learn, but because you as a person are just still growing, gaining your own ideas and opinions, likes and dislikes. My best friend had a serious type in high school. She was in love with a boy she thought she would marry. But she moved and they broke up. Meanwhile, these days years later she isn’t attracted to that type at all. What she likes in a guy has significantly changed. You won’t be who you’re meant to be for a while longer, so just keep that in mind. Nothing is set in stone.
15. You’ve got plenty of life ahead of you
Years of dating and complaining about boys and complaining about being single and just suffering through dating life in general are ahead of you. Yeah, it’s fun! But it’s not all fun. It’s tiring too and you may have to do it for a while, so there’s no need to rush into it right away. Take your time. Enjoy being yourself and not even thinking about being single because you’re just living life regardless of dating. Plus, once you get started, it’ll be hard to stop, so take your time before you decide to really involve yourself with relationships.
Everyone has a different dating path, experiences that helped them, lessons they learned. Not every piece of dating advice on this list will fit your life and nothing is for sure. These are all just things to keep in mind as you’re going through this utterly confusing journey that is dating in high school, and the rest of your life. In the end, all you really need to know, and all we should’ve known, is to have fun, be safe, take smart risks, and watch out for yourself. If you follow those guidelines your high school dating experience will probably still kind of suck, but hopefully it’ll suck a little less and for a shorter amount of time. Or maybe you’ll find your soulmate there and it’ll be amazing. If you do, congrats to you. But also, just go away.