I can hear you already, Our middle school crushes are haunting us? Is this a real thing? (The answer is yes.)
Close your eyes for a second. Do you remember Brace Babe? The one who had absolutely no freaking clue how to kiss, whose braces cut the inside of your upper lip (how does that even happen??) and who slobbered, literally everywhere, so much that you had to stop and wipe your lips? Gross. So gross.
Or Numero Uno, the very first boyfriend who said he liked your hair curly, so you wore it like that for two weeks straight…until he broke up with you during the bus ride to school. Dick.
Or what about Burrito Boy, you know, the one who you’ll forever remember as black beans and beef? He had that little, scruffy mustache that was rough against your lips and wandering hands. Damn those wandering hands.
Or BJ who bugged you, for just that—a b.j.—for three months straight in eighth grade.
Or The First Love who you try not to think about. He was the one you doodled about in your notebooks, who always got you in trouble passing notes in science class, who held your hand in the hallways and caused a fuss during sixth period lunch when he sat at your table with all the girls.
You still think about all of them sometimes, don’t you? Wonder what they’re doing, if they think about you. (They probably do.) Wonder they’re happy or lonely, if they’ve (finally) grown into men. (It’s debatable.)
One of them turned out to be gay, another married, and another a single dad with his first child. Isn’t that crazy to see where things went, how far you’ve all come or changed?
The truth is, these were the first boys. The first boys you ever really noticed or paid attention to. The first boys that weren’t just kids you tossed a ball around with down the block, or played Red Rover in the backyard and always ran right into your arms and made you cry. No, these were boys. With eyes and arms and hands and scruffy, seventh grade hair.
They were the ones you first laughed with, kissed, fell for. And as hard as you try to push them out of your mind, forget their slobbery kisses or sweaty hands or the way your heart fluttered for the first time, you just can’t.
It’s not because you miss them, or have feelings for them, or even that you’re nostalgic for the carefree, middle school days. But because those stupid boys molded you, defined you.
They were the ones who taught you about how idiotic the male species can be, how immature love is, and how confusing feelings are.
They were the ones who broke your heart, who made you cry, who helped you understand that humans are imperfect and hormones are crazy, and that it’s important to figure out who you are and what you want quick, or you’ll get lost in it all.
Our crushes are haunting us because they were a huge part of our growing up. And because with each failed relationship, each terrible kiss, each Tinder date gone wrong, we think about our pasts, and wonder if its us that’s the problem. (It’s not.)
We’ll figure it out. We’ll find the one. (Eventually.) But until then, we’ll remind ourselves of our first emotional rollercoasters, first camera phone couple pictures, and first dates at the town movie theater—how we were young and happy, and love was good.
We hang onto that feeling, and we hold onto the boys who taught us what love is, for better or for worse. And even though we might not want to, we’ll inwardly thank them. Because who knows where we’d be without them and their terrible kisses.