10 Things I Wish I Knew About Dating When I Was 18

There are plenty of keepers out there. You just have to keep your eyes open.
There are plenty of keepers out there. You just have to keep your eyes open.
Sean McGrath/Flickr

Like many 18-year-olds, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the world when I graduated high school and headed off to college. I’d dated the same girl for the last couple years of high school, hooked up with a few others, and generally considered myself to be pretty socialized both in and out of the dating scene.

When I look back on those days, I cringe a little every time I realize how stupid I was and all of the things I did and thought (or didn’t do and think) that were so wildly inaccurate and inappropriate. It's possible I’ll change my opinion on at least half of these things by the time I hit 30, but here are 10 things 25-year-old me wishes 18-year-old me knew about dating.

10. Staying in touch with your ex probably won’t work out.
Until I was 21, my high school ex and I were best friends. As it turns out, that’s not exactly a healthy way for either person to move on and see other people. While 18-year-old me likely wouldn’t have been willing to completely cut ties with her, I’m sure I could’ve created a little distance freshman year instead of remaining super close with someone who I wasn’t going to seriously date ever again.

9. Dating is more than a series of casual hookups.
Back in those college dorm days, there were few actual relationships and even fewer titles for them. For a while, I just assumed that if I was sleeping with someone most nights (or afternoons), that she and I were probably dating and/or expected to be at least somewhat monogamous. In reality, it was just convenient college sex and I’d read into it way more than I should’ve. I figured that out a few months into it, but it still would’ve been nice to know that you should invite someone places other than your dorm room if you want to keep them around for a while.

8. Some people are too crazy/stupid/awful to date.
Coming out of a long relationship with my high school sweetheart, I wasn’t sure how the whole “dating” thing was supposed to go down in college. For that reason, I was willing to at least hook up with anyone I considered attractive, regardless of how insane, dumb, or terrible they might be. When you’re 18, it’s totally understandable to just want to get naked with as many people as possible, but in the long run, you’re going to be a lot better off if you stick with people you can stand clothed as well. You don't have to date that painfully dumb redneck chick for three weeks just because she's hot.

7. Never underestimate the power of laughter.
Being cute is nice, being “cool” can earn you some extra dates, but nothing’s going to give you success in both dating and friendships as the ability to make someone laugh. In a world full of people doing their damnedest to look and act more attractive to possible sexual partners, comedy is overlooked all too often. Everyone is going to want to hang out with the funny kid, and I’d later learn that if I could get girls to smile and laugh around you consistently, that’s already half the battle.

6. Hooking up with friends just isn’t worth it.
This can be read in two ways: 1. Hooking up with people whom you are friends with just isn’t worth it. 2. Hooking up with two people who are friends just isn’t worth it. Either way, I found out the hard way it’s completely accurate. When I was 18, I thought I could get away with hooking up with one roommate while talking to another. I was wrong. When I was 18 I thought I could sleep with a good friend of mine and have it not impact the relationship. I was wrong on that one, too. There are enough people out there that you shouldn’t have to hook up with friends, whether they’re yours or your date’s.

5. People can be more attractive for their personality.
At the ripe old age of 25, this one seems so obvious. At 18, I think I had a hard time believing it. I used to think that if a girl was hot, she was a potential date, and if she was cool, she was a potential friend. Freshman me definitely didn’t understand that a super awesome and moderately attractive girl would be way more fun to date than a super attractive girl who wasn’t cool at all. If there’s a certain “type” or trait you’re generally attracted to, you might be way better off pursuing that trait rather than just trying to chase down the hottest willing participants you can find.

4. Stop dating people in the same scenes.
In college (and after college, for that matter), it’s really easy to get sucked into dating the same types of people in the same scenes or groups over and over again. If you’re an athlete in college, you’re probably going to date a lot of athletes. If you’re a Harry Potter fan-fiction lover, you might date others who go to Comic-Con every year. I’d tell 18-year-old me to just make a new friend or two to get invited to other groups’ parties, but as an adult it’s even easier. Change the bar (or other social gathering location) you’re hanging out at, that’s all.

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3. It’s better to be told “No” than to find out later they would’ve said “Yes.”
To quote the great Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Just because you don’t think someone will like you enough to go out (or just hook up) with you doesn’t mean they agree with you. Trust me, few things make you feel stupider than a former crush telling you they thought you were cute too, whereas getting turned down from time to time is a part of life. Take a chance and invite the 20-year-old soccer player to dinner one night, teenage me, or at least hang out with that girl from your French history class more, she likes you but you’re too young and dumb to see it.

2. Word spreads faster than you think.
When I turned 18, my Myspace page had been inactive for several months (or years maybe), and I wasn’t about to venture into Facebook or Twitter yet. Even though the Internet was a major part of daily life, it didn’t seem like people would learn about my business quite as fast as they would now with constantly updating social media. I was wrong about that as well. Since I’d never hooked up with (at least somewhat) strangers before, I didn’t realize how quick people (see: college students) would be to talk about who they saw leaving my dorm room last night. By the time I’d done one or two things I shouldn’t have, it seemed like everyone already knew. It was a good learning curve though, as it prepared me for the current world of tagged Facebook photos and #MCM and #WCW Instagram posts.

1. There’s more than one “perfect” person out there.
Believe it or not, 18-year-old me, you’re going to meet at least two more girls who understand you every bit as well as your high school sweetheart did. Not everyone you meet is going to live up to those standards, but you shouldn’t resign yourself to marrying the next girl you meet who doesn’t totally suck. There’s plenty of keepers out there, you just have to find another one. Actually, that’s pretty good advice for any age.

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