A lot of my teen years are hazy in my brain. Maybe it's from the daily joints I smoked my entire sophomore year of high school, or maybe it's just that I'm getting old and with each year, the details of my adolescence fade more and more into just one visceral feeling.
But you know what memory is as clear as day? The first time my mother told me the person I was dating didn't "get" me.
Let's time travel to 2002. I'm a 15-year-old goth, dressed in ripped fishnets and doc martins in a sea of Juicy Couture and butterfly clips.
I'm dating a boy who works at Hot Topic. He is two years older than me, has one of those spiked, "Sonic the Hedgehog" haircuts that are all the rage in the suburban "skater boi" scene.
One day, he comes over after school and we make out for five hours straight in the basement. We make out until my lips are raw. (Side note: if you're contemplating lip injections, just make out with someone for five hours or more and you'll get a sneak peak at what you'll look like with inflated lips. Instant Jolie lips, girls).
The moment he left my house and took off on his skateboard, I cornered my mother, who was stirring milk into her english tea.
I watch my mother's apathetic eyes hone in on the pleather chain wallet he had left behind. She looked at me with dead eyes.
"Oh, he's sweet, darling. But he doesn't get you." Her voice was flat in that very jarring, emotionally removed British way.
She took a purposeful sip of her tea and purred, "Nectar of the gods," basking in the joy of tea. Nothing like an english lady and her tea.
I was livid. Steam came out of my teen ears. Horns came out of my teen head. Laser beams came out of my teen eyeballs.
"He TOTALLY gets me! This family doesn't get me!" I squealed, tripping up the stairwell in my mega platforms, slamming the door shut to my bedroom and loudly blasting Tori Amos on the CD player.
Even though I wasn't quite sure what she meant by "doesn't get you," I knew she was fucking right.
It's been 15 years since I was 15, and she's been right every time she proclaims someone "gets me" or doesn't "get me."
Now, I nervously hold my breath before I introduce her to someone I'm into, legs shaking in anticipation as if I'm waiting to hear if I made it to round two of "The Voice," or something.
My mother is always spot-on. I'm convinced the woman is a witch. She's been right about boyfriends; she's been right about girlfriends.
And now that I'm a little older and a little bit wiser (haphazard dating experiences will age you worse than the sun), I can feel when someone gets me.
It feels like breathing a sigh of relief when your credit card goes through when you're blowing half a paycheck on designer shoes. It feels like that precious moment alone after you've been "on" all day. You're just free, relaxed and unabashedly yourself. It's like comfortably worn denim vs. trying to squeeze into stiff, new, wax-finish designer jeans that are two sizes too small.
And I can feel it when someone doesn't get me, too. It's an underlying anxiety, it's an inner restlessness, it's a constant questioning of self.
But I've learned that, in this life, sometimes feelings can really screw with your head. Lines can get blurry. Toss sexual attraction and a deep-rooted need to impress into the mix, and it can be hard to tell what the hell is what.
So, we decided to break down specific signs that are giant, shiny, waving RED FLAGS that your partner just doesn't get you, babes:
1. You always have to explain why you feel the way you feel to them.
I cry at curtain calls when I see a live performance. It's not rational; it's not intellectual; it's visceral, baby.
One time, I went on a date with a fab woman and we went to theatre. The moment the curtain call came, as per usual, the water works started. She didn't ask me why I was triggered, she wasn't perplexed or freaked out that I was uncontrollably crying. The girl just got it.
I asked her in the taxi ride home why she thought I couldn't stop crying at the curtain call and if she thought it was weird.
She smiled at me and said, "It's not weird. It makes total sense. You love watching people in their moment. You understand the blood, sweat and the tears that go into live performance and you're feeling the relief of the end with the cast. I totally get it. You're not crying because you're sad, you're crying because it's a release of all the tension from the show."
She was spot-on. Because she ~organically~ got me.
On the contrary, I once dated someone who was incredibly alarmed and confused as to why I was so deliriously happy after publishing a piece of writing that I was proud of.
"It's just WORK!" she said, staring at her cellphone screen, arbitrarily liking photos on Instagram.
Just work? If you think my creative expression, my passion, my "job" is "just work" to me, you don't get me at all, honey.
See, kittens, a person who gets you will naturally understand why you feel the way you feel. They're not mind-readers, but they will have a general understanding of your emotional responses. They will validate your feelings, rather than question or undermine them.
They will understand why you're so moved by a seemingly simple event. A person who doesn't get you won't understand your emotional life at all.
You will find yourself constantly having to break down why you feel the way you feel, which is exhausting, but leads me perfectly into my next point.
2. They take everything you say at face-value.
When you're with someone who gets you, they can see right through your veil of bullshit.
For instance, if I'm acting cold and distant toward a partner who gets me, she might understand that it's not because I hate her, it's because I'm feeling super insecure because I didn't get a callback for the audition I worked so hard on. She knows I've lost my confidence, so I'm turning inward.
Or, if I'm fake-laughing and trying too hard to connect with a stranger I admire, she won't interpret it as flirting or being overly energetic. She will know I'm just trying to make a good impression and am feeling shy and intimidated, so I'm overcompensating.
A person who doesn't get you takes absolutely everything you say at face-value. They won't see the intricate emotional nuances behind what outer emotions you're throwing out there.
If you're being sarcastic, they'll think you're being dead serious and take offense. When you're being goofy, they won't see that it's just because you're feeling shy and trying to work through it with humor.
3. They don't connect with your family.
I don't care if your family is dysfunctional or crazy... if your partner can't find a way to connect with ONE PERSON in your family, it's a shiny, patent leather, cherry-red FLAG that the person you're dating doesn't get you, babes.
For better or worse, your family is your roots. It's where you come from, and why you are the way you are. Even if they don't like the way your family treats you, even if your family is bat-shit insane, even if your family is actually your friends... they have to understand (and accept) your family dynamic.
For instance, on the outside, my family is pretty bougie and glam. But on the inside, we're all really weird, artsy, adventurous and loving.
I dated someone who thought just because we all like to dress up, we're judgmental and money-obsessed. It couldn't be further from the truth.
She just didn't understand The Barries. And if you don't understand The Barries, you don't understand me.
Cause I'm a Barrie girl, just like you're a (insert last name here) girl.
4. It's a chore for them to hang out with your friends.
Your friends are your urban family. As vastly different in personality and career as my eclectic group of friends are, they all share a common thread: They're all beautiful, kind people on the inside.
Even if their senses of humor are bitchy or they act super-serious and studious, they all have similar open hearts and solid core values. They are reflections of all the different parts of me.
If it's a chore for the person I'm with to hang out with my friends because they just don't connect with any of them, what the hell am I doing dating this person? My friends all get me. Your friends all get you.
If your partner doesn't get your friends, and your friends represent all the parts of you, how can your partner truly understand who you are?
5. You find yourself watering yourself down.
Babes, vixens, virgins, girls, gays and everyone in between, be warned: If you find yourself watering down that witty text message because you fear your partner won't get your humor, if you're dumbing down your style or just becoming a watered-down shell of who you are, run.
You're with someone who doesn't get you, and you need to break up before you break a bone trying to bend into this idea of who your partner wants you to be.
What doesn't bend, breaks. Remember that.