What Using Dating Apps In Your Hometown Over Thanksgiving Break Is Really Like

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I am the kind of awkward person who freaks out when she sees people she recognizes on dating apps. If your friend's co-worker brought you to my Halloween party three years ago and your profile suddenly pops up on my screen, there's a 90 percent chance I will screenshot it, text it to my best friends, and write, "This is so awkward, what do I do??" (Friends, I am sorry for sending you so many of these texts. One day, I'll learn to stop blowing up your phone.) So, using dating apps in my hometown over Thanksgiving break is a struggle for me.

Dating apps aren't typically a part of my hometown routine. Since moving away from my sleepy, suburban Massachusetts town six years ago, I've fallen into a pattern whenever I go home: visit my beloved bagel shop, grab a plate full of whatever my mom is cooking, and then drive around the corner to my twin best friends' house. (The suburbs make me lazy and gluttonous, what can I say?) And that's it. Dating apps don't enter the picture.

But last winter, my parents moved out of my hometown. My trip home for Thanksgiving would be my last time, well, home. And so half out of curiosity, half out of preparation for my upcoming five-year high school reunion, I sprawled out on the living room couch and opened up a dating app.

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I've lived in New York since I was 18, which means my experiences on dating apps have always been swiping through a pool of strangers. I like the freedom that comes along with that kind of anonymity — I can be anyone. I can upload ridiculously over-the-top photos (Drinking Champagne outside the Louvre? Sure! A selfie in a crop top printed with George Costanza's face? Of course!), write self-aggrandizing bios, and flirt with abandon. In a city of 8.5 million people, you do what you can to stand out.

But when I started swiping in my parents' house, all that went away. The first profile that popped up on my screen? Yeah, we were in the same English class two years in a row, and we never spoke once. The next one? Oh, he was there back in 2002 when I fell into a puddle during recess and looked like I peed my pants. The third? I watched him slow-dance with another girl at the eighth-grade spring semi-formal in the cafeteria.

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Even when I expanded my age range, I wound up matching with my classmates' siblings and teammates. There's something unsettling about seeing that you have hundreds of mutual friends with someone you don't know; it made me wonder how many times we had crossed paths at the grocery store or in the school supply aisle at CVS. I couldn't tell if I vaguely recognized them, or if I only thought I did.

Running into high school classmates on dating apps felt deeply embarrassing. With the artifice of the high school social hierarchy — you know, Plastics at one table, sexually active band geeks at another — stripped away, I was free to swipe solely based on whether or not I was attracted to someone. It should've been simple: Were they cute? Did I want to catch up over drinks in a proper bar, considering the last time I saw this guy, it was post-prom and we were drinking $6 vodka out of a plastic jug in someone's basement?

But I couldn't swipe right on anyone. I couldn't separate what I saw on the app from what I remembered from high school. There were people I surely would've been interested in had we met for the first time in New York, but I couldn't shake my memory of them as a loud jock, or a teacher's pet, or an overzealous theater kid. I took a lot of screenshots of my old classmates' corny bios, texted them to my friends, and put down my phone.

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It wasn't until I went to my reunion a few days later that I realized had been unfair. I didn't want to be judged based on my classmates' years-old memories of me, but that's exactly what I had been doing to them. I hoped they would be more open-minded about me; I hadn't given them the same courtesy. In other words, I sucked.

My parents don't live in my hometown anymore, so I probably won't ever swipe through a sea of former classmates ever again. The lesson I learned doesn't do me any good. But hopefully, it can do you some good. Swipe right on your high school crush; swipe right on the hottie who totally glowed up after graduation; swipe right on the person you thought was out of your league way back when. High school is over. Your chances with those people don't have to be over, too.

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