Still, in the weeks that followed, he was always busy when I asked to see him, always neglecting to text back.Instead of letting it go, I breathed in this excess of humiliation until I was choking. Being with him made me feel like a teen again, but not in some joyful, exuberant way — no, it made me feel like I was that gawky kid utterly convinced of her own unlovability, I was in a full-on self-esteem backslide, and keeping his affection felt like the only way to stop it. Even as I sit here remembering the whole thing, I’m overcome with an urge to reach for my cell phone, search for Ryan’s name (now a ways down in my message history), and text something nasty.This is all to say that when Ryan’s behavior became increasingly flaky upon my return, my typical response would have been to simply end things.Instead, I felt something rising from the depths of my person, something that encouraged me to throw emotional intelligence to the wind.Ten years earlier, my adolescent brain was consumed with scenarios like this one.Each moment not spent agonizing over AP Biology was spent agonizing over the argyle sweaters he wore, the Radiohead remixes he listened to, the string quartet his parents forced him to rehearse for until his fingers bled.
My budding romance depended on whether I heard the shrill ring of an old-fashioned land-line phone. The social lives of today’s teens don’t revolve around waiting for their phones to ring.
Everything about him was so awkwardly romantic; so unlike his snot- and pot-covered peers. My sweat-stained cardigans, cyst-speckled face, and lack of a fake ID existed as constant reminders that I was romantically useless to anyone, especially him.
Of course, as is usually the case with these stories, the years passed, the Accutane worked its magic, and I learned that only the worst kind of people truly enjoyed high school.
In order to cope with this stress, an individual reverts to (typically negative) patterns of behavior from an earlier period in their lives, when the stressor didn’t exist or was easily assuaged by an authority figure, like a parent or teacher.
When a student storms out of class after receiving negative feedback on a project, for example, perhaps they are regressing to a time when they were young and more constantly praised for their intelligence.