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The Bayside High Love Triangle and How The 90s Ruined Dating
It’s important to to stay close with an ex, I would think to myself. She could be my soulmate. Wrong.
by Jeremy Glass
Take a seat, 90s nostalgia junkies, I’m going to trash the shit out of your favorite decade. Growing up during this turbulent-yet-cushy decade isn’t what Buzzfeed and ThoughtCatalog makes it out to be. I was born in 1987. I was too young to call Vanilla Ice a poseur, I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV, and the only part of Biggie’s death I vividly remember is the terrible song Puff Daddy released where he falls off his motorcycle in the music video.
The early-to-mid 1990s from my perspective was figuring out what I wanted to eat for lunch, drawing pictures in my room, remembering to wait an hour after drinking orange juice to brush, and watching TV with my brothers. 90s nostalgia blogs are always on point with the idea that all us kids were constantly sitting in front of the TV. It’s true, we were all in love with Kelly Kapowski and every boy in school had their own version of the unattainable Lisa Turtle.
When I entered high school, most of the kids I’d known had already explored with the opposite sex, I was left on the outskirts of the dating world. I was always excruciatingly shy, overweight, and weird. All I had with me were the lessons I’d learned, but never had the chance to apply, from all the TV-watching I’d done when I was a kid. Looking back, I realized how skewed the morals of Saved By The Bell really were.
Bayside High was a universe where the fundamental rules of society simply disappeared. Principals talked to students as if they were equals, social groups were clearly defined and segregated, and the activity of white-water rafting was strangely present in everyone’s weekend agenda. Bayside might as well have been located within the Bermuda Triangle for the amount of relationships, characters, and social faux pas that came by and then simply disappeared.
For example, take the relationships between Zack Morris, A.C. Slater, Kelly Kapowski, Jessie Spano, Screech, and Lisa Turtle. There’s the ongoing allure of the devil’s threesome that follows around Zack, Slater, and Kelly throughout each of the seasons. We find both, Slater and Zack, in ambiguous relationships seemingly only defined by whichever of the two men were physically closest to Kelly in the shot. Lisa Turtle strung along Screech on a golden leash as he taught men across the nation that if you lust over a girl for four straight years, you’re at least due for a kiss on the cheek on the last day of school.
Of course, there’s the episode where Lisa organizes a fashion show, kisses Zack, and Screech happens to see it. Screech threatens to fight Zack, but Lisa breaks it up by telling Screech that she was never his to begin with. Then, in the next episode, all is forgotten and life as we know it goes back to normal. Of course, back in the 90s, sitcoms had a habit of making each episode supremely un-serialized. Every episode was its own self-contained universe where characters didn’t have a solid set of personal morals to abide by. Sure, Slater and Zack were “best friends”, but that never stopped the guys from flirting with the women they were supposedly supposed to be with.
Then there were the confusing guy-likes-girl, girl-likes-guy-after-nine-seasons trope of Friends and Frasier. Like the relationships in Saved By The Bell, there was just so much miscommunication, disappointment, yet determination. Ross and Rachel were the poster children of toxic relationships. Every week we watched Ross miss an opportunity to tell Rachel how he felt about her. We watched as she dangled men in front of him, killing his soul at every opportunity. When they finally get together, after who knows how many episodes, their relationship is tumultuous at best.
There’s fighting, cheating, numerous breakups, but they remain friends throughout the entire process. Believe it or not, this ended up being the most confusing aspect of dating I adopted from my television watching: The idea of perseverance, fate, and that you could be friends with an ex. I tried for years to salvage my broken relationships because of the “morals” I was taught by Friends. It’s important to to stay close with an ex, I would think to myself. She could be my soulmate. Wrong.
Ross and Rachel should’ve broken up and stayed apart forever. They’re not each other’s lobster--Phoebe was dead wrong. I found that groveling and the act of putting one person on a pedestal was my modus operandi through my high school (ugh, and college) years. The relationship of Niles and Daphne in Frasier again put the idea in my head to never let the one person I think is my one person out of my reach. I was taught to never back down no matter how many guys she incessantly talked about, kissed in front of me, and cried over. Ever. Do you know Niles and Daphne get together at the end of season seven. That’s seven years of, well, not getting together.
Can you imagine chasing after someone for that long and, alternatively, being chased for that amount of time? My mind, free from real-world experience, examined these plot lines too seriously and gave me a very skewed view of how women worked. Needless to say, I don’t entirely understand how women work. I mean, I’m not Mel fucking Gibson, but now I have somewhat of a clue. Back then, I saw all women as Rachels, Daphnes, and Kelly Kapowskis.
They were these flawless one-dimensional walking tropes who wanted me, but couldn’t be with me. Maybe it was because we were “too good for each other” like in Friends or they just “weren’t ready to commit” like in Saved By The Bell. It took me a good few years and scores of broken hearts to realize “we’re too good for each other” means “I’ve found someone who’s taller and has a nicer penis.” Like all bad experiences, I don’t regret any of it. I learned through trial and error and am glad I had all these TV shows to give me a how-to manual of what not to do or think. There should’ve been a disclaimer before the blaring intros of these shows:
WARNING: THE EVENTS YOU’RE ABOUT TO WITNESS ARE ENTIRELY FICTIONAL. NO MAN OR WOMAN IS WORTH CHASING FOR SEVEN YEARS. DON’T LET YOUR BEST FRIEND KISS THE GIRL YOU’RE INTO. PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T STAY FRIENDS WITH YOUR EX.
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