It's not just your imagination: Jack from high school does look really good in this lighting. Maybe it's just the bottle of wine you finished off before happy hour talking. Or maybe it's the fact that these jerks bullied you throughout grade school, and now you're all face-to-face at the local bar with nothing else to do. Either way, Jack definitely does seem like he wants to hook up tonight, and you're into it, too. So, you hook up with Jack!
And maybe it was great, and neither of you has any qualms about what went down. That's the best-case scenario. But hooking up with a dormant crush when you're home for the holidays can be a hilarious and excruciatingly awkward situation.
"When we go back to a reunion of sorts, we become — or at least try to become — the people that we always wanted to be back then," says Logan Levkoff, PhD, an AASECT-certified sex educator and relationship expert. So, you might cavalierly waltz into a social situation that 15 years ago would have crippled you with social anxiety, Dr. Levkoff says.
"We always go back with the hopes of exuding the if I knew then what I know now attitude," she says. This is usually the plan or mindset that we assume when going back home for the holidays, "whether or not we follow through is something entirely different."
If you followed through with your plan, and hooked up with a random person from your past, Dr. Levkoff recommends remembering it's probably a one-off. "Who you are at home is not necessarily the adult outside of that situation when it's not the holidays," she says. That's not to say that a fling can't turn into a real relationship, but it is pretty rare.
Unlike a random hookup with a complete stranger, you kind of have to tread lightly if it's someone you know, says Anita Chlipala, LMFT, a dating and relationships expert in Chicago. "The context of the relationship has to be taken into consideration," Chlipala says. If you regretted the hookup, that could hurt someone's feelings to hear, especially if you still plan on having them in your life as a friend, she says.
Instead, the best way to communicate that it was actually "just a hookup" is to let the person know that you don't think it's a good idea if it happens again, Chlipala suggests. For example, you could say, "I'd rather be friends" or, "Hooking up isn't really something I do frequently," and leave it at that.
It's common after a hookup like this to feel somewhat dumb, or like you embarrassed yourself, but Chlipala says it's important not to be too hard on yourself. "Sometimes we can't use logic to make our feelings go away, and it's important how you treat yourself in response to feelings," she says. "You don’t want to beat yourself up or keep thinking about it, because it can keep you feeling uncomfortable." Make peace with your decision, and move on, she says.
If you hooked up with your high school crush and are genuinely curious if you could last in the real world, Dr. Levkoff suggests telling them that you don't know where it'll go, but are curious what would happen if you hung out again. "Be honest about the realistic expectations that it might not go anywhere," she says. And if it doesn't, there's always next year.