Students engage in PDA as their peers witness the tax of romantic relationships firsthand. (Illustration by Adison Gamradt)
Students engage in PDA as their peers witness the tax of romantic relationships firsthand.

Illustration by Adison Gamradt

A Public Affair

February 17, 2022

It is quiet behind Munger. Juliette Leclerc ’23 sits under trees and a small patch of shade, eyes fixed aimlessly on the windows across from her. By her side is her boyfriend, Holden Rath ’23. They come here often. Leclerc said she remembers the first time she realized she loved Rath: It was over FaceTime, with thousands of miles separating the two of them. Still, Leclerc said she has felt strongly towards Rath for almost as long as she’s known him.

“We’ve been dating for eight months, but we’ve known each other for almost three years,” Leclerc said. “I think I’ve had a little bit of that love for him since the first moment. We met in September of 9th grade, he was sitting alone eating and listening to music, and I thought he was really attractive. We didn’t talk a lot until 10th grade, but then, we immediately started dating.”

Leclerc said, whether it be in or out of school, she chooses to spend most of her time with Rath.

“I spend my whole days with him and then, we FaceTime as soon as we get home, so we’re just interacting all the time,” Leclerc said. “It’s just nice having someone who’s yours, where you can always be there for each other.”

The Tax of Relationships

Despite how much she enjoys spending time with Rath, Leclerc said she noticed herself neglecting her other social obligations.

“I want to be spending time with him but then, I also have to spend time with friends,” Leclerc said. “[We all] talked about it and basically said we should just make more of an effort and try to be with the whole group.”

Teddy Ingold ’24 said he has witnessed the tax of romantic relationships firsthand when his peers have become more distant upon finding a significant other. Ingold said because of this observation, he has refrained from a relationship.

“In some cases, it makes it a little harder to stay as good friends with them,” Ingold said. “It depends on the kid, but some people just spend [too much] time with their person. I think it’s something to avoid in high school.”

Megan Outcalt ’22 said putting in the time and dedication needed to maintain a high school relationship can be irresponsible.

“These relationships are often codependent,” Outcalt said. “Once it ends, they don’t have anything outside of it because they’ve just focused so hard on one person instead of everyone else in their lives.”

Talia Tepper ’22 said she tries to address these concerns in her long-term relationship with Kai Faucher ’23. Tepper said she finds it difficult to tend to social responsibilities that are separate from her time with her boyfriend.

“It’s very difficult actually, a lot more difficult than I expected,” Tepper said. “He’s really important to me. He makes me feel happy and good about myself and all that, but then I have friends that I have to see.”

Tepper said an additional challenge is her couple’s age gap, as she is a senior and Faucher is a junior, and their daily experiences do not always align.

“[The age gap] has effects,” Tepper said. “He’s taking classes I already took, I just got into college, then I’m going to go to college. So that’s obviously difficult.”

Faucher said being in the grade below Tepper can be difficult to navigate.

“There was definitely a rift at first,” Faucher said. “There’s stuff that she’s experienced that I flat out haven’t. If anything has been our biggest [challenge], it’s just been to kind of traverse and get around how sometimes our differences are great.”

Tepper said while she and Faucher have acknowledged this issue, it has become less prevalent with time.

“​​He’s very emotionally mature for the age difference,” Tepper said. “Honestly, we forget about it all the time.”

Students share opinions on PDA

Faucher said his connection with Tepper often translates into public displays of affection (PDA), which he said is now a very important part of their relationship.

“We both took a love test [to find] the best form of affection you can give your partner, and I think we scored pretty highly with the physical affection,” Faucher said. “[I apologize] if that makes people feel gross or whatever, but I think that if it’s done in a healthy way, it can be pretty good for couples to be comfortable around each other in a public setting.”

Tepper said she learned over time to prioritize her happiness with Faucher over the slight discomfort of onlookers.

“I’m in my own little world with him and I’m happy, and it makes me happy,” Tepper said. “I don’t really care what other people think and [if] other people think it’s weird, like okay, [being with him is] literally making me happy.”

Izzy Kashper ’24, who is also in a relationship, said PDA is often necessary to keep a couple on healthy terms.

“When you don’t do anything [physically], it creates this kind of distance, and you don’t feel as much warmth or connection,” Kashper said. “It’s unnatural in a relationship to be hooking up on weekends and then coming back to school, and you can’t even hug. It can feel like you have to be fake, and you want your relationship to be as genuine as possible.”

Still, Kashper said it is important to set limits with an intimate action that can be deemed inappropriate.

“I do think that there’s like a certain line of conduct that people should follow at school,” Kashper said. “I don’t want to shove my relationship in people’s faces, and I also think that things are more intimate and more special when they’re done in private.”

Shanti Hinkin ’22, who said she is not currently in a romantic relationship, said she has previously felt uncomfortable around PDA and avoids being around it whenever possible.

“I feel like I’m invading on something, an invasion I didn’t consent to,” Hinkin said. “It makes me an intruder when I didn’t sign up to be an intruder, and it’s just gross. I’ve taken longer ways to class to avoid areas where I know couples were hanging out, and I feel like I have to avert my eyes from them. Even if it means going out of my way or pretending to look down at my phone.”

Miles Cardillo ’22 and Willa Fogelson ’22 have dated for almost three years and said over the course of their relationship, they have slowly changed their approach to PDA.

“For the first year of our relationship, I think we kind of tried to keep PDA to a minimum, a maybe-we-could-just-be-good-friends type of a thing,’” Fogelson said. “Now it’s been almost three years. Everyone who is at the school currently has seen us together as a couple at the Upper School. So, I feel like we’re more [like] a mom and dad now. There’s a little more room for us to be more affectionate in public.”

Cardillo said he agrees that he and Fogelson showing affection publicly is not an inappropriate display.

“I think we got to a place years ago where we moved past that point of feeling like we had to prove anything to each other, or anyone in general,” Cardillo said. “I think now we’re at a point where if people are around us at school it’s gonna make them more uncomfortable to see us trying to separate ourselves because they’re close to us, rather than being close to each other naturally.”

Beyond High School

Cardillo said he and Fogelson plan to stay together after high school, deciding to attend nearby colleges in Boston. He said the process of applying to colleges that were close to one another made his and Fogelson’s connection even stronger than before, and prepared them to continue their relationship beyond high school.

“Very early on, we [agreed to] invest a lot of time in giving us a shot [as a couple after] high school,” Cardillo said. “We ended up being able to do that, and [we’ll be] five minutes away from each other. There was plenty of stress and plenty of fear in that process, but I don’t think either of us would have wanted it to go differently. There’s security for me in the fact that we had to struggle to achieve it. If it were easier, I don’t think we’d know each other as well, and I don’t think we would feel as ready to go make that big of a step of being with someone for the foreseeable future as adults.”

Fogelson said she was happy about how far they had come as a couple and said she can fondly remember the early days of their relationship when she first fell in love with Cardillo.

“I think I first realized that I loved him when I hadn’t watched Star Wars before we started going out and so, we would switch off going to each other’s houses, watching the movies,” Fogelson said. “I don’t know, there was just something about it being with him that felt absolutely right. I was totally over the moon for him.”

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