Is Dating with HSAM Different? I Don’t Know, You Tell Me.

The number one question I can always count on being asked, specifically, in a TV interview about HSAM, whether it’s a local news segment or 60 Minutes, is:

“What is your dating life like?”

It’s always towards the middle of the interview. The person interviewing me will pause and say “so…I have to ask…”, and I know exactly what they are about to ask me.

Sometimes I think journalists just want to know if I am seeing someone, and other times I think it’s because they want me to have this dramatic, long-lost love story enhanced with nostalgia.

Or maybe they think the fights I would get in with significant others would be rather interesting? Like I would just be throwing dates at the guy like ammunition trying to prove a point.

But before I go on answering this popular question, I am going to spill some tea: I think I get asked about my dating life because I am a woman.

There I said it.

I think the first thing that comes to a journalist’s mind when they see a 25-year-old, blonde girl is asking about her dating life, just like my Great Aunt does every Thanksgiving. So forget all the rare, super memory ability stuff because apparently my relationship status is where my value actually lies. I’d just love to know how many men with HSAM get asked about their dating lives on TV and are told by producers to include pictures of their ex’s when asked to provide personal photos for the segment. Just saying.

Side note: Last year at Thanksgiving my Great Aunt didn’t just ask if I had a boyfriend, oh no, she had the audacity (that one has at 100-years-old, literally) to directly ask me when my single-self planned on getting married. To which I cynically responded, “Eat your vegetables, it’s going to be a few years.”

Anyway, maybe there is something to be said about navigating dating while having HSAM, regardless of gender identity. Honestly, I don’t know what it’s like to date without HSAM, so I am not 100% sure what the differences would be.

Keeping in mind what I outlined above, I will take some time to share a bit about my dating life with you to see if there is a difference.

It did occur to me in order to gain some perspective, I could ask the guys I have dated in the past if it is different dating someone with HSAM? But, I would rather not do that.

So here is what I am going to do, and I promise it will be just as entertaining:

Back when I was an undergraduate student at Marquette, I wrote an article called “The Seven Guys You Will Date in College”. I was living on campus over the summer of 2015 as a scholar for the McNair Program. I had just finished writing a 40-page research paper, and I had this desperate need to write something that didn’t involve data—something for fun.

So on a Thursday night at a Starbucks in downtown Milwaukee, my first Buzzfeed-style article was born. I am going to share this article with you for the following two reasons:

  1. I did not write this article from the lens of having HSAM, but rather form the lens of being an average, 21-year-old college student. I wrote this article to be relatable. I think this is a fantastic way to answer the journalists most popular question, “Is dating different with HSAM?” because this is a first-hand look at my perspective on dating while not really thinking about HSAM. So if there are differences you spot they won’t be over-dramatized.
  2. A lot happened in my life during college, to say the least. I found out I was one of 60 people in the world with a memory ability, I lost my dad, my family lived below the poverty line for awhile, I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, and most of all, I got to know myself. I realize some of the things on that list are kind of heavy, but this article gives a really fun and light perspective on my college years. Therefore, before we dive into some of these heavier topics in future blog posts, I would like to give you all some humor fresh out of 2015.

So you tell me, is dating with HSAM different than dating without? Read this, reminisce on your college years and let me know.


Written July 16th, 2015; Updated August 6th, 2016

By: Markie Pasternak, Age 21

I know not everyone decides to enter the dating world in college, but for those of us who leapt right onto the playing field and rode the roller coaster that was “college dating”, we probably share some common experiences.

Last summer (2015), I was working with a graduate student in a memory research lab who told me some comforting words after I had a little dispute with the guy I was dating at the time, who you will come to know as “The Younger Guy”.

I told my graduate advisor I wanted to call him and break up because I didn’t see the point in dating, but mostly I was embarrassed about a mistake I had made. She stopped me and said, “In college you are supposed to date and mess up. It is fun to mess up sometimes. Don’t worry about finding the perfect guy yet, that’s not what everyone’s early 20’s are about.”

So with this advice, I put down the phone and decided to focus less on perfectionism and more on finding out more about myself through new experiences.

Your story may be similar to mine, or it may not be. You may have dated three of the people I am about to list or all of them, but in a different order. So without further ado, coming from my personal experience and that of many other friends and relationships observed, here are the seven guys you will date in college:

1. Orientation Guy

This is the guy you sat next to at the “Welcome to College” seminar on the first day or awkwardly ate dinner with in the dining hall because your roommate, whom you depended on being friends with, somehow already found her squad in the first five hours on campus. This is Orientation Guy.

Orientation is a very interesting time in college, specifically for the reason that everybody is friendly. Everyone wants to know everyone else’s name, major, and hometown. But you got on another level with Orientation Guy, like I’m talking he asked you your favorite color and if you have any pets.

You have heard about the love stories that started the first week of college. And you are thinking, “Hey, that’s going to be me!”

So maybe when you called home for the first time and told your parents you already had your first date they kind of freaked out because you haven’t even had your first class yet…But this is totally meant to be, so who cares?

You and Orientation Guy date for a few weeks, maybe months (that was me). Or maybe you only made it through Welcome Week, but either way the two of you figure out the ins and outs of college together. Then suddenly you both start making new friends you didn’t meet on one of the Welcome Week excursions and realize there is this thing called “homework” that you’re not doing so hot at.

If your love story stayed steady from here and you are still with Orientation Guy, good for you! But most of us did not meet our future husband at the freshman orientation square dance (Yes, Marquette has one of those). We continued our college dating journey.

2. Rebound Guy

You are pretty distraught about Orientation Guy. You already asked your roommate to be your maid of honor and reserved the campus church five years in advanced (that was a joke—please tell me you didn’t actually do that).

You need to forget about him. But how do you do that? Well your solution as a freshman is to find a new guy, and luckily for you there are plenty of them on campus. This is how you end up with Rebound Guy.

You know each other through some mutual friends and really hit it off sitting next to each other in the stands at a basketball game. Then the next day you “happen” to see him at the dining hall and catch dinner with him. You will be honest, he is not as good looking as Orientation Guy, but he has some fine qualities.

You guys start dating—and fast. It takes all of two weeks for you guys to make it Facebook Official (because that was still a thing in 2013). Then one day you woke up and realized you’ve met his whole family, including grandma. This is going way too fast for you and you are not even that interested.

You also realize there is a reason he is a rebound—he is not as good as the guys you have dated or could be dating. You can do better. You move on. I would say if you end up with this guy, good for you, but you don’t. No one stays with Rebound Guy.

3. The Frat Bro

The guy you sit next to in your Spanish class says one of his frat buddies is looking for a date to their spring formal. Prom was a great time in high school, so college prom must be even better, right? This is how you meet the Frat Bro.

Since you blindly agreed to be this guy’s formal date, he takes you out for a burger at the trademark, on-campus restaurant. First of all, it is very apparent he is not just a guy, he’s a Bro. Second of all, the whole date you are sitting there, staring at him wondering one thing:

“What is his real name?”

The name he introduced himself by is obviously a nickname his frat brothers gave him. Would anyone really name their kid “Zippy?”

Finally he casually mentions his real name is Peter and you feel relieved, like you know him better and its actually a real date. That is until one of his professors sees him from across the restaurant, walks up to your table and says “Hi Donald, it’s nice to see you.”

Donald? Who is DONALD? He said his name was Peter! Who the heck is this guy?!

You don’t know, but you do know one thing—you’ve got to get out of there.

Well it turns out Frat Bro’s real name is Donald, but he prefers to go by Peter, which is his middle name, and his frat brothers call him “Zippy”. And after that is all clarified you somehow decide to still be his formal date.

Unbeknownst to you, this gig actually comes with a lot of perks. Suddenly your name is on the list for all these different parties, the frat brothers start considering you a “Bro” and invite you to brother events like cookouts and video game nights filled with Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros—your favorites. And the best part is you barely even have to talk to Frat Bro/Zippy/Peter/Donald.

This is fun and all, but you get to the formal dance and realize this guy isn’t for you, something you knew deep down the whole time.

For those of you who ended up with the Frat Bro—good for you! You probably went to a lot more cooler parties than I did over the years. But at that formal, some of us were hiding our phones under the table texting someone else who liked to talk about things other than booze and organizations made up of random letters from the Greek alphabet we couldn’t understand, someone new: The Older Guy.

4. The Older Guy

So you are still an underclassman, but a senior boy has caught your eye. He is everything you have ever dreamed of. He is over the hook ups, knows where he is going in life, but still knows how to have a good time.

You admire him from afar. You are like two or three years younger, there is no way he would go for you. But you are perfectly content as long as you get to stop and stare once and awhile from across the library or campus coffee shop.

After a few weeks, you are seriously crushing on this guy. Like we are talking the “you feel like you are back in middle school” kind of crush. But you can’t act like that. He is older. There is no way you are going to get an older guy if you act even younger than you are.

Then one of his friends who works at the front desk of your dorm tells you Older Guy wants to ask you out. You are so over taken with happiness that you are rolling on the floor of the lobby and your residence hall Priest comes downstairs to make sure you’re alright (okay, maybe that was just me), but you are excited at the very least.

Older Guy asks you out on an official date, and this is your first date somewhere fancier than the “good” campus dining hall besides the burger with Frat Bro. Either Older Guy or one of his buddies has a car, so you can actually go off campus without having the entire Public Bus System third wheeling on your date.

Then the bomb drops—he is graduating. He is graduating soon. You think, “Why can’t we make it work long distance?” But when this guy is going to some far off land, like the University of Wisconsin Madison for graduate school, a whole hour away, staying together seems impossible, for most of us that is.

If you ended up with the Older Guy, good for you! But as for me, I got my little, freshman heart broken. To this day, its okay if you still creep on his Facebook page to see if graduate school was really as amazing as he thought it would be (and if he is still single).

5. The Guy from Your Hometown

You may deny that this one happened, but let’s all be honest— it happened.

You were home for the summer or over Christmas break, got together with some people, and the story of The Guy from Your Hometown began. I have seen this go down all of these three ways:

1. You met a guy from your hometown and fell for him.

2. You reconnected with a guy from your high school and hit it off.

3. You got back together with a high school ex.

I listed these in a certain order for a reason: severity. Luckily for me I was only a level one, I got set up with a guy from my hometown and we dated for almost a year. I have seen the other two scenarios and if they work out it’s cute, but some of the relationships I observed had some tragic endings.

You like this guy because he is similar to you. You guys have memories together from before you had to grow up and be adults. Or at least you grew up in a similar place, so it is easy to connect. He may have been your first love, or maybe he was your prom date, or the guy you never noticed in high school? Whatever the situation, you think it’s movie material. You were separated for a year or two and now you are together either as what you were before or more than what you were in high school.

If you stay here and are still dating The Guy from Your Hometown, good for you! But otherwise here is what happened to me…

You wake up one day and realize you haven’t been on campus for one weekend in the past two months or if you have you’ve been spending it with your boyfriend because from Monday to Friday you are dying to see him. Then you realize how different you are from the person you were in high school and that you want to date someone you have a future with not a past with.

Telling people it didn’t work out kind of stinks because you have to tell everyone on campus and back home, but hey at least you can go on living your college life.

Also around this time expect to receive an awkward Facebook message or text from Rebound Guy. He saw that you are single, he thinks it’s his turn again, but you know better. You are too mature for rebounds now.

6. The Guy YOU Chased After

This is the guy that you saw from across your class or the campus bar and thought “I am going to make you mine.” Yeah…this can only go well…. This is The Guy YOU Chased After.

So you walked up to him and struck up a conversation, asked for his number, and told him to hit you up some time. It has been a week and he hasn’t contacted you.

You decide to take the lead on this one and go after what you want. You ask him to go to dinner or a movie and he says “Yes!” Wait is this a date? Your friends say it’s a date. You think it’s a date. But does he think it’s a date? Or are you just hanging out?

Wait! You know how to tell… You can see if he ends up paying, then you know if it is an official date.

You are at the movies, nervous to find out if he will look at you and say, “Oh I got it” when the person at the box office says the ticket price. But then you realize… the movies at the campus theater are free for students now. Thanks Student Government for your new “movie initiative.”

So this just backfired, and you still don’t know if this is a date. He doesn’t kiss you at the end of the night, so you think “maybe next time?” You keep calling and texting him to hangout maybe once a week, and he keeps responding…at first. But slowly he starts to not respond, and finally he doesn’t bother at all. Girl, take the hint! He is clearly not interested.

Now if this is where you stay and you actually got the guy to fall for you, good for you (I would love to hear how you did that)! But most of us continued on and awkwardly looked away when passing this kid on the way to class until the day we graduated. But every time we still wanted to turn around and yell after him, “But for real, was it a date or not?”

7. The Younger Guy

You are an upperclassmen now and perfectly content with being single. Hometown Guy has asked to get back together several times because he is “still in love with you” or whatever, but you like being by yourself. Dating is the farthest thing from your mind between what to do after college and how to spend your precious time left on campus.

Then, from across the room, you made eye contact with each other: The Younger Guy. You start talking, and he asks you what year you are going to be in the fall. When you reply “senior” and he responds with “junior” the warning alarms start going off in your head and your little, cartoon Lizzie McGuire starts screaming “RUN AWAY!”

But he ends up Facebook creeping on you (because the younger kids are really good with technology), finds your profiles and strikes up yet another conversation.

All of a sudden you are on a date with this little cutie and are starting to realize this guy is from a completely different generation than you. His fondest childhood memories include Webkinz, while your’s include Beanie Babies. And beyond that you are the one actually showing him the ropes of dating…

Wait a minute… you have turned into The Older Girl. And your friends won’t let you forget it, especially because on top of being younger he is an inch shorter than you.

But, nonetheless, you two have a lot of fun together. You go on adventure after adventure and live out every date, study session and party. This guy makes you forget you are senior and helps you to live in the moment and enjoy college as if you were in the middle of it all again. And you almost forgot he was a year younger.

Well… except… there is one little thing…. You are a senior now (boy, did the time fly!) and the longest you can date this guy, at least while being close geographically, is one year, maybe less. He is honest and says he isn’t ready for a relationship beyond college, and can you blame him? He is The Younger Guy, after all. If you aren’t even sure you are mature enough for a more serious relationship, there is no way he is mature enough either.

So you finish the cycle and are the one who runs off to graduate school like Older Guy did to you.

So… thank you Orientation Guy for giving me a reason to not be so homesick and a partner to explore campus and college life with.

Thank you Rebound Guy for teaching me that rebounds don’t work, you have to find the strength to move on by yourself. 

Thank you Frat Guy for showing me the side of college I couldn’t financially afford.

Thank you Older Guy for showing me the kind of person I want to be with one day when I am ready. 

Thank you Hometown Guy for reminding me that where I came from is important no matter where I go in life and will always be a part of who I am.

Thank you Guy I Chased After for showing me that I really want something, I actually do have the courage to go after it.

And thank you Younger Guy for helping me live in the present my final year of college and enjoy every moment of being a student—because it was truly a great four years.

This anonymous article I wrote was passed around Marquette email accounts my entire senior year. When I wasn’t feeling too shy, I read it out loud to friends in coffee shops, as a break during late nights at the library, on road trips, and what I found is that people could relate to a lot of these experiences. As I read this article to different people, I could see them counting the number of people they dated on the list, using their fingers saying, “Yep, I know who my Older Guy was.”

So maybe dating isn’t too different with HSAM after all? I still mistakenly thought Rebound Guy would get me over Orientation Guy and agreed to go to a formal with Frat Bro like a lot of other college students did— I can just remember all the cringe worthy details a little better and tell you what day they happened on.

Here’s another thought: maybe dating is different with any person no matter who they are because we are all unique in our own way? HSAM or no HSAM, we all come with our own abilities, stories, backgrounds, and quirks that create different dynamics in relationships.

The above monologue is a very brief overview of my dating experiences in college. I had so much fun writing it back in undergrad, but sadly, not all of my experiences during this time are appropriate to make light of.

The next few articles I am going to write will be about the other side of the coin: HSAM and trauma. So if you are a survivor of sexual or domestic violence, I want to give you a trigger warning for the upcoming post.

These are some of the gems I told you about in my first article, the ones that aren’t as pretty or easy to look at as others. When I uncover them, there is still a part of me that wants to shove them back in a box and never think about them again. But what I have realized is sometimes the jewels that don’t shine the brightest or present the most raident of colors are the memories we can learn from the most.

The Milwaukee River Walk, my favorite place down the street from Marquette’s campus.

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