Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) in Euphoria. Photo: Eddy Chen/HBO
The term “messy era” entered the mainstream earlier this month, as viewers watched Euphoria’s Cassie fall into the age-old trap of “embarrassing yourself to the highest degree, all in the name of what you think is ‘love’”. In the HBO show, which has aired weekly since mid-January, the 18-year-old enters a secret relationship with her best friend’s ex; drunkenly vomits all over everyone at a hot tub party, and then, once the affair is discovered, shouts down anyone who tries to hold her accountable. It’s all deeply painful, but is her adolescent acting-out really any different from anybody else’s deranged, romantically misguided quests for love?
Not all of messy eras are created equal – some are subtle and fleeting, others are aggressive and last slightly too long; some happen when we are young, whereas others happen when we are, very possibly, too old. Each one is unique – like a beautiful, ferocious and mildly traumatic snowflake – and, in this article, ten people tell us about their own Cassie-like misadventures in the search for romance, excitement and the tiniest crumb of human affection.“I fell in lust with a white guy who had ‘thug life’ tattooed on his inner lip. I worked with his girlfriend – then got lit at a staff party, encouraged an argument between them, and went home with him. He was too drunk to get hard. I passed out, woke up before him, and was still drunk, so avoided the awkward housemate greeting by escaping through his window onto his neighbour’s garage and running down the street. Last I saw, he was travelling Europe and posted an insensitive tourist picture from Auschwitz.” – Jayde, 29“I was living in Germany, and was in love with an old classmate. This man – who at one point told me he was Napoleon and I was his Moscow – initially said he wanted to marry me so I could stay in Germany, but later retracted his statement. “I held out hope, and didn’t want to go back to Canada, so I would just take the cheapest FlixBus to random far-flung European localities so I could sleep on the bus (I couldn’t afford hostels every night). I also would sometimes stay up for three days on Adderall, and just walk around random cities.” - Abby, 25
“An ex of mine completely ghosted me and stopped answering texts, so I emailed his work email. He didn’t respond, so I did it again and again. Eventually he replied, like: ‘Danielle, this is my WORK email’ – but it worked. He met up with me after, and I finally got closure (confession: I didn’t really get closure – I was still obsessed, and occasionally emailed again).” – Danielle, 26“I don’t know if this counts, but in primary school I wrote a love note to a boy on the concrete in chalk – it was huge. I’d liked this boy for a while, and some part of me thought it’d be a good idea to write a massive ‘Dear [name], I love you, from [my name]’ right across the concrete. Some girl from a few years above saw it and started teasing me, so I laid across it to try and hide it from her. I had chalk all over my uniform – it wasn’t my proudest moment.” – Caitlin, 16“I got way too high at a guy’s house, threw up on his bathroom floor, and told him, ‘This will be my Joker moment.’” – Rosie, 23“I was studying abroad in America, and had a will-they-won’t-they situation with a guy who was 100 percent not as interested as I was. I’d been throwing myself at him all semester, with mixed results, to say the least. On my final night at a party, I thought it was time to shoot my shot, and I texted him: ‘It’s my last night here, do you want to hook up?’ He replied a very polite ‘No, thank you’.
“My reaction to this rejection was to make out with the nearest boy, who came back to my dorm to help me pack, then emotionally kissed me goodbye at the airport like we were star-crossed lovers – I don’t think I even got his name. Peak messy era.” – Alexandra, 29“I was 19 and interning at a production company, and was completely infatuated with my older colleague who consistently led me on [with] flirty mixed signals. Me and my flatmate of the time sent myself a fake package of underwear from a fake ex-boyfriend to work, so he would see when the post arrived and ask what it was. He definitely didn’t care.” – Heather, 26“I stabbed myself in the leg for the attention of a man who thought 50 was an odd number.” – Emily, 28“I was on dating apps and talking to a lot of people. There was this one guy who was super toxic, like basic male manipulator type shit, and I was like ‘yes I want that one’. “We were talking, and I knew he was talking to a lot of other girls – I was jealous. First I dyed my hair green to look ‘different’, and when that didn’t work I cut my own bangs, and then I pierced my ears, and when that didn’t work I started posting gym selfies, and after that didn’t get his attention I spiralled into reading about manifesting. I wrote his name like 100 times on a piece of paper and buried it in my yard at 5AM like a crazy person. “It didn’t work, obviously, and I got over the male validation high and ended up blocking him on everything, but yeah – not my best moment.” – Ava, 21“I’m in my messy era right now! I quit my job, I’m sleeping with all my friends and am thriving in the chaos. It’s coming after a period where I was really anxious – after caring so much about how I was being perceived by other people and being very self-conscious, it feels good to make impulsive decisions purely because they make me happy. Honestly, nothing bad has happened yet. I’m having a lot of fun, so viva la messy era!” – Yasmin, 28