Relationship Goals I learned from ‘Hey Arnold’

True life: I’m pretty sure I’m adult Helga Pataki, and it’s not just because of my unibrow. See, as a cliché of my generation, I have a soft spot for all ‘90s Nickelodeon cartoon, but I get ESPECIALLY squishy for Hey Arnold!, and it’s all due to that pink-wearing heroine. I resonated with her tough persona and sensitive heart, and it is her brand of flirting – that is, a clash of cruel mockery and secret obsession – that I co-opted. In short, Hey Arnold! gave my 9-year-old self MAJOR #relationshipgoals.

“But wait a second, Mary Grace, can you glean relationship goals from two characters who never grew to have a real relationship?” Here’s the thing, my sweet, innocent, newborn baby fawn: yes. Or ok, maybe you can’t get relationship goals from those two specifically, but you can learn a TON about love (in all it’s varying degrees) from Hey Arnold! as a whole.

In fact, let me demonstrate all the lessons about love Hey Arnold! has left my grown up (“grown up”) self with today. For your consideration, here is everything Hey Arnold! taught me about secret crushes, liking versus like-liking, and chewing gum statues.

Little gestures speak loudly

Oh god, when the Kokoshkas almost broke up it felt like…well, it felt like Suzie was getting the better end of that deal, to be honest, because Oskar was above-and-beyond selfish. However, after a series of remarkable thoughtless moves, Oskar won her back by refusing to take her pity money. Still don’t think he deserves her, but that tiny gesture counted for a LOT. And that’s how “You keep the money” is right up there with “I’ll never let go” when it comes to immortal romantic quotes.

Like someone? Constantly undermine them as a human being! No, wait…

THIS is where I’m Helga. If I’m teasing a guy, it usually means I’m into him. Actually, when I was 15 I was so mean to a guy he decided I hated him and dated someone else. It became a Helga versus Lila situation real quick, trust me. My point is, it is PLAUSIBLE that bullying means someone likes you, but it shouldn’t be that way, because it usually gets messy on several levels.

One great way to healthily deal with your crush is by creating a shrine in their image

Ok, laugh all you want at Helga’s stalker-like obsession. Lemme tell you something, though: I have had many crushes in my 24 long years, and I’ve made MANY creative tributes to them and my affections. And I’m sure you have to, because what IS your Chris Hemsworth Pinterest board if not a shrine to his six pack? Helga’s execution is a bit concerning, but this is something we all do. I just think the important distinction is that most of them my shrines were of celebrities or fictional crushes.

Most of them…

Don’t anyone tell you who you can and can’t sit with at lunch

Um, how cute was Harold and Big Patty’s little romance? They clashed over hating the opposite gender (SO pre-teen) and then bond over their feelings of being misunderstood. And while Stinky and Sid almost put a stopper to this, Harold eventually stands up for her. “Why do I care what you think? The only thing that matters is what I think,” he says. “And what I think is I like Patty! And if anybody has a problem with that, I’ll beat you up so bad it won’t even be funny!” Awwwww, violence.

Anyway, in 11 minutes Harold goes through a mature change of heart that took Blane from Pretty in Pink an entire movie.

There’s a HUGE difference between like and like-like

Lila basically kicked away Arnold’s crush on Ruth (remember Ruth, braces, auburn hair?), but it happened in a roundabout way. Recap: in “Arnold & Lila,” Lila thought Arnold like-liked her, but Arnold only liked her, and then after he told Lila he only liked her he found out he DID like-like Lila. But then she realized that she only like-liked him because she thought that he like-liked her, and in fact, she only liked him.

…it’s all very confusing, but what I gleaned off is that like-liking someone can be a painful endeavor. “It’s funny,” Arnold reflects, “When you like someone and they don’t really like you back, it’s not so bad. But when you really like-them like-them, but you find out they just like you, it hurts.” Helga knows that feel, as do we all.

Embrace your emotions…privately, if nothing else

You know how bland Helga’s life got when she drank that “anti-love” potion? And how joyous she is when she realize it’s just grape juice and camomile? We learn here that even if it tortures you, you should never suppress your emotions for someone…to yourself, at least. So go ahead, write all the poems and revel in your feels!

Just don’t let them ever find out, because that would be silly.

[Image via Nickelodeon]

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