I'm fortunate to have grown up with parents who weren't shy about teaching me about the birds and the bees and with a fairly progressive school system that didn't follow abstinence-only education. But as much as I learned from my family and teachers, they were far from the most educational source in my life when it came to teaching me about sex, dating, puberty, and all the other confusing and complicated situations that come with being a teenager. That honor goes to Degrassi: The Next Generation.
Airing on CTV, MuchMusic, and MTV in its native Canada and The N/TeenNick in the U.S., The Next Generation premiered in 2001 and ran for 14 seasons, at which point it was canceled, saved by Netflix and transformed into Degrassi: Next Class.The Next Generation may have been the fourth series in the expansive Degrassi universe, but for anyone of my generation, it is the definitive Degrassi, a show that for many millennials provided our first examples of kids our age facing relatable issues like wet dreams, STIs, menstruation, and more. Sometimes Degrassi used these teaching opportunities for comedy, other times they made sure to give the topic the dramatic weight it deserved. And then there were all the times Degrassi went for drama and accidentally wound up doing comedy, which makes up most of the show's most quoted, referenced and cherished moments to date.
Nearly all of Degrassi: The Next Generation's 387 episodes had at least one Very Special Storyline (some had multiple, bless them), and while the issues the characters faced were relatable, their responses were rarely anything to repeat in your own life. This was definitely not always a show that followed the "teach by example" method, but it did teach nonetheless. Let's look back on 129 things the show taught me about sex, dating, and puberty, for better or for worse.
If your online boyfriend says he's coming to town on a school field trip in the middle of summer, he's definitely a catfish and probably a pedophile.
If you don't want to go to the dance because you're insecure about your weight, you should still go because you're beautiful as you are and you might have a secret admirer waiting to make his move.
You also might have a jealous friend who gives you an unflattering makeover and gets you drunk to stop your secret admirer from acting on his feelings, though, so watch out.
If your parents catch you looking at female porn, they will then make you look at male porn to teach you a lesson about objectification.
Don't have sex with your boyfriend just because he's starring in a school production of Romeo and Juliet and Paige is playing Juliet.
If you and your boyfriend decide you aren't ready to have sex, you should play with the unused condoms and turn them into balloons.
If you're a straight man who finds out a girl has a crush on you, don't pretend to be gay to squash the girl's feelings... especially because you might wind up falling in love with the girl if you just chill for a minute and give her a chance.
If you get your first period right before a big class presentation, don't be afraid to proudly declare this fact to the entire class.
If you aren't sure whether someone asked you out as a friend or as a date, don't take out your confusion by throwing dodge balls at their crotch.
If a bird poops on you during your first date, don't freak out. Compared to what will happen next, that's the least of your worries.
Don't take ecstasy and cheat on your boyfriend. And maybe just don't take ecstasy. Haven't you seen that episode of Dawson's Creek where Andie almost died?
If you start getting random boners during school, it's not because you're eating healthy food; it's just hormones.
Don't tell your mom's fiancé that your mom is pregnant because that is not your place and you would definitely be overstepping.
Do not make out with the window of the classroom your girlfriend is in. It's super weird and she will not like it.
Even if you help your hot teacher with a guinea pig birth, it's still not going to lead to anything romantic, nor should it.
If your significant other doesn't support your goth lifestyle, dump him and bust out the black eyeshadow again.
Don't ask out the cashier while you're buying glow in the dark condoms. She will say no.
To change your image from "adorable" to "hot," you should wear a visible thong to school.
If the school administration doesn't like your thong, just don't wear any underwear.
Don't blackmail your friend by threatening to tell everyone about his wet dream.
Dudes who brag to their friends about having sex with you before you've even slept together are scrubs and should not be bothered with.
Your gay friend doesn't necessarily have a crush on you. Don't flatter yourself, Spinner.
Guys who cheat are not worth your time, even if they look like Craig.
If you let yourself become obsessed with ruining your ex's life, it can cost you your current relationship.
When it comes to birth control, "ask questions first, get naked later."
Even if you're mad at a girl for sleeping with your boyfriend, never, EVER tell the whole school she's pregnant out of revenge (even if it's true).
It's okay if your girlfriend's ex has a larger penis. You don't have to buy a penis pump to be a good boyfriend!
Making a bet about how many girls you can kiss is creepy and weird.
After you have sex with your girlfriend for the first time, that doesn't mean you're engaged. Please don't announce this lie at the wedding of your girlfriend's father.
If you decide to give someone a blowjob in a van to earn a bracelet, you might end up with gonorrhea.
If you find out your boyfriend is cheating on you, don't kiss your friend out of revenge. It will backfire.
Don't let Peter film you taking your top off. It will probably get spread around the school because he's a bad person.
Throwing a drum stick at someone's head isn't a healthy way of dealing with jealousy.
Dealing drugs to raise money to pay for your unplanned baby is not the best solution and it might lead to you overdosing and almost dying.
If you agree to take a picture of your crush naked as revenge for him videotaping your BFF, maybe don't take the pic, lie to your bestie and say you didn't, gawk at the nude in private, and then start secretly dating the dude! Haven't you heard of girl code, Emma?
A friend who tries to pressure your very Christian girlfriend into compromising her moral code and having sex with you is no friend at all.
If you're confused about your sexuality, don't worry, Kevin Smith will help you sort it out.
If your stepdad asks you to keep the secret that you caught him kissing his coworker, screw him and run and tell your mom the truth.
Don't lie to your girlfriend and say you're a virgin when you aren't. I really don't need to explain why that's bad, do I?
Don't break up with your girlfriend just because you're struggling to get an erection after recently having been shot in the spine.
Screw anyone who says you can't handle both Spirit Squad and raising your young child. Being a mother, even a teen one, doesn't mean giving up your entire life.
Be careful when posting sexy pics online in exchange for money from an alleged rich teen because he may turn out to be a creepy older man.
Sometimes when you think your boyfriend is cheating on you, he's really just moving to Switzerland to play hockey.
Being in a secret relationship can be sexy and fun, but once you go public you may find out that the secret was more interesting than the relationship.
If you hire the local bad boy to be your date to a family party, your parents will wind up falling in love with him... and you will too.
Even if you catch your boyfriend/newspaper editor cheating on you with your mentor, do not get drunk and publicly call your mentor a slut.
It's cool to get naked at a school event if it's to take a stand against an energy drink company.
If your credit card is maxed out, don't consider resorting to sex work to keep up your retail therapy habit.
Make sure you don't accidentally submit your sex tape as your audition tape for a college drama school.
Even if your boyfriend's family already set up an arranged marriage for him, that doesn't mean he isn't willing to fight for your relationship.
If your fiancé proposes with a stolen engagement ring, dump his ass.
If a straight girl and gay guy become too reliant on their friendship, they will, apparently, almost have sex and so it's best that they move into separate apartments.
You don't need to sleep with some famous creep to pursue your dreams of being a teen model.
It's okay if you're the only virgin on the Spirit Squad. That doesn't mean you should make a list of potential lovers and try to sleep with your top pick just to cross the milestone off your to do list.
Don't go snooping around your teacher's bedroom because you might find his wife's vibrator, which then winds up in your backpack, which then winds up turning on in the middle of class, which then leads to your teacher pulling it out and publicly humiliating you.
Taking steroids won't make you straight.
Don't lie to your boyfriend and his friends that your father is a music producer for Fall Out Boy or Aerosmith. They will find out. And if you do choose to lie, pick cooler bands.
Don't lose your virginity to your boyfriend at a ravine just because you're worried you'll lose him to more sexually experienced girls.
If your crush says something that hurts your feelings, do not go drunkenly swimming in the ocean when you don't actually know how to swim.
Do not do crystal meth just because you feel insecure around your girlfriend's fancy friends.
If you publish embarrassing photos of your boyfriend online, he may leak your nude photos and then your school principal may accidentally see them too.
Don't lie to your boyfriend about LARPing. If you're honest with him, he may even play mandolin at your LARP wedding!
If your basketball coach wants to drink beer and watch porn together, call the police immediately. Do not wait until he introduces you to a sex worker to report him.
If your boyfriend doesn't pay for your entire date, don't write an article shaming him. You're being the rude one in that scenario, Chantay.
Whatever you do, do NOT have unprotected sex with your boyfriend after lying and saying you're on the pill as a desperate attempt to keep him from falling for his arranged wife.
It's totally cool to write fanfic stories inspired by your sexy vampire dreams featuring your classmate. It's not cool to weirdly kiss the back of his neck without consent.
If you hate your boyfriend's girlfriend, do not act out by kissing your brother full-on on the mouth at a party. That will make everyone extremely uncomfortable!
Don't listen to Emma and Spinner. If you get blackout drunk and marry your friend, don't stay married to them. You can do better than Spinner, trust us.
Even if you're mad at your ex, don't pretend you're pregnant out of revenge.
If you're feeling lonely after getting out of an abusive relationship, buying a pet pig will not help.
If a guy tries to use money to control you, dump him. Even if you're broke as all hell.
When the guy you have a crush on can't go to the dance unless he gets a good grade on an assignment, please don't take the initiative to write the assignment for him and turn it in under his name without his knowledge. Then he'll just assume you think he's stupid.
Doing a rap about how cool you are will not impress the girl you like.
Definitely question your relationship if your boyfriend asks you to poison someone, even if that someone is a total douche.
Revealing you're pregnant to the world -- and the father's family -- on live TV is a bold move and not for everyone.
If your boyfriend is holding on to objects out of fear he'll forget his dead ex-girlfriend, cleaning out his locker without telling him will not endear you to him.
Don't lie to your mom's cancer doctor about your age and try to date him.
Don't be uncomfortable dating girls taller than you.
You don't need to pretend to like art to keep your cultured boyfriend interested in you.
If your boyfriend writes a story titled Stalker Angel in which he kills you to protect you from another man, run the f--- away.
If you tell your boyfriend you hate the hearse he drives and his response is to purposefully crash it and almost kill himself, run the f--- away even faster than before.
If you're girlfriend accidentally kills her ex-boyfriend during a sexual assault and you find yourself being blackmailed by the ex's gang leader into killing someone else, don't go through with it and just go to the cops.
But maybe don't lie and say you killed the guy when it was really your girlfriend. Honesty is the best policy here, for sure.
Whatever you do, don't ask the hot doctor you went on one date with if you can join him in moving to Africa. He will reject you.
Don't steal women's underwear.
If you're gay and have a boyfriend, don't pretend to date a girl just to appease your homophobic mother.
Don't date a girl who manipulates you into getting off your anti-anxiety medication.
Tell your girlfriend you're a recovering alcoholic before she moves in, not after.
It's super weird to start dating a new girlfriend who is constantly doing an impression of your old girlfriend.
Make sure to appreciate the irony if your breasts start leaking milk during a school lecture on WikiLeaks
It's super insensitive to tell your boyfriend he has to pretend to be someone else in front of your parents because they would hate the real him.
If you have a crush on a boy who is in a fight club, teach him Tae Kwon Do as a healthier option of expressing his anger issues.
Becoming addicted to poker could result in you gambling your relationship away.
Even if you're fighting with your former best friend over a boy, never publicly expose her struggles with bulimia.
Don't become an indentured servant to a drug-dealing gang member to protect your ex-boyfriend.
Dating your step-brother is not recommended.
Even if you see your ex-boyfriend kissing someone else, don't run off alone into the woods at night. That's extremely dangerous, Clare.
If you're mad that your step-brother/ex-boyfriend has moved on to a new girl, that doesn't mean you should move in with total strangers who take away your cell phone and are wanted by the police for dealing weed.
Don't prioritize helping your boyfriend with his skateboarding competition over your own needs because it might make you late to Power Squad and then you'll have to be the mascot as punishment.
If you cheat on your girlfriend, the girl you hooked up with may steal your phone and break up with your girlfriend over text pretending to be you. And then if you fight with her over this behavior, she may just walk into traffic and get hit by a car.
If your boyfriend breaks up with you, having sex with him -- especially when he's WASTED -- will not win him back.
And if you do cheat on your new girl with your old girlfriend (who you previously cheated on with your new girlfriend), please just be honest. Haven't you lied enough?
Screw anyone who implies you aren't good enough for their band because your breasts are too small. Seriously. That doesn't even make sense.
And if you do stuff your bra with "chicken cutlet things" in response to this and then one falls out during your audition, don't pay the haters any mind when they tease you.
Don't play footage of your ex-boyfriend bragging about cheating on his new girlfriend with you at a school pep rally.
Even if you have a crush on the new kid in school, don't catfish him by pretending to be your mutual friend on "FaceRange."
If you're embarrassed about your poor finances, just be honest with your girlfriend and don't dine-and-dash at your anniversary dinner.
Don't have sex with your girlfriend to prove that you're straight just because you're being bullied for starring in a same-sex version of Romeo and Juliet.
Don't get baptized purely to get a guy to like you.
If your boss at your internship sexually assaults you and fires you, the correct response isn't to plant nude photos on his work computer; it's to go to the police.
Even paying for your entire first year at Stanford isn't worth having sex with some creepy old dude in Las Vegas.
It doesn't matter how scared you are of losing her, do not impersonate your girlfriend and attend a life-changing job interview in her place while pretending to be drunk so that she won't be able to move away.
There are worse times to find out you have cancer than while trying to have Skype sex with your boyfriend.
Sometimes all it takes to find a guy in Paris is breaking a heel, falling in dog feces, and carrying around a cardboard cutout of your best friend's face for an entire day.
One way to show your gay roommate that you're comfortable with his sexuality is to take off your shirt and hug him.
No matter how much you love your ex-girlfriend, don't text her while driving. You might get into a horrible car accident and then die before you can ever get back together.
If you think your boyfriend believes sex is gross, maybe he's just scared because he hasn't done it before!
It crosses so many lines to drug someone just so that they're more amenable to liking you. Even if you do need a date to the dance!
Don't even consider choosing your abusive french boyfriend over attending MIT. And definitely don't marry him so that he won't get deported!
If you give your boyfriend a makeover because you're worried what people think of him, watch out because once he glows up you might not like the new attention he gets.
Do not invite both of the boys who like you to the school dance with the naïve intentions of them becoming friends. They aren't going to become friends and one of them might start a rumor that the other is keeping drugs in their locker.
If you're trying to keep your relationship with your best friend's sister a secret, keep your immune system healthy because if both you and the sister get sick at the same time, it might just blow up your spot.
If your boss' wife texts you a picture of her boobs and you tell your boss, expect to be fired.
Just because a magazine quiz says you're ready to have sex, doesn't mean you really are. Especially if it's with your teacher!
It's totally cool if you kiss your dead boyfriend's brother while trapped in a boiler room thinking you're about to die from a gas leak.
If you're insensitive toward your girlfriend and continue to receive nudes from other girls, painting "I like you" on your bare chest won't win her back.
If you get pregnant, don't lie to the two possible fathers about who the dad really is. That's super messed up, Clare.
Do not create a sting operation to test your boyfriend's fidelity. The only loser in that situation will be you.