I remember meeting him when we were both younger — he a wise-cracking and utterly charming hockey player, me a Lisa Frank fan with inexplicably crunchy bangs. I’d never been a sports fan but I always remembered my favorite Duck, so when I saw him swagger across my screen that fateful Tuesday evening in 1998, my love for Pacey Witter was both immediate and familiar.
With Dawson’s Creek having returned to Netflix recently, it’s been easier to indulge in my guilty pleasure without my husband teasing me about my collector’s edition box set. And even though I know what happens when Dawson’s dad drops his ice cream cone, who Joey ends up with, and still only understand half of the words those kids use, I keep on taking my trips down to Capeside and feeling all warm and fuzzy with nostalgia.
Well, nostalgia with a healthy side of butterflies that still take flight every time I see my first love, my fantasy boyfriend, the guy who taught me how to love.
Pacey Witter, the charming, wise-cracking, defender of women, bad boy of Capeside.
I like to think that Pacey raised the bar and saved me from myself. Many circumstances of my upbringing, not to mention a society that didn’t find me to be a conventional middle school beauty, could have produced a woman with low self esteem who let men treat her any way they wanted. I could have accepted bad or abusive attention as at least some kind of attention, could have let myself be used in exchange for what I’d hope would be love. I could have allowed myself to be directed by what society thought my relationship needed to look like or not known my worth.
But not me. Not when I grew up loving Pacey Witter.
Pacey Witter ruined most guys for me.
Pacey Witter set the bar so high that if a boyfriend wasn’t creative or willing enough to buy (rent) me a wall, then obviously we weren’t a good match. Pacey Witter showed me that witty banter is as much a part of the mating ritual as making out, and helped me weed out the guys who couldn’t keep up. Pacey dated a girl who struggled with her mental health and not only supported and cared for her, but he continued to do so even after they broke up. Pacey showed me that women didn’t have to be perfect to be loved by wonderful guys.
Pacey Witter stood up to a homophobic teacher, stood up for mistreated staff members, stood up to his best friend, even stood up against gender stereotypes in the Miss Capeside pageant.
Pacey was charming enough to date wealthy women and caring enough to remain friends with every woman he broke up with.
Pacey mentored Jonathan Lipnicki and called people on their crap. He was honest and gentle, romantic and realistic, encouraging and self-deprecating. Pacey was a lover and a fighter, selfless, a man who still believed in the power of grand gestures and chivalry for chivalry’s sake.
While we as moms have superheroes today to look at, back then we had Pacey Witter to look to.
But even I can admit that Pacey wasn’t perfect.
Pacey fell down, a lot, but he never stayed down. He had a lot of missteps — I still can’t get over the implosion of senior prom and graduation — but he never stopped trying, never stopped trying to make it right. He always knew when he’d messed up, always came back around to apologize.
Pacey was a terrible dresser, just awful. The cargo shorts. The Hawaiian shirts. The rugby sweaters. The — gasp — goatee. He cleaned up nice, but most of the time we were focusing hard on those dreamy brown curls and that devil-may-care grin.
Most relatably, Pacey had a pretty rough home life. He didn’t come from a family that would embrace you, adopt you, incorporate you into their traditions. Pacey was proof that it was okay to remove yourself from toxic family members, that blazing your own path wasn’t disrespectful, that not following in their broken footsteps was not only okay, it was possible. Pacey showed me boundaries and the concept of self worth. He taught me that everything that’s said to me, no matter how genetically close the person is who says it, isn’t always true.
That baby-faced, curly-headed, quick-witted Witter empowered me, helped me to stand tall while he also made me go weak in the knees.
The man who buys (rents) walls. The man who restores a boat and names it True Love. The man who calms a teenage girlfriend in the midst of a manic episode through a door, who stands up to bullies regardless of their power position, who jokes, protects, carries your bag, fixes up your family’s B&B, breaks generational toxicity, demonstrates healthy boundaries, picks you up in the middle of the night, and counts down to when he’s going to kiss you.
But above all, Pacey Witter is the man, the legend, the absolute definition of perfect boyfriend because he, Pacey Witter, remembers everything.