It’s Saturday night. You’re wearing leggings under a pair of neon-coloured shorts, and an owl necklace hangs over your fluttering chest. You keep fidgeting with your side fringe as you nervously watch the bottle spin. You’re desperate for it to land on you and [your crush’s name]. As luck would have it, the bottle does land on both of you.
Feigning shock and an eye roll, you pretend to unwillingly clamber into the closet or whatever side room has been designated for the task. Your crush follows behind you, and you hope that the indifference they’re showing is simply an act.
The door closes, and somewhere behind it, a timer is set for seven minutes. In the darkness, you can barely see [your crush’s name], but you’re aware that their face must be a few inches away from yours, and a few inches lower as well, as puberty hasn’t hit quite yet. You wait. You wait for them to make a move. You wait for it to be like the steamy scenes you see in the movies. You wait for the supposed heaven promised by this game.
7 minutes in heaven seems to be a universal experience. Whenever I bring it up to someone, they groan and immediately launch into recounting their own trauma with this cursed game. We all have some story to tell, whether it’s a chipped tooth, an unexpected coming out, or just seven long minutes of awkward silence.
But how can it be that we all learned to play this game? And did so willingly and wholeheartedly? Well, it seems very likely that we learned about 7 minutes in heaven the same way we learned about the ‘cool girl’, the Friends lobster metaphor, and the iconic Sandra Bullock SING self-defence method: movies and TV shows.
In 13 Going on 30, Jenna is first learning about the game along with the rest of us. She desperately hopes for Chris Grandy, and instead, Matt enters—way cuter in my humble opinion. Jenna prepares for the potential of second base by removing the toilet paper wadded into her bra. Haven’t we all been there?
Then, in Easy A, we see how the elusive time spent in this ‘heaven’ can be faked. Olive allows Todd to pretend they kissed as he isn’t ready. It makes me wonder how many of us faked what actually happened in those closets, and whether there was ever a juicy truth to be told.
The most stressful part is, we can’t escape it—even now in our 20s. It’s a recurring theme in various TV shows, like in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, where Gina loses her front two teeth due to a bowling bowl, rather than a terrible kisser. It’s in Everything Sucks! as a kiss leads to Kate coming out to Luke. Similarly, It’s in Little Fires Everywhere, when we get the brief elation of Izzy and April kissing, only for them to be exposed and the blame to be put on poor Izzy.
We saw 7 minutes in heaven in all of these glamourised depictions of the teenage experience, so of course, we tried it for ourselves.
That being said, even though we were replicating this game, we weren’t always committing all the way. In the years of playing it, I got a few dry pecks out of the game, maybe a sneaky tongue once wine coolers were introduced. But for the most part, 7 minutes in heaven mainly involved awkwardly sitting in a cramped space, making uncomfortable conversations with someone.
As the girl in the situation, I often found myself desperately hoping they’d kiss me. I wanted the thrill and sensual experiences that scripts had portrayed.
I don’t think it was even sexual craving. I don’t think I wanted their tongue in my mouth or their clammy hand under my training bra for any kind of sexual urgency. Rather, I believe it was a desire to make my life more exciting than it was. I yearned to be the centre of a sexual escapade.
7 minutes in heaven was about pretending we had sexual desires that hadn’t fully emerged yet because we felt like the only ones still missing them. It was a chance to inject thrill and sensuality into our mundane lives, to pretend our Victoria’s Secret bralettes were the finest lingerie a girl could buy and that our panda-lined eyes were in actuality a Bella Hadid-esque seductive smokey eye.
We were desperate to be more than we were. We wanted the crazy stories we were seeing on TV, and we wanted them right now. Once alcohol became a part of the question, it all got much easier, but it still never captured the sexual nature of what 7 minutes in heaven was supposed to promise.
Also, if we’re all being honest with ourselves, 7 minutes is way too long, we should’ve stopped at two.