I was a couple of weeks shy of eighteen, we’d been dating for two years. He had recently become my first, I was not his. I loved him. He loved me. One of the things I loved about being with him was the fact that I could be myself . I didn’t have to prove anything or act a certain way. I didn’t have to try to fit in or be a certain type of girl. He gave me something– not school related — to do. In hindsight, what he provided me was a way to escape those awkward teen years of discovering myself, making choices and mistakes, finding my own way, being proud of who I was and who I wasn’t, making new friends, and learning how to be social. He had already made some decisions about life, had some bad experiences and had strong opinions about almost everything. He was an old soul. I was not. It ate me up.
He was completely against drinking (which is not a bad thing for someone underage, but he would not even go to parties where others might be drinking, even if they were hiding it.) I respected him for that. I supported him in that. He had had a rough upbringing. His mother had a bad reputation, his brother was the local drug dealer, other family members, including siblings and his mother’s boyfriends had addictions, and teen pregnancies were the norm in his family. So having been brought up in the underbelly of drug and alcohol addiction, he swore never the touch the stuff and forbade me to get near it. In his family, he was the one good child. He wanted to stay that way. He was painfully shy unless involved in a sport, so he wasn’t one for hanging out. He didn’t want to travel because he didn’t see the need, and was uncomfortable out of our town. He hated the beach, sand; he hated crowds. He was also very possessive and jealous, so he kept me close and would become angry if he felt threatened.
But he was very cute, tall, slim with haunting light eyes. Teachers loved him, though he was not academically oriented or talented. I think, like me, they saw a polite guy who, despite his family, seemed to be a good kid. He was charming that way. People wanted to help him. People wanted to forgive any shortcomings. He had a smile that could and did charm everyone — that is, when he did smile. Most of the time, unless people were looking, he appeared sullen, angry. Some folks were a little scared of him. (Years later a friend described him like this: He’s the kind of guy where when he walks into a room, the temperature drops ten degrees.)
Me? Well, I was an achiever, academically, musically and athletically, but socially I had struggled, been a victim of past bullying. I was a book smart girl from a good (if not wealthy) family; my parents were teachers. My siblings were in college, they had gotten away from our suffocating suburb. I was lonely. I wanted to have fun but I was basically the stereotypical “good girl” from a stable family. I would never want to do anything that would embarrass my family, and my girlfriends weren’t drinkers or party girls either. Still, we liked to go to parties and dances and just have some sober fun. Before I started dating him, I had had only one short relationship with a boy. Nothing to speak of. No broken hearts. I don’t think we ever even went anywhere together. My hymen was still intact.
I did not have a normal or healthy introduction to dating. And, at my tender teen age, I thought I’d never have a real boyfriend. At the time, I truly thought he was my only and best chance at having any attention from a boy. He was what I needed.
Miraculously, once I started dating him, the bullying stopped as well as the false rumors about me. (Somehow, I had gained the reputation of being a slut according to popular, misinformed opinion, even though I was a virgin.) But with him, I had support. His family loved me. He loved me.
I see now I was co-dependent. But then? I was in love.
I had nothing to compare him to. My girlfriends weren’t dating, they didn’t know any better than me. After having been treated so badly by other kids, I thought this was right, and in a way, it did save me. (The reasons for the bullying have to do with racial/socio-economic differences, that are just too much to get into now.) I never told my parents about how I had been treated at school. I should have.
He and I were inseparable. I was so happy to have a boyfriend. But we rarely went anywhere with other people. Usually we went to movies or hung out at his or my house. He met me at my locker every morning. We met between classes. (We never had classes together, I was in the college prep courses, he was not). We were such a cute, dysfunctional couple. Both tall, and we even looked a bit alike.
One night, there was a Friday night basketball game, as usual. He was a star player, I was a cheerleader. (I know, gag me). We never went to the parties afterward, though, if there were any. We were an antisocial couple. But this night, for some reason, he decided he wanted to go to a party. I don’t know why. I never knew why. He usually was against such behavior. He told me to go home, I wasn’t allowed to go. Obediently, I went home. I didn’t see him for the rest of the weekend, which sometimes happened since neither one of us had a car, and in addition to my studies I had a part-time job.
The following Monday, he did not come to my locker. When I found him, he seemed distant. He wouldn’t make eye contact. I knew something was wrong. I knew something was different. Paranoid, and suddenly needing reassurance, I asked him,
“Don’t you love me anymore?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. (My very being shook to the core, I felt as though I died a bit. My knees buckled.)
In another cruel twist of fact, it was Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrated as our anniversary.
I was still reeling from his answer when he added that — he wanted to see other people!!!!!!!
Then he looked me in the eyes to tell me, “I don’t want you to, though.”
“Okay,” I said. (I know, I know. In my head the voices still scream Nooooooo!!!!!! But I was already under his thumb, I didn’t know how to act differently. I was completely caught off guard, he had changed all the rules without any warning. I was still freaked out because he went to a party. And now this? I had given myself to him in every way possible, and now, it wasn’t enough, or it didn’t matter, or — I didn’t know what was happening!!!!!)
I was heartbroken, devastated, confused. For about two weeks, I continued to allow him to meet me at my locker, walk me in the halls, kiss me hello and goodbye. I was still his girlfriend. But there were more goodbyes than hellos, and I saw him flirting with other girls; he didn’t hide it. He had a swagger about him. I felt beaten.
Since we’d been dating for two years, we were quite an item. We were the golden couple. But kids talked. They knew there had been a change yet we had not broken up. Through the high school rumor mill I found out later that during the party he attended a girl I knew had flirted with him. Well, she grabbed his crotch, is what I heard. That must have been enough to turn the tide, to make him take the next step after control and isolation, to further humiliate me, his girlfriend of two years — but still keep me at his beck and call. Yet he acted as though this was completely normal. And I allowed it. (It was the beginning of a hurtful and unhealthy pattern of accommodation I have struggled with ever since.)
Later, a friend of his and fellow basketball player who was in one of my classes said to me,
“I don’t know how you put up with it.”
(I think I visibly shuddered. I was trying to operate under the illogical belief that no one knew what was really going on.)
The nice boy continued, “I mean, given his family and all it’s amazing he’s turned out as good as he has, but still . . . he shouldn’t be doing this to you.”
Hearing that from another boy, a boy who was a childhood friend of his but who didn’t know me that well, got to me. Plus, I did some thinking. I had more time on my hands, after all. Throughout this whole thing I kept coming back to the fact that I loved him. I kept telling myself, “But I love him.” But then I thought, is being in love supposed to feel like this? Because this doesn’t feel good. This isn’t fun. Love shouldn’t feel like this.
The next day I was not at my locker when he went to meet me.
He had to find me. When he did, I just said I wasn’t going to do this anymore.
When an abused woman hits back, it’s useless unless she kills or runs. Hitting back and standing there just sets her up for another beat down. Mine was coming.
I cannot remember what he said exactly, or what he did, he must have told me he loved me. I know he demanded to know why I wasn’t as my designated place. But I’m not sure. I think I may have blocked it out, because it was so contrary to my sense of self-preservation. I’ve beat myself up for years because of it.
Bottom line: He got me back.
He said he wasn’t going to see other girls. We were monogamous again. (Well, he was monogamous again, I had never been free.) I didn’t date anyone else in high school. He was still my boyfriend when I went to college. Years later, I married him.
Months ago, our divorce became final. He has since remarried.
I heard later that the girl who had felt him up at the party told him she couldn’t actually date him because her family would not accept her dating a black boy. Whatever. His coming back to me had nothing to do with me — except that he wanted to keep me — unto him, under him.
When I had started to pull away, he pulled me back — and he was stronger.
I had traded one kind of bullying for another, really.
But something broke inside me then, not because of how he treated me, but because I allowed it . . . and I think . . . just now, I’m trying to get it fixed.
Just Me With . . . a love story?
P.S. Why all the Twilight pics? I have a hard time with the series because of my romantic history. A high school girl who does not fit in should have a chance to experience life outside of high school before changing her DNA for a boy. Bella is so sad and tortured and Edward makes her feel better, but I want her to go to college, get a job, move to a place where she chooses, and have fun, make friends, have boyfriends and ex-boyfriends, without all the danger and without having to forsake her belief system, family, and biological options before she’s had a chance to even develop them.
It’s okay not to have a boyfriend in high school. It really is. And it’s okay to break up with your first love.
For a story on what it was like to still have my boyfriend when I went away to college, see The Night I Became Cinderella.
And for how I feel about him now? I Don’t Love Him.
I am the most bitter of bitter, clinically depressed and all around down in the dumps – – most of the time. But something strange happened, something occurred to me that made me . . . . smile. I think I just heard a collective gasp from my readers, it’s shocking I know, really shocking. But I smiled . . . I smiled . . . regarding the impending nuptials of my ex-husband, a man I had been with since the tender age of 16, a man with whom I share the only children I’ll ever have, a man who, after many years of marriage, suddenly told me, simply, “I have to go,” on one snowy night after we had put our children to bed.
Now, a mere four months after our prolonged and contentious divorce became final, he has announced plans to remarry (well, he left me a voice mail). Though I do think it sets a better example for our tween and teen children, I have many concerns, many scowls and curses about the whole idea of it and the manner in which it has unfolded. All fodder for another post for another day . . . maybe, . . . or maybe not.
But the story today is not so vile
The story today is about my Grinch-like smile,
which started out small and then started to grow . . .
it started, of course, when I realized and thought . . .
I thought and I realized that them tying the knot
means a knot will be tied and . . . he’s all knotted up!
In other words, minus the bad Seuss inspired prose.
He’ll be married while I– am– free!
My ex-everything will be on lock down, committed, his relationship and his ownership of property will be governed by our state’s laws, he will be bound in matrimony. His dating and new relationship days are over. Even now, he’s running around getting stuff for the wedding and speaking in the royal “we” while I am, in a word — free.
This is all new for me. I was married young and for many years. For most of my life, I was someone’s girlfriend, someone’s wife; hell, I was his girlfriend, his wife. Now, I’m not. Did you hear it? Did you feel it? There has been a small shift somewhere in the universe and everything has changed . Next month, he’ll be somebody’s husband and I’ll be NOBODY’S wife. (smile) In a strange way, this has set me free in a way that separation and divorce and even other men did not. This is a statement to the world that our epic romance, and crippling break-up — is — over. And the fact that I’m okay with that part of it, even though I was royally dumped, will be so much more obvious when he makes his vows to another woman and . . .
I . . .DON’T . . . LAY . . . DOWN . . . AND . . . DIE.
Oh, I’m still pissed about a lot of things, don’t get me wrong. Sure there will be more announcements, more crap to deal with; it’s another chapter in a book I didn’t want to read. And I’m not even addressing here my larger concerns about difficulty dealing with them both where the kids are concerned, his lingering hostility toward, pity and disrespect of me, the fact that I never got a chance to be single while younger and without children, the opportunities I may have missed because I married young, and that he is getting a do-over in a way, as a woman and mother, I cannot. But . . . still . . . I’m free.
Soon, we will no longer just be living separately. He’ll be living married and I’ll be living single. If you’ve read my other posts, you know I haven’t jumped into the dating waters with both feet. I stick my toes in, maybe up to my knees, then get out where it’s warm, apply my sun (man) screen and enjoy the fresh air. However, whenever I do get in — whether I jump, inch in slowly, get pushed or perhaps pulled in, it’ll be my thing. I’ll make stories to tell, stories that for once, don’t include him.
“Oh the places [I’ll] go . . .”
And you know what? I don’t have to settle for the random landscaper dude. I can do better. I deserve better.
Just Me With . . . a smile. heh heh heh
Related Posts: How Do I Feel About My Ex-Husband Getting Married?