I’ve been thinking a lot this week about who I was as a teenager. I dont know if it’s because Jedi’s 13th year ends Sunday and so much of my teenage self started at 14…
When I was first inspired to write about my teenage self, I thought it would be fun. I dug up old pictures and listened to old music. It soon left me in tears and trying to wrap my head around it all mostly because my teenage self was a fucking mess.
Just before turning 14, something happened that changed me forever. It turned everything I knew to be true to that point about love and family into a completely, useless shitstorm. It left me raw with emotion and not wanting to think. I was love sick. Desperate to know that something I had once known. I was silly and fun like what I imagine most teenage were like all while being sullen, pained and full of angst at the same time. Not your normal teenage angst, but one that still affects me now. It wasn’t that I never felt joy, but as a teenager, I felt happy through other people. If I could make someone happy, I was happy. People pleasing was my drug of choice.
I was also full of raging sexual curiosity. This wasn’t new to me. I can remember thinking and desiring sex at a very young age. I’ve written about that before. It was just that as a teenager, I was hell bound and determined to have it which was much to the dismay of the angel on my shoulder. Believe me, she was a real thorn in my exploration. Such is the life of a teenager who has grown up in an ultra religious home. I made a bargain of sorts with her. I reasoned that if I was in a committed relationship while having sex, it was ok because I wasn’t a whore.
No relationship + sex = bad, no-no. Relationship + sex = A-OK.
That’s how I became a serial monogamist. Having explained this…I feel the only real way I can tell the story of my teenage self is through relationships.
The first relationship, was a non-relationship.
Kevin was the first, heart-aching crush I ever had. I was thirteen. I would walk nearly a mile out of my way to 7-11, knowing that he would be outside playing basketball with his friends. Just to walk by. I would never acknowledge him first. I’d pretend to be to involved with my Walkman even though it wasn’t even on. I mean, if he said something, how else would I hear him? On my way TO 7-11, he would always go on playing basketball and as far as I knew, didn’t do anything more than give me that slight, upward thrust of his jaw to acknowledge me. Then on my way BACK he eventually started tossing the ball to a buddy and would hussle over, all sweaty and stinky. I didn’t care. His buddies would complain. I loved it. He had a nerdy girlfriend who I did not concern myself with. He obviously like me better anyway because he broke up with her after I let him feel me up at a school dance. He put his letter jacket around me when it was cold and kissed me with his this annoying, turtle tongue, but I was certain that’s what love felt like. It wasn’t long before I found out that it wasn’t. This is just what he did with all the girls. So besides dressing pretty skanky and making him walk over to my house to get his stupid jacket, just to give him enough of a look at me as I threw it at him before slamming the door in his face, that was that. I was certain this is what women in charge of relationships did. Even though it wasn’t one.
Jason, was the first guy who pursued me. I was certain this meant true love had found me and since it was true love, I was certain this meant we would be together forever and I would lose my virginity to him. Only one of those turned out to be true. Sex with Jason was not inspiring but we were in sweet, sappy love for almost a year before his best friend cheated on my cousin and he *tried* to do the same to me.
Pffft. I was devastated, but wanting to remain on top of the spin control so I brought Chris into the picture.
Chris was trying to make his recent ex-girlfriend jealous and this seemed like a splendid idea to me. Aside from using one another he introduced me to rock music for which I will always be thankful. He was a couple years older, in a band, hot as hell in his navy uniform and if it weren’t for that stupid angel on my shoulder and if our couple, hot and heavy make out sessions were any indication, that boy would’ve had his way with me and I would have loved every two minutes of it. No such luck though as I had made my deal with the bitch and I would stick to it. We were not in a relationship which meant no sex for us, but it was all for the best since he served his purpose and Jason and I kissed and made up.
Compared to Chris though, he was pretty goofy. I loved him as much as any fifteen year old loves their first true love, but was pretty bored. I remedied this by creating drama and making him feel guilty. I have about 100 handwritten notes from him to prove it. I guess he was bored too because he suddenly decided to be a “gangsta” and started selling weed. My angel shoulder and I were having none of that so I broke up with him certain this would motivate him to do better.
I turned to my long time guy friend and neighbor growing up, Darryl. He was always the guy who I talked to in depth about everything and vice versa. We vented about parents, school, whoever we were dating at the time and I found it endearing that he walked me between classes just because. He picked on me as much as he playfully flirted with me during our basketball one-on-ones.
That guy always had a basketball. To this day, if I hear a basketball ball bouncing, my first thought is him.
Because it wasn’t about THAT with us and I was well aware he was a player, we had a very reality based, platonic relationship. But as fate would have it, right around the time a girl tried to pin a fake pregnancy on Darryl, Jason and I’s relationship met it’s final demise. Jason had started playing nice again and I was sure he had seen the error of his ways even though Darryl was not and minced no words in telling me so. But before I had made up my mind about making it official again, one of my friends spotted Jason at another girl’s house. They were in her pool together and being much more than friendly. I hung up the phone and walked out the door just in time to seeing Darryl pulling up from work. I walked up and got in the car asking him to take me to my friend’s house to see for myself exactly what the hell was going on. On the way there, every emotion I had ever felt boiled. I shook uncontrollably while Darryl assured me everything would be ok. When we pulled up to the house Jason was at, I walked straight into the backyard. He was so involved in making out with this ugly, heffer in her pool that neither of them noticed me until I was walking back out. When Darryl saw the look on my face, he unlocked his trunk and grabbed a baseball bat and started towards me. I ran into Darryl arms, crying. All it took was him wrapping his arms around me and pointing that bat at Jason, saying only the word “No” to make Jason turn around and retreat. We just stood there in the middle of the street, me crying and Darryl rocking and SHHing me.
That was what I remembered of love. Pure and undiluted. This is what I wanted … and it scared the shit out of me.
I avoided him for a couple days afterwards, not knowing what I could ever say to him again.
A week later, I grabbed the mail from the box at the end of the drive when I got home from school, as I always did, but found only a single rose and a hand written note that read: If you’re going to avoid me, I had to find another way to make you smile. Darryl. I looked up to see him sitting on his porch with a basketball wedged between his legs. So, I walked over and sat on his porch. I couldn’t look at him, but I was trying to find words when he stopped me. He said he knew everything had changed between us and while he didn’t ever want to lose me as a friend, he couldn’t have this as a “what if”. I told him I knew too much. I knew all about the girls upon girls, I couldn’t trust him that way and then he promised me he would never do that to me. He told me I wasn’t other girls.
It was everything my little girl heart had ever longed to hear and I gave in. Darryl treated me like a queen. He was the first guy who ever taught me how I should be treated as a woman.
I felt like I had just walked on the set of rom-com where two friends who grew up together finally realize they’re in love. In fact, we shared a lot of movie-worthy moments that I’ll always hold close to my heart.
But everything outside of us was so complicated. My Dad hated our relationship even though he treated me better than anyone ever had. He almost had him arrested when he found out we were having sex. His friends, who were once our mutual friends, began to hate the seriousness I brought about in him and all the time we were spending together before he left for Air Force basic training. He wrote me everyday. He started to talk about getting married when he finished tech school and got his first orders. I traded in my extra credit to graduate early so I could be with him. Then, I went to see him when he graduated from boot camp just after I started my senior classes. He was different … suspicious. Asking me about Jason of all people. I couldn’t understand how he could think I could even find a place for another boy in my life, much less why I would want to when his brother had classes with me, his family lived on one side of me and his best friend was on the other. Yet the thought of him doing anything had never crossed my mind until I heard his own accusatory tone. After all, where the hell was all of this coming from?
I left on good terms, but full of doubt. I didn’t sleep for days on end. I didn’t eat. I went through the motions at school and work while my mind wondered. Then I became full of resolve to be completely selfish. Start doing me. Bought all new clothes. Sporty Spice was a thing of the past. Hello Sexy Spice, all day, everyday. Fuck being good. Bye shoulder angel.
It got me the attention I needed while Darryl did whatever he was doing in the background. In fact, every time I looked up in English, this guy across the aisle, which faced me, would meet eyes with me and then try to look away. His name was James. I started to toy with him little by little. He started to dote and spoil me. But while he was lavish with gifts, he was stingy with vulnerability, something that I never could seem to get past. So things between us were very sexual. It was good and I was in charge. I got sexual with him in ways I never had before. I didn’t think any teenage guy would dislike the arrangement , but before I saw it coming, he was in my heart.
I could act unattached and not bothered by the lack of intimacy, but once I was alone, behind the wheel of my car, I would cry. All the way home and then crying myself to sleep. I had been foolish for ever trying to convince myself my feelings weren’t on the table. I now knew no matter what I did, I was going to hurt someone. Darryl, James or even myself.
About a month after graduation, while James and I were driving back from a Hootie and the Blowfish concert, with my head on his shoulder, his fingers playing with my hair and Mariah Carey on the radio, it hit me hard. I was IN love and I wanted James. Everything was about to change and just like I wanted, I would call the shots. Except this meant for the first time, I was actually ending a relationship.
It was two weeks before I was supposed to fly out to see Darryl again and I was freaking out. I asked James to give me space, but since he was just as freaked out as I was about the whole thing, he couldn’t do it. So I ran. I used my graduation money to buy a ticket to Louisville to be around my extended family and stay at my Nana’s. If I was going to do this, I had to get distance from James and figure myself out. After two weeks, I decided that it was more than possible that James was holding back because of Darryl and that Darryl and I were better off as friends. So I flew from Louisville to San Antonio to see Darryl and say our goodbyes, with love, as friends.
James and I ended up being together for over two years and were even engaged, but my teenage years ended with me starting a relationship with a man who was awful. Even after meeting my first
husband, I hung to hope with James. It didn’t help that we couldn’t stop coming back for more sex. But I learned in a very harsh way that it was just sex, not hope and I married the horrible man because I fell in love with his son, Pickle, perhaps as my way of punishing myself for my own transgressions.
I don’t know. I guess that’s just a lot of water underneath bridges I have burned.
The only happy ending that came of all these teenage dreams is that I still remain friends with Jason, Darryl and James to this today.
Now, I wonder what teenage me would think of me. I mostly wish I could let her know that for all the struggle we thought was in vain and mistakes that were made, it did get better. Id like to tell her that it’s ok to be immature and make mistakes. It doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person and unworthy of respect and love. It’s a part of growing up. Even as a grown woman, you’ll still have that little girl heart that wants to be kept safe and treasured. Being vulnerable isn’t something you grow out of, it’s something you must learn to lean into. I’d tell her that we found out who we really were all along, good and bad, and we made a life worth living. This life now, this love, these children were our collective dream. Its not what we thought it would look like, it’s better.
I hope she’d be damn proud.