First Love

After posting yesterday’s tail of date rape, more memories started to flood my brain about the years I spent with the boy who was my first romantic love. My first love was my grandmother, that was an amazing love based on unconditional approval and support. She saw me, and loved all of me even in the moments I disappointed or hurt her. She saw all my potential and beauty, inside and out, and celebrated my existence on earth with every opportunity she had.

My first boy love was a different story. We first started dating when I was a junior and he a senior. I had noticed him when first moving to the school as a freshman. He always had a big energy around him, a big smile and an even bigger laugh. He was a prankster with a big personality that drew me to him. When he asked me out I was over the moon, and as I had turned 16 I had permission to say yes. (The rule was I couldn’t date before I was 16, not that I had had any opportunity. Except not being able to accept an invite for the end of school 8th grade dance, but I thought that had more to do with not being allowed to dance than date. That was a truly anguished night, as my bedroom window looked out over the street to the tall entrance steps of the school. I spent the night peeking between the curtains to see who was with who, what everyone was wearing, straining to hear what was being said as the party goers wandered in and out of the building over the course of the night.) But back to my first date a couple years later.

Our first date was at the movie theater to see Star Wars. And no I wasn’t allowed to go to movies either, so I made up some lie about being invited to someone’s house and yes their parents would be there for the party, etc., etc. Oh my goodness I got good at lying and it was a skill that proved to hurt me over and over again in the years to come. But I lied, got away with it and excitedly went to the movies that night on my first date ever. My son, decades later, asks me questions about various characters or plot twists whenever the topic of this series comes up and I am clueless. You think I paid an ounce of attention to that movie? Hell no! In the dark I was so excited to sit up in the loge seats, an extra expense, holding hands and even kissing. And that was that. We began dating and didn’t stop, with the exception of a month long period when he broke up with me that spring following his graduation from high school, for the next four and a half years.

At first it was sweet. And even though I was on the receiving end of incredible pressure to have sex, which we started having within weeks or so of dating, I was incredibly excited to be spending time with him. I was crazy about him and when it was good, we had a lot of fun. But gradually the fun times were outweighed by the episodes of trouble. I don’t even know where to start, which story to tell first? The fights, the drugs, the cheating?

Actually, remember I wrote about asking to get help, to see a counselor or someone about my behavior that was concerning me, a few posts back? It was around this time, a few months or a year after beginning to date that my reactions to stressful situations with him lead me to become concerned enough about myself to seek help. When we would have a disagreement I wouldn’t know how to negotiate our differences of opinion, and he had a decent temper, so it was a bad mix with outcomes that would often frighten me. Like the day he dropped me off at my house with the plan to go do something with friends, I didn’t want him to go. Perhaps it was the fear of what drugs he might use, or who he was going to be with, what girls would be there, I don’t know, but I was arguing with him not to go. I finally did get out of the car when I realized I didn’t have a choice, he was very angry telling me to “get out!” As I stepped out of the car, moving around the door to be able to close it he gunned the car in reverse to get out of the parking lot. (I lived in an apartment set above the church, with the entrance to the church and stairs leading up to the living quarters set just off the parking area in front of the building.) Unfortunately, when he had pulled into the parking lot to drop me off he had positioned the car very close to the side of the L-shaped building, a wall of the church to the car’s right with the church classrooms and apartment above situated in front of the car. The car door, once swung open, came within inches of the exterior wall of the church, just enough room for me to step around. But he put the car in reserve before I had completely stepped around it, to close it, and the result was my leg becoming pinned between the end of the car door and the church wall. I yelled and he stopped, but not before my leg had gotten lodged between the two for a moment, with enough force to cause harm. I was incredibly scared and began crying and yelling, he got out of the car blaming me for being so stupid and the fight that had begun in the car continued as I limped towards the steps to my home. I don’t recall the words we said, but the next thing I knew he was hitting me in the face, slapping and punching me until my nose was bleeding profusely. The noise of our fight got the attention of my parents who were home, they came running down the stairs yelling, “what is going on!” commanding him to leave now or they would call the police. He left, again against my protests (what the hell girl) and I was lead upstairs by my mom to get the bleeding to stop. Once it had, and I’d washed my face to find there was no broken skin I pulled down my pants to find intense bruising had already begun. Yet the next task was to clean up the stairwell, my mom and I filling a pot with water, gathering rags to wash away the blood that lined the walls and steps leading up to the apartment.

My leg, amazingly, still has a mark of the edge of that car door indented on the side of my thigh. It is very slight, but in the right light, particularly sunlight, it is a 3″ long thin depression permanently impressed into my leg that upsets me every time I see it. It has made me self-conscious about wearing shorts that might expose it, over the years, but I’m finally getting to the point where I know I’m probably the only one that notices and if not, tough shit. It’s a leg, it works, it doesn’t look that bad, I’m lucky. But on that day it hurt like hell and as the hours passed it turned colors I didn’t know a bruise could be, deep black, green, shades of yellow, all up and down my outter thigh.

But don’t let that amaze you. This is the true injury of that day. Once we had cleaned away the evidence of the fight and things calmed down, I was allowed to call my boyfriend. Or maybe he called me. I don’t know. But we were allowed to talk, I was allowed to accept his apology and shake your head, he was allowed to come over to say he was sorry and sit down with my parents to listen to scripture. The four of us sat down at our kitchen table so that my dad could read scripture somehow pertaining to the day’s events, like that was somehow going to make it all right. We nodded our heads, lowering our eyes as my dad led us in prayer, AND THEN I WAS FUCKING ALLOWED TO GO OUT WITH MY BOYFRIEND THAT NIGHT. What the hell. We went out that night and did whatever it was we usually did. Sex of course. I got to show him my newly colored leg. I got to demonstrate to him that it didn’t matter what the hell he did to me I was still his. I got to experience my parents setting the bar as low as low could go for what was acceptable treatment of me. I got to be reminded that no treatment of me was off limits. Say you are sorry, read some damn scripture and we are back to business.

There is really nothing to be surprised by, however. I mean, look, my dad had treated me just as badly, he had treated all of us kids with force that resulted in injury, the same for my mom. So now another male steps foot into the story and we are supposed to hold him to a higher standard? Why? How? Of course that would not be possible. But fuck. Seriously. Nothing like some intense reinforcement regarding what treatment you can expect to receive… and accept.

Is it any wonder I was asking if I could get some help? Is it any wonder that help was denied me? Is it any wonder I have very strong feelings regarding the church? Hell, my leg has a permanent physical scar from being smashed between my boyfriend’s car and it’s wall. That injury is still present but it doesn’t stop me from living my life, whereas the emotional injury has been harder to clean up.

I have more, a lot more on this relationship. Let’s see if I have any energy tomorrow to continue with it. It’s important I think. When a girl is abused by her father, not protected by her mother and goes on to become sexually active and romantically involved at a younger age it can be disastrous with consequences. Fast forward to having a daughter the age I was then, I know how vitally important it is for her to have a positive and strong relationship with her father that is healthy and appropriate. It is a protection against her going out to seek love and affection from a man in an inappropriate and unhealthy manner. I don’t know if I could say anything with more truth and conviction.

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