As though to ensure that I was getting the most bang out of my shadow working buck, I started remembering things last night that I had long since forgotten. What startled me about this was that it related to the ex-boyfriend who, fortunately or otherwise, set the blueprint for my future relationships. While I was very busy attempting to fall asleep after a very long day, my mind had other ideas in mind and so, I went back to my sixteen-year-old self and got to relive things I had never thought of.
This started because I was irritated by the horror movie stereotype of their being an odd number of high school friends (who invariably end up mostly dead). The movie I fell asleep watching had seven friends: four guys and three girls. I was irritated by this because, for half of my high school career, there were six of my friends. And while there was inter-dating amongst the six of us, it was mostly A and her boyfriend, J and her boyfriend, and then myself and P, platonically (though everyone thought we had been dating since freshman year). I had dated P, I remembered, but briefly…
…and then in that sort of shadow lit haze my mind takes up before falling asleep, I went back to that sixteen-year-old girl who was desperately attracted to the blond-haired bad boy. The one who would help to mold me into the woman I would become, for better or worse, and he seemed very much attracted to my best friend, J.
I don’t know if I reached out to P in an effort to be not-alone while all of my friends were with someone and/or were desired by someone. I know that he and I dated very briefly that year. I think it was about a two week, all told, relationship. And it was before I even knew what date rape was, so my mindset was relatively okay. (I say relatively because I was acting out in ways that weren’t like me at all so subconsciously, I knew and understood that something bad had happened.)
P changed for me, which scared the absolute crap out of me. He was the kind of guy who wouldn’t demand compromise or force you to change, which was good. However, he was the kind of guy who would change for you. He was also the first boyfriend I had with a full on beard and mustache combination and it was very strange kissing him. What made it even weirder was that it was very much like kissing my brother. No dice.
But just because I wasn’t interested didn’t mean that he wasn’t interested. Even though he kind of, but definitely knew that I was very attracted to his best friend, the long-term relationship guy, he was still very interested in getting me into a relationship. I honestly don’t know if it was me that he liked or if it was something about me that he liked or if he was just a guy who wanted a girlfriend. I honestly don’t know and probably never will – P and I haven’t spoken in nearly ten years now for reasons – but while he was willing to let me break up with him, he wasn’t exactly not-willing to not try to get back with me.
If that sentence makes any fucking sense.
SO WHAT I MEAN is that P wanted to get back with me, even though I was more interested in getting with his best friend.
The thing is that I don’t think I ever said, emphatically, why I was breaking up with him. If I had said, “You frightened me because you shaved off all of your facial hair because it tickled me,” or if I had said, “you’re like my brother and this is borderline incest to me even though we’re not related at all,” things probably would have been okay? And I think that we could have had a decent friendship still. But I was worried about preserving that friendship so I didn’t say anything about that at all, but merely said I wasn’t ready to be in a relationship.
So, I kind of left it open a little that we would maybe get back together even though I was OBVIOUSLY MAKING EYES at his best friend.
I knew how to be subtle after having done the unrequited love thing for a year. (I thought I loved the guy and my mother was pretty sure I did, too, and maybe I did, but things and stuff.) And I knew that I had to play it weirdly subtle with P’s best friend, AKA long-term relationship guy, because he and I had been not enemies but not even remotely friendly for the previous two years, so I had to be like subtle and moody about all of that.
It was very weird, for me, to discover that someone who I didn’t seem to like was actually a really likeable guy. We had a lot in common. We were kindred spirits with outcast like mentalities, obsessions for dark poetry and prose, and as Goth as you could get without actually being Goth (I think.) So, I was already freaked out by the fact that I liked him as a person and I was even more freaked out when I realized how fucking jealous I was when he confided in me that he wanted to get into a relationship with my best friend. That was, actually, my first clue that I liked him in that more than friends way. And it was even stranger because I felt that tinge of jealousy when I was dating his best friend.
I’ll tell you what, now that I’m looking back. Having a really close knit pack of friends is okay and whatnot for high school but it can also be REALLY complicated. My group of friends was really complicated. It was my junior year that we began bringing in more friends, so it got a little less complicated, but at the start of my junior year, it was really just that core six of us with outliers, such as long term relationship guy and a few others, but mostly it was just the six of us. And it was really fucking complicated…
Perhaps I dumped P with the knowledge that I wanted to pursue his best friend and didn’t want to hurt him, but I’m not completely sure if that’s legitimate. What I do know is that he freaked me out when he shaved his face for me and it was like kissing my brother when we kissed. He was like the backup guy to take me out to a dance if I really wanted to go to one, and we actually did end up going to the semi-formal together that year. He was my friend more than he would ever be anything else, to me, and that, I think, is the main reason why I broke up with him even if I couldn’t have explained that to anyone way back then.
So, in November, I spent a lot of time with long-term relationship guy, moodily trying to figure out how to make it obvious that I was interested. It was only around then that I realized that I had been raped because someone else told me, so I had to contend with the ramifications of that (which I kept to myself for about a month or more) as well as dealing with hormonal surges from being a teenager as well as dealing with jealousy of my best friend, worry about hurting P if anything happened between his best friend and I, and everything else in between. Like, now that I am writing it out, it’s really a wonder how teenagers don’t end up going insane with all of these emotions and hormones. And it’s really a wonder that I, myself, didn’t end up losing my fucking shit while going through those emotions and hormones while also trying to assimilate the idea that I had been date raped.
Just… for fuck’s sake, the first semester of junior year was some fucked up shit all the way around, no matter how I look at it.
I remember that I skipped school on the half day before Thanksgiving. And I remember that I had been hanging out with long-term relationship guy and we had a really cool idea about meeting up with P at his bus stop. So, we went to his bus stop and we went over to P’s house because there was no one there and we all wanted to just hang out and be friends together.
And that’s not what happened at fucking all.
I don’t know if anyone, outside of myself, realizes how really fucking intense it can be when you’re hanging out with two guys. One of whom is interested in you and the other of whom is interested in your best friend but appears to maybe also be interested in you as well now that you had hung out enough times to establish that there was a baseline of attraction. IT’S REALLY FUCKING INTENSE. And what makes this even more fucking ridiculous is that the three of us had all hung out before as friends and it was fine, but for some reason, shit was fucking real that day.
P made a move.
I neither consented nor voiced my non-consent.
This is the key moment here and this, I think, is the point behind this shadow work. It wasn’t, specifically, long-term relationship guy that ended up making my consent button not-work anymore. It was an issue before him, but I had just forgotten this moment in time because everything that came after it was even more intense than my fucked up and shitty and asshole-filled first semester of junior year.
The three of us went upstairs and watched TV or something. And I was lying across the bed, falling the fuck asleep because I think more happened that day that made my emotional roller coaster of fucked up shit even worse than normal – I think I know what incident it was but I’m not 100%. In either case, I was fucking exhausted at that point and I just wanted to fucking nap. So, I was lying full across the bed on my stomach and I was blearily looking out P’s window and he was lying beside me, but partially over my back and his best friend was lying right next to me on his stomach, too.
And P kissed the back of my neck.
I remember his kisses – they were very cautious, but they were also very not-cautious if that makes any fucking sense.
And alarm bells were going off in my head.I closed my eyes and turned my head away and reached out with my hand and clasped his best friend’s hand in mine, squeezing as much as I could. I don’t think he realized why I was holding his hand at all at first and I don’t think he fully realized what the hell was going on behind him because he wasn’t looking in my direction. I had my eyes closed so tightly and I was thinking, stop, stop, stop, stop, no, no, no, don’t do that. Say something but how do I say no without making it clear I’m not interested and I will ruin our friendship and no no no no no no. I remember enough to remember worrying about our friendship and how this would impact us as friends.
I don’t know if my worrying about his emotional state if I rejected him is normal when it comes to people in similar situations? I just know that I was absolutely fucking worried about how this would impact him. I guess, in one way, that’s really selfless and amazing, or something. But on the other hand, it goes to show what I was usually thinking when it came to failing to give consent or to reject the advances: I was too busy worrying about what they would think or feel if rejected. My emotional state in the aftermath of said occurrences didn’t merit, but theirs did.
Is that rape culture at work or is it just a really fucked up self-esteem problem?
In either case, now that I think about it, this moment crystallizes and clarifies, I think, the underlying issue when it comes to consent. I’m too worried about others to actively take care of myself in any meaningful way. Again, let me reiterate: in my head, my own emotional state of that moment and after that moment doesn’t merit a fucking second thought, but the boys who did things I didn’t consent to did merit a lot of fucking thoughts on the topic. So maybe fucking thoughts that I fucking never even voiced a yea or a nay; I just closed my eyes and silently wished it would stop.
Well, now, that’s some fucked up shit.
In this instance, I didn’t have to do much more. When I squeezed his hand hard enough to rub bones together, the long-term relationship guy turned over and saw what was happening. I may have looked at him, begging with my eyes, but I honestly can’t remember. He saw what happened and managed to firmly put a stop to it. (He ended up shoving his best friend off and lying on top of me so that I was completely covered head to foot and commenting about how that was how you cuddled a chick to make her feel safe. So, he cock blocked his best friend for me – at my silent request – and also crushed the ever loving shit out of me, which made me happy as hell because, you know, hormones and emotions.)
It was at this moment, maybe, that I fell in love with long-term relationship guy. At that moment in time, he was in tune enough with me to recognize what I needed without my having to say it. And that, to me, meant a lot more than anything else. Later, when we were in a relationship, he would often check in with me to be assured that what was happening was okay. For all intents and purposes, he did a really good fucking job checking in with someone as emotional frazzled as I was.
It just didn’t stick.
Or maybe he got complacent.
Or maybe I got even worse about consent.
Or maybe we were both really fucking young and fucked in the head.
In either case, long-term relationship guy wasn’t exactly the reason I had an issue with consent. He compounded the problem when he stopped checking in and stopped verifying that I had given permission to move forward. No, clearly, it’s something that I had an issue with before that, as evidenced by his best friend and the one-off guy before that and the kid when we were both nine-years-old.
In the instance with P, it was for fear of what our friendship would end up like if I said something. (Which was dumb as shit of me because it got a little strained when I did start dating his best friend.) In the instance of that one-off dude, it was fear of being unwanted that stayed my tongue. In that moment when I was nine, I think, it was fear of what he would do to me if I didn’t just do the thing. The point being that I’ve (A) had this issue for a long time and (B) reasons varied from individual scenario to individual scenario.
The lesson I should have learned with P was that I mattered enough to have a say in what was happening to me. The lesson I learned was, instead, that if I reached out long enough, something magical would happen and I would be saved.