i have always been in a relationship. there were the kindergarten crushes and the flirtatious pranks on the playground in elementary school, but i would say the pattern started the summer before sixth grade. coincidentally, or rather not coincidentally at all, right around the time i had to explain to my mother that my bowels had unknowingly betrayed me. a mortifying moment of confusion for which i needed to seek expert counsel.
they don’t warn you that blood is not always red when you are learning about menstruation in the fifth grade. they don’t warn you about the irrational waves of emotion that follow either.
interest in the opposite sex gets magnified. it takes all your energy, suddenly. and then, you have your first “boyfriend.”
there is no preconceived notion of what this person looks like, body or mind. you naturally find the person who makes you feel good and you “date” him or her.
mine was an athlete and overall smartass. descendant from nigeria. a “dormer” at the private day and boarding elementary school we attended.
we held hands and wrote letters and drew pictures for each other. we walked down to the soccer field together and swayed awkwardly with arms on shoulders at school dances. we eventually were peer pressured into kissing on the lips at someone’s birthday party, with everyone watching.
and then, you have your first break-up.
oof. whether you are 13 or 30, it still sends you into a new and unknown space. this realm of self-doubt and complete certainty that something is wrong with you.
she was a new boarding student from korea.
this was right around the time i started writing poetry (if it can be called that). again, probably not coincidentally, due to the overwhelming onset of emotions that i was feeling on this journey to womanhood called puberty.
these poems are hilariously angsty. my first journal has ballet shoes on the cover and was given to me by my sister when i was sick one time. inside my name and his name are written with a plus sign in between and an = ❤ at the end. in a different color ink (signifying a passing of time) there are words formed from the letters of our name. acrostic. a poetic form learned in my third grade poetry unit.
and then, you reach high school.
for some this transition is underwhelming. you move from your run-down public middle school building across the street to the run-down public high school building with the bigger football field. the halls are filled with all the same faces as the halls were filled with before.
for me this transition was a bit more meaningful.
i moved from a private school with an eighth grade class of 14 to a public school with a freshman class of 428. or 457. i can’t remember important details like that these days.
i got my very first locker. i got to choose some of my classes for the very first time. i got to be the new girl for the very first time. and being the new girl is an interesting role when you are 14 and surrounded by hormonal teenage boys.
whether new is better or not, it is the allure of something different and unknown that sparks our interest. we learn “the chase” instinctively.
i had three suitors for the fall homecoming dance. i went to the event with one of them. then a few weeks later started dating one of the other ones who had gone with my good friend.
and then, you lose your girlfriend over your boyfriend.
luckily, in my case, she forgave me, and we are still good friends all these years later. but, this is not always the case as i learned in my college years. inevitably, we all face this situation. you fall for your friend’s lover. taylor swift writes a song about playing the platonic best friend role while hiding your true emotions called “you belong to me” and makes millions. because we can all relate.
of course, you immediately end up breaking up with the boy you risked your friendship for because you are young and fickle and still have no idea what you want or need. but, you are starting to.
that clean, untouched block of wood you started with as a child is beginning to be slowly whittled away. every person you date from here on out carves the specifications of your perfect mate a little deeper.
we use high school to determine who we think we are and what we think we want to be. this includes who we want to be with.
after that first epic two year “relationship” with my middle school boyfriend, i dated the:
- boy next door redhead lifeguard who was my friend’s older brother’s friend and promised to make me the princess of the camaro he planned to buy one day
- overly jealous sweetheart soccer player who punched sidewalks when he saw me talking to other boys and spent his drivers ed savings to buy me a white gold necklace with my birthstone
- class clown token black guy in our upper-class mainly white suburban school who made me laugh and gave me sock ‘em boppers and an easy bake oven for my 16th birthday
- baseball and basketball player who relied on his wit to woo me and let me illegally drive his brand new ford explorer
- somewhat shy, silly, intelligent state champion swimmer who quickly became what i now deem as my first love
(note to all those who just got summarized in a sentence: you are worth way more words but this post is already pushing 1,500 so i had to simplify.)
none of them were like the others. they were and still are completely different types of people. in looks, in personalities, in upbringings. and it was these extreme differences that whittled away at my wood block enough to show some semblance of a shape.
and then, you go to college.
by this point, my heart had thoroughly been shattered by that final two year high school relationship. i also had a vision of the kind of person i wanted to spend the rest of my life with. the blank slate was gone. i was searching for someone to fit into a mold. i made a list of the attributes i wanted. i watched “practical magic” and crafted my own man that i would will into existence. he didn’t need to have one blue eye and one brown eye, but there was definitely a clear definition of who i wanted this person to be.
you can’t always get what you want.
to be continued…