Buckle up, bitches. This is my rebellion.
Let me explain.
I’m the good girl. The first born. The people pleaser. The put-myself-last-er. Ever quiet, ever polite, ever thoughtful, ever reaching for perfection and never quite getting there; always just shy of attaining it…except when I did, and just didn’t realize it.
I was actually amazing at a lot of things, really smart, and fucking hilarious, if I do say so myself, but I was taught to be humble, and so I’d never admit that, not back then, anyway. But none of that was important in high school: being popular was, and that meant being thin and gorgeous and having boyfriends to go to dances with. So when I was still single at the half-way point of my junior year, my accomplishments took a big ol’ back seat to the fact I never had been.
My first relationship came at the end of that 11th grade year, to the guy I’d had a three-year crush on. I had just dropped 50lbs in around three months thanks to a hideous self-image, a major undiagnosed depression, and starvation. He was older, and to be honest, I remember thinking I was only noticeable now that I was thin, and because he’d gone through most of the other girls around. It didn’t bother me that he’d graduated a few years before. It didn’t bother me that he’d dated 7th graders as a senior. It should have.
Eight-years later (a year after agreeing to marry him, two years after finding out about an affair with a girl who was barely legal, a nervous breakdown, and the start of medication that piled on the pounds like Santa piles on presents), I gave him back his ring. When he proposed on Christmas morning, with his mom there taking pictures, I didn’t want to say yes because I didn’t trust him. It didn’t feel right and it hadn’t for years, even before the girl. But I said yes anyway. I knew when we put the deposit down on the reception venue that we’d lose it. But I did it anyway. I found a dress I wasn’t thrilled with, and put a deposit on that, as well. When my gut would not stop screaming at me to ask about other girls I had been suspicious of, I finally asked. He finally admitted. I took off my ring and handed it back to him. He cried, pathetically and hysterically. He begged me to stay. I refused. I felt relief.
And overwhelming grief for breaking his heart.
I never cheated, and I was a good girlfriend, but I hurt him, and that was something this good girl did not do. Starting up with someone new almost immediately after the breakup helped to distract me from the remorse, at least in my waking hours, but for years, the dreams were ferocious, and mostly the same: we were back together, and I didn’t want to be, but I didn’t want to hurt him, so I stayed. I’d wake up terrified, sweating, and then thankful it wasn’t real.
I’d soon find out that my reality with the new guy was far worse than any nightmare.
He was too charming, too handsome, too intelligent, and he wanted me. He chose me. And I fell for it. I fell for it for around six years, but it took me ten to escape. The first guy had around six or seven other girls—this guy (I know now) had well over 100, and no, that’s no exaggeration. The first guy didn’t care what I wore—this guy wouldn’t let me leave the house if he didn’t approve of my shoes. The first guy begged me to eat—this guy would go through a drive-through and not let me order because, he said, I was overweight. I could have fast food when I lost weight and earned it. The dapper, protective knight I ran to was quickly nowhere to be found, but I waited there for him to come back for years. If I was better, if I looked better, if I was more of what he wanted, I’d get glimpses of him again, and those breadcrumbs were enough to keep me right where he wanted me.
Why didn’t I tell him to fuck off, you ask? I hated him. Most people who knew him did, too. But there are three answers to that incredibly appropriate question: because I was a good girl, because good girls stick with their men, and because no one else would want me. Alone was something I couldn’t deal with. Abuse was, because I had been abusing myself most of my life. It’s what I knew, it was oddly comfortable, and it was less frightening.
In my upcoming book, there’s a poem about self-combustion, and another about deciding to live. It took ten years, but one day, that was it. Boom.
I spent eighteen years with two men who put me dead last.
I’ve been totally single now for three years. I haven’t looked, nor have I been pursued, probably because I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m deliriously happy on my own. I’ll admit that a good part of me is afraid that I’m a bad picker and I’ll make another giant mistake the next time around. But the biggest part of me is just enjoying the discovery of who the hell I am. The last time I was alone with me was when I was sixteen. I spent those vital years of adulthood, when we shift and really grow into ourselves, bending and warping into what I thought I needed to be to keep my men from straying. So while it seems strange for a woman to truly have no drive to find a mate, for me, it’s as natural as breathing.
But you didn’t think I’d let them get away with all of that, did you?
They’re trapped in the pages of my book. I Taylor Swifted them. It’s not pretty.
This is my rebellion. You might want to buckle down.