I had a troublesome and lamentable but chaste romantic history before J.
Let me try to explain that…
My first real boyfriend when I was 15 was a lovely boy. He was kind and virtuous and gentlemanly and smart. He’s the first guy I went on a real date with. He was my first kiss. But we were 15 and went to different high schools, which was surprisingly problematic in the early 1990s. Because our entire relationship was an odd weekend one of us (always him because my parents were preoccupied with my preschool aged brother and never interested much in accommodating me anyway) could talk a parent into driving us somewhere to semi-privately hold hands, and talking on the phone, which wasn’t awesome for me as a verbally awkward introvert with social anxiety. He was good to me, but logistics and life ended things. It was just easier to date someone he could see more of. We were 15. It’s not like I expected lifelong commitment, and I’m sure he didn’t either. And we are still casual friends. Like…if I saw him out holiday shopping I would say hello and be happy to see him, and I’d show him photos of J and The Boy, and he’d show me pictures of his long-time girlfriend and their dogs and we’d talk about work and family and maybe even politics and who knows…maybe we’d even make a plan to have dinner with J and his girlfriend somewhere if he’d be in town.
But after him? Yeah…it was ALL weird and strange and uncomfortable and arguably (or inarguably) bad.
I dated several boys who didn’t want to tell anyone we were dating.
They were ashamed of me. They didn’t want their friends to find out.
So I let them keep me a secret.
I thought that was the only way I could be connected. As a secret.
I thought that was all I deserved.
I dated several boys who fairly consistently pressed for more progress with physical intimacy. Didn’t let this guy go to third base? He broke up with me soon after that.
So I let the next guy go to third. Because I thought that was the only way I could be connected. By being accommodating to what the boy I dated wanted, without regard for any anxiety I felt. Feeling anxiety there was MY problem. Right?
But then the guy I let go to third broke up with me when I stopped him from heading for home. And he’s not the only guy who made that choice.
I learned that I didn’t deserve love and romantic connection until I was ready to go all the way. Because I thought that’s how it worked. That to get the connection I wanted and keep the connection I wanted, I needed to give up sex, and if I wasn’t ready for that, I must not be ready for romantic connection or commitment at all. That was a requirement to GET the connection. And I thought there was something wrong with me for sure, because I was wired backwards. I wanted the connection and the commitment first.
When I began online dating, several guys talked to me for a few days of messaging and then disappeared after seeing what I looked like.
I learned that my intellect and humor were attractive, but my appearance wasn’t. So maybe I didn’t deserve an attractive man, or maybe not ANY man, as a partner.
And man after man who wanted to see me despite all the obvious flaws and shortcomings I’d learned I had, very nakedly ran when they found out I was a virgin. ‘Too much work.’ ‘High maintenance.’ ‘Prude.’ ‘She definitely expects commitment right away…probably waiting until she’s married…religious nut…’
Three men before J was a guy I knew was healthy and nice enough, and I honestly thought to myself, ‘I’ll just do this and get it over with and then…’
I’m so glad, looking back, that he was too much of a flake to even give me the follow through on a date I was prepared to go all the way on. What a huge mistake that would have been. The anxiety complications that would have cropped up…it makes me cringe to imagine them. Not to mention what if the birth control failed? That’s always a possibility unless it’s a permanent surgery situation. And a very rare 25 year old single man has made THAT call for himself.
Two men before J was a guy who lied about something that was immediately obvious as a lie the second I saw him on the date I met him out for. He lied to me. I understood why he lied, but I’ve never really taken much to being lied to. It creates A LOT of anxiety. I was also not physically attracted to this man at all once I met him (and it probably was at least partially because of the lying). But despite those things, I went out with him twice (and I paid for the second date at a place it wasn’t easy for me to afford or get to…it was over an hour’s drive away), because I thought I ‘owed’ him another date to tell him I didn’t want to see him anymore in the kindest, easiest-on-him, most-beneficial-to-him possible way. Because I’d learned that dating was for my date’s pleasure and that mine didn’t matter.
The man immediately before J was a guy who wanted to meet me, sight unseen, went further physically than I wanted to go, and when I told him he was making me uncomfortable told me he could never see himself with a woman like me anyway. I kind of felt like I’d gone back in time to the boys who wanted more physical attention, but this time, it was confirmed, ‘There’s no romantic/committed/connected future for you unless you…’
Nothing terribly traumatic happened to me dating men before J. (And I am grateful for that, despite feeling somewhat disgusted that that’s a thing I feel grateful for…that I WASN’T assaulted or dangerously stalked or faced with some other awful consequence of associating with men in the dating world).
But he definitely stood out when we met.
And he still does.