Wow. All this mental unburdening is quite the thing. I just want to spill the beans on everything to get the sense of peace it gives me afterwards. I should have done this years ago.
Once I had experienced the attention that boys could give me, I needed it all the time. After the first foursome date I arranged and the loss of my virginity at 15, came another boyfriend. He was needier than I could handle – the irony was that I wanted all the love and attention, but when I got it it made me feel like the boy was weak and pathetic. I was destined to end up chasing bad guys (who I’m certain I would have rejected had they behaved better and declared their love), and feeling suffocated by the guys who were actually capable of showing me love.
My parents never displayed any kind of physical affection towards me, so I found it oppressive to be pawed at, but I also criticised anyone who didn’t demonstrate they loved me physically. When my new boyfriend stated “I love you” in a wobbly voice at the end of one of our phone calls, I ran a mile.
I ended it and got straight into a relationship with a Turkish boy who lived nearby. He was 15 and a complete novice around girls, so at first he seemed sweet and charming.
Because I was so ashamed of having already slept with someone, I made the mistake of telling him I was still a virgin (as he was). We slept together just before my 16th birthday. By this point his controlling personality had started to emerge. He wanted to dictate what I wore, how I behaved, and where I went.
In the new year, a friend from school started to spend more time with me and him and his friends. We would all hang around together in parks or at whoevers house had an absent parent. We were all children of separated parents who worked, left unsupervised too often.
My friend told my boyfriend I kept a diary and he became obsessed with it. Between them they hatched a plan for her to ask me to go shopping after school and for him to go to our house to steal the diary.
Only my younger brother, 9, was home, and he unwittingly let my boyfriend into the house where he stole the diary and left.
I don’t know if you can imagine how utterly shameful it is to have your diary exposed to the public. These days it would have gone on facebook or something, so at least I can be thankful that wasn’t the case back then.
Worst of all were my deepest secrets about how I had lost my virginity already. My boyfriend called my house and screamed at my Dad that he might have AIDS (which was all over the news constantly).
I wanted to die of shame. I felt sick inside. I turned to my mum and for the first and probably only time ever, she stood up and became a proper parent. She drove me to his house, confronted his mum and asked for the diary back.
You’d think that would be the end of it – but he seemed upset that we had split up. He hung around our house waiting to talk to me, and we ended up back together. The following months were a mess of on/off while he played around with other girls everywhere, including my friend who had set up the diary theft and treated me like a possession of his, verbal abuse and humiliation being his favourite way to reduce me to tears. In a ridiculous teenage stunt to get him to pull in line, I told him I thought I was pregnant (I knew I wasn’t). He told everyone, and then when I said a few days later I wasn’t he told everyone I had had an abortion. Yeah. What a total prick.
With hindsight I can see so clearly how at each step of our relationship I could have done it differently and just walked away. But I didn’t seem to be able to.
In the end, it was circumstance that got me away. My parents divorce came through, both my parents moved away and I was taken in by a kind set of parents whose daughter was my friend so I could do my A-levels. Meeting up became impossible living under a stable family roof and his volatile personality had become an embarrassment to me.
I moved on. Lucky, very lucky.
I was left very emotionally bruised, defensive, angry and ashamed after over a year of allowing him to derail my life. So instead of learning from it, and admitting I had dated a total loser for so long, I covered it up. New home, new friends. Nobody needed to know.
But inside I was a mess. And more mess followed.
How I Feel Now
Retelling this now makes me feel so sad, more than anything. I had so little self-respect and needed affection so badly, I would take anything offered. My parents were pretty much absent, in the midst of sorting out a divorce, both of them out of the house for long hours (doing god knows what), and they did practically zero parenting. I was left, with my 9 year old brother, to navigate personalities that I had no idea how to deal with. I had no support, no sounding board, and no supervision at all. I could stay out all night and my parents wouldn’t ask where I’d been. I was clubbing til 2am every weekend and I don’t think they ever asked where I was going. I was alone and doing the best I could with a very poorly equiped toolbox.
It’s been hard dredging up these memories, but they are me. They are my history. I can’t pretend they aren’t and it’s wrong to try to be someone else. So, welcome back to the real me. I dated a total arsehole for over a year and let him treat me like dirt because I was so short on real love and affection.
Breaking free of a shitty relationship is tough when all you have is emptiness to go back to. My parents gave me nothing, so crumbs of affection from a turd were a better option.
My own shame and lack of self-love left me open to exploitation and actually, I am lucky it wasn’t much worse.
It amazes me now the clarity with which I can see that covering it up as my “shameful past” stopped me from learning how to create a better future. I repeated the same mistakes over and over and over again.
But I didn’t know I needed parental love. Back then I thought I didn’t care about my parents and a relationship with a boy could make me whole. I couldn’t really have known any different until I became a parent myself and the vast blackness of missing love became as clear and obvious as headlights in the night.
I always thought that the things that happened to me did so because I was a failure, faulty, promiscuous, stupid, etc. When I compared myself to all the other girls who had stable family homes I couldn’t understand how I could be so dirty while they stayed so clean and shiny. I see now that we were all the same – we were all teenage girls – I just had no rules, no guidance and no emotional connection with anyone to show me the path I could have taken. It is dark in the woods on your own, and wrong turnings are just wrong turnings. Nothing more.