Not everything in my life is terrible. Maybe you’ll find this cliché, or sappy, or stupid, or whatever, but I’ve been in a relationship now for over a year now.
I don’t mean to say that nearly a year and a half is a significant amount of time. In reality, it’s not very long at all. But for someone who has never been in a relationship, this being my first, it seems just a bit remarkable. Maybe that’s just me. I guess that’s for you, imaginary reader, to decide.
Sometimes my life is full of such strange coincidences that I wonder if there is any such thing. Does that make sense? My boyfriend is one of them. He says he liked me ever since high school. High school was… a bad time, to put it lightly. I went out of my way to make myself as unappealing as possible in high school, just so people would leave me alone.
Partially. Part of that behavior was also a result of low self-esteem (like every other high school girl possesses), and my own challenge to the universe.
As far as low self-esteem goes, I’ve always been more of a tomboy. I don’t think anyone believes me when I say I never had a crush before my junior year of high school. But it’s true. I even went as far as lying about having a crush when I was in elementary school, just because I felt abnormal.
I’ve never really been attracted to people in the traditional sense. Sure, I can admit when someone is pretty or handsome, but that has never influenced my perception of that person. And I’m sure this is thrown around a lot, but I am genuine when I say that personality is everything to me. My first and only real crush was on a boy who was far from attractive. As tall as me (5’4″-ish), big nose, face plagued with acne… that was him. But I liked him because, although he was so awkward, he was so comfortable with himself. He embodied what I wanted to feel about myself. I knew I wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world. I knew I was weird. But I was always so uneasy about it. So paranoid and upset and disappointed. But he embraced who he was. And it was just so nice to be around someone like that.
I can pinpoint the exact moment in time when my self-esteem died. It’s when I noticed I was getting boobs. Although small and nearly unnoticeable, to me they were hideous, disgusting, and embarrassing. And I noticed that if I slouched, they were harder to detect. So I started forcing myself to slouch. Needless to say, I don’t have to force myself anymore. I have a lovely curvature in my spine as a result. I would wear baggy sweatshirts no matter the weather; hot or cold, rain or shine.
Eventually, this evolved. I typically went through phases of how I wore my hair; for a while, I would adamantly keep it down; other times, I would always keep it up in a ponytail. By the sixth grade, it was permanently in a ponytail. That lasted all through high school and into my first year of college.
On top of this, I refused any sort of cosmetic, except concealer to hide my horrible skin. I didn’t pluck my eyebrows, use chapstick, lotion, anything. I never wore (or wear, even to this day, my junior year of college) shorts, therefore leaving me borderline albino. I bit(e) my nails. I disdained any form of jewelry. No dresses, no skirts. Nothing nice or remotely girly. This was me.
And this was the hopeless challenge I sent out into the universe. I said: “Here is me, in my rawest, ugliest, most unattractive form. I dare you to have someone who likes this. Who will like me.” And I knew that it was impossible. I had made it impossible. In addition to my appearance, I spoke out against men and relationships; how stupid and pointless they both were. My insecurity became my barricade, but at the same time, it also became a tiny whisper to the darkness, a tiny wish.
According to various friends, there had indeed been people who had liked me. I was just too oblivious to notice. My boyfriend-to-be was one of them. I came to know of his existence in my trigonometry class, also known as my personal Hell on earth. He was the one of the few who could stand up to and put up with my demon teacher’s horridness. I told a friend about him one day, and miraculously she knew him. I told her to tell him he was my hero, and soon enough, he was sitting with me every day at breakfast. Every day. I never thought anything of it. According to him, he would stare at me nearly the entire time.
It wasn’t until after graduation and a few months into college that we started talking. Well, he would talk to me, on Facebook mostly. We finally met up sometime in March, had some awfully awkward get-togethers, and by August we had kissed.
This may sound strange, but we started dating at a very convenient and inconvenient time simultaneously: when my life first started falling apart. I had just transferred from my first college (a private, all-girls, liberal arts college) to a public college in downtown Atlanta for financial reasons. I was not too happy about it. Family issues were abundant after we found out about our stepfather’s insane number of affairs. And by the following summer, we were being evicted from our home. I had to give my beloved dog away because she couldn’t fit in the moving truck. All the money I had made working two jobs over the summer was lost with a single mouse click, as I used all of it to pay for school I thought would be covered by my scholarship. Unfortunately, the state had passed reforms on said scholarship, and I had lost about $1000 worth of aid I so desperately needed.
My boyfriend became the single thread left intact in the curtain of my life, which I desperately hung onto, cartoonishly dangling from a metaphorical balcony.
Regardless of all the credit I give him, which is aptly deserved, there is still some lingering paranoia and disappointment I harbor in regards to him. He wasn’t exactly the best person before dating me (not that I am saying I had anything to do with the transformation). He’s stolen. He’s lied. He’s done drugs. He’s used girls, fucking just to fuck. He claims to feel little to no regret. And all of this still, to this day, terrifies me. Makes me sick to my stomach. Even when I asked a friend her thoughts before we started dating, she said she’d never date him because he was “always doing stupid shit.” He doesn’t do any of this now. But the real thing that scares me more than anything is knowing what he’s capable of.
And he is capable of all those terrible, awful things. Who’s to say he won’t do them again? My personal history, my experiences, prevent me from placing any total and absolute trust in anyone, including him. When he was dropping me off at the airport this holiday season, we joked about him getting to hang out with his other girlfriends now that I was leaving. He asked me, “Do you really think I would cheat on you?” And I answered honestly: “I hope not.”
I find myself somewhat justified by the fact that he’s always had girls chasing after him. A woman randomly came up to him in a grocery store and asked if he was donating his sperm. Just recently, a new receptionist at his job lifted his number from the company’s system and called him three time in one day. The third time she called, it was after midnight, and the two of us were trying to go to sleep in his bed. He got upset when I ignored the call instead of letting it finish ringing, because you can tell by how long it rings if the person is ignoring you. I just wanted to turn off the obnoxious, loud ringtone. I play all of these things off as funny, so I don’t seem like that crazy girlfriend (because that is the one thing I desperately try to avoid), but this incident was less than reassuring. He tried to get me to look him in they eye when he told me he’d never do such a thing. That there was nobody like me. That I was the girl of his dreams. But no matter how many time he says that, no matter how sincerely, how adamantly, I don’t think I’ll ever believe him.
Why? Because I know what he is capable of, and what everyone else is capable of. I expect misfortune and betrayal at regular intervals. I just feel it is unwise and immature to expect someone to be able to remain loyal to you forever. Maybe I’m hypocritical, but I don’t apply this to me. But my convictions are the only ones I really, fully know and understand. I’m just filling in the blanks for everyone else, and I’ve always been let down.
For now, though, he has been faithful, he has been kind, and he has been generous. And I love him more than I have anyone else of non-relation. He says he’s in for the “long haul,” I suppose. So for now, I’m just watching and waiting and hoping that he’s different than everyone else, like he’s proven in the past.