Love or something like it during high school is beyond perplexing. Looking back it’s even harder to re-imagine the people we were trying to be—the people we actually we were and the relationships we fused. How those awkward teenage years somehow manage to transform us into the person or socially acceptable thing we needed in order to make it in this world. Turn the clocks back 5 years and I bet you’ll remember a time when the most important part of your week was figuring out how to spend the weekend—whether it be where it was or who it was with—these were the pressing issues of our mind. Throw a little fondling, homework at a scheduled time each night, underage drinking in your parent’s basement, and you’ve got high school pretty much mapped.
When I was seventeen I met a boy named Dane, he was really pretty. Like pretty in the way that even dudes would be hard not to admit there was something attractive about him—easy on the eyes, solid build, he was that quasi-dreamboat persona that most girls dream of dating. For me, high school was weird. I had a good group of friends but I flew under the radar, and preferred it that way, minding my own business and hanging out with people I cared about. That raging party in so and so’s basement-or the field party that happened on Saturday—those were too much for me. I preferred the company of smaller settings and deeper conversations-filled with Smirnoff and cheese of course—call it nerdy, call it lame, I called it my safety net.
Dane fit the “upper” totem pall of high school society rankings, he played lacrosse, (a sport that in my school was considered the breeding ground for ‘kidswhowenttoboardingschoolandhadoodlesofmoney’ bracket.) and while it sorta pains me to look back at it and admit, he did look like something out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. In short, we had a few study sessions together, laughed at a few perfectly timed jokes, and started liking each other. There was no check yes or no if you want to date me slip of paper passed, rather it was a series of random events that led to this courtship. Study sessions turned into hang outs to afterschool food adventures, turned into meeting up at a friend of a friend’s house on Saturday, which in turn found me straddling him in the front seat of a car almost every weekend onwards.
It was fiery, passionate, everything a first high school romance thing should be. Only I never quite understood how we ended up together. In truth, we didn’t have a lot in common. Actually nothing to be honest. He wasn’t the brightest, sure he did well enough in school to get by, but academia land wasn’t he strong point. For me, school was something I enjoyed, something that came natural. We didn’t like the same movies or the same type of music. And when it came to the future, everything trailed off. Physical doesn’t begin to describe a relationship with someone for whom you struggle to fill the pauses. This particular boy never fit the mold of someone I saw myself with or getting to know him on a deeper level was more challenging (and time consuming) than unbuttoning a shirt. Body to body contact made sense-but the whole getting really involved with someone didn’t. He cared when he was suppose to, acted concerned when it was needed, and was someone who was guaranteed to hang out with me every weekend. For the most part it was (an attractive guy was forced to lay on top of me for X amount of time and he really enjoyed it) and I really enjoyed him. We definitely didn’t start out as friends-rather two students who found enough common ground to start some sort of relationship thing and we liked it. Liked it enough to keep it going and only see each other. Over time glimpses of someone real and alive beamed in and out of view. Perhaps it was us shredding some part of our adolescence, but we got closer in ways that eventually did fill those gaps in communication—we began to see ourselves growing up. Not necessarily in the same direction, but growing. I found a friend, a good one. Who was scared and honest about life, who didn’t know what he wanted to be and spilled out insecurities that he never could before. We found something in each other that helped keep our heads above water for the remainder of high school, and my safety net was realigned.
Almost a year into our relationship Dane went to Florida for Spring Break while I went to Europe with my family. A month after our trips I found out (through multiple people) that Dane had hooked up with a mutual friend of ours on his trip and was “waiting for the right time to tell me.” It’s weird breaking up as a teenager—every facet of your life is put under a microscope and exposed to the world. Bad enough I was breaking up with my boyfriend but pretty much our entire class knew about it—and had known about it before I did. Long before. Ouch. What’s hard to wrap our minds around-especially at seventeen-is the cruelty of people we give in to. The trust circle we create at such a vulnerable point in our lives turns out to bite us back. Hard. It was a punch in the gut that made me—like most teenagers—-revaluate the people around me. Plenty of lines are blurred between lust and love and I found myself dangling somewhere on the edge closer to love. Yes, our relationship wasn’t fireworks or over of the moon romance, but it was a love that we created, that I believed was our own. It was an unlikely friendship fused by something bigger than us and forced us to see ourselves from the inside out. The cheating part sucked and robbed me of a relationship that I loved, but it helped me realize I was in love with something else, a connection with someone who allowed me to see them in the entire light. That’s the kind of vulnerability that defines high school and when we find someone who shares in it, recognizes it; then seemingly breaks us out of that unforgivable shell we’ve been hiding in.
Although I ended ties with Dane, it was a hard knot to swallow. Truthfully, I got comfortable with the definition of “us” and the romance that had blossomed in a few short months, disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when I found out the news, devastated is more like it. But not all bad came from the downswing, I did find in myself something worth exploring—the ability to form a connection with someone I never thought would turn into something meaningful. Looking back on it now, I’m still sad the relationship ended the way the did but in a way it helped to mold the choices I made afterwards and onwards. Dane was definitely not the best boyfriend, but he did help me learn about myself , and in a weird way we brought out something in each other that perhaps no one else would have been able to at that age—for that I am grateful.