When I read this quote earlier this week from Alice Hoffman, “Some people know the exact moment when they’ve lost everything. They can look back and see it plain as day and for the life of them they can’t understand why didn’t spot the situation as it was happening” in her book Here on Earth, it shot me back to a time approximately 20 years ago.
I was a junior in high school, trying to find my way in this crazy and unpredictable world, and a new group of girls at school had suddenly inducted me into the unofficial club. They spontaneously smiled joyfully at me when I walked down the drab high school halls instead of pretending I didn’t exist. They invited me to sit with them before school, and they invited me to their house for an after party after a big wrestling meet.
This sounds normal enough. I had plenty of friends; I wasn’t craving attention or so demoralized that I felt I had to do this or lose any chance at life. It was just a new opportunity, and I couldn’t say no. Plus, this new friend group included some girls from other grades, so I thought this would be great. I loved people, and getting to know others outside my normal was exciting to me.
What I didn’t put together was the proximity of my new friends’ house and my new boyfriends’ house. Like next door neighbors close.
I showed up with my new friend, excited to have talked my parents into a night away a few towns over. Instead of her house, we went next door to her friend’s house. No big deal, right?
Not only was this her friends’ house, it was my new boyfriend of two days’ house.
I walked into a party scene. Everyone else had started the party much earlier than I had arrived, and there was evidence of such strewn all about the room.
My gut coiled and my stomach soured.
At that time I didn’t drink. Not only did I not drink, but I was scared to death of drinking. I knew how it could change people, take normal loving people and turn them into monsters for a few hours. I didn’t want to become a monster. And now I was in a room full of potential monsters.
I was scared.
I called my mom. She wouldn’t come pick me up so far away. She had no idea what was going on, and I wasn’t about to tell her.
So I braced myself for a long fucking night.
As you may have predicted, but I didn’t, my boyfriend of two days showed up after the meet as well.
Turns out he was just as surprised as I was. The look on my new friends’ faces let me know we had been set up.
That’s kind of where this quote keeps replaying in my head. That night could have been a turning point. If he had been less of a gentleman, or if I had any wild bones at that time, that night could have been the start of something massively wrong or at least an ugly mess.
Instead of something massively wrong or ugly, he put himself aside for the evening and showed me the true beauty of humans.
Instead of joining the party or going to bed after an exhausting day or starting drama over the unexpected set up, he set his selfish wants aside for the evening, read my discomfort with the situation, and removed me from it.
Though removing us from the party scene in effect meant hiding out in his bedroom, it seemed better at the time. In my mind it irrationally seemed safer to have a door between us and the potential monsters, but I was reminded every time my eyes strayed from the tv screen that escape from one discomfort in effect caged myself into another. Oddly I was more comfortable with the other.
That boyfriend and I had never talked about sex or even really kissed, but all the opportunity in the world was right there.
My life could have changed that night.
But it didn’t.
Because he was a gentleman. The kind that don’t get enough recognition this day in age.
Honestly, if he had pursued things I am not 100% sure I would have declined his advances. Anything to get my mind off of my irrational fears, and that anything could have lead to a lifetime of other kinds of fears.
If my boyfriend had been less of a gentleman, we may have made a baby that night. I could have been a 15 year old mother. I could have brought a baby into this world and into a loveless relationship. I could have attempted adult maturity at a time when I had no idea what that term even implied, let alone understood how it tests adult maturity.
So, when I look back, I look back to that night as a two edged sword. I learned (yet again, a lesson I’ve never really learned) to not always trust people and the sting of betrayal. Sometimes people will become your friend because they really want to see their friend or brother happy.
But that night also showed me how the respectful acts of a boyfriend can lead to a life of happiness for both – though separately.
We basically broke up the next day.
We weren’t meant to be. A lifetime together would have been ugly. Hopefully he is happy somewhere out there, and I most definitely know that I am happy now. If I had become pregnant that night, I would never have had the opportunity to pursue my next boyfriend, which turned out to be my husband. I would have missed the opportunity to grow with the man meant for me, creating babies in a loving home with parents that love each other. It’s funny how things work out like that.
I just want to finish this story with a toast.
Cheers to all the respectful men out there who don’t get enough credit. Cheers to those who have not taken the opportunity to hook up knowing it won’t last. Cheers to those who have protected the ladies at vulnerable moments. Cheers to those who have cared for girls that have made mistakes instead of judging or ridiculing them.
From the bottom of my heart, Cheers!