A Letter to the First Boy I Ever Loved
A Letter Years in the Making
Stephen Chbosky said it best in his novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower: "We accept the love we think we deserve." There is no other way to epitomize a first relationship, or any, for that matter, that don't turn out well. This is a letter that I've written in my head for over five years to the first boy I ever loved when I was fifteen years old. It was love in a juvenile form, but love nonetheless.
A lot of people don't know all this about me and my relationship. Some parts I'm ashamed to admit out loud, but they're part of who I am today; I wouldn't be here had it not been for this experience the reason for the letter in the first place. I'm more of an open book and I can talk about it more freely now that I've accepted it as part of the past - my past - and it's as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
To be clear, I'm not trying to motivate anyone with this or get reactions out of them. This isn't a letter to inspire people to stand up for themselves in their bad relationships. This isn't closure for me, or something that will finally set me free from him. This isn't meant to make people choose the victim of the situation, me or him, and give that person sympathy.
This is just me writing a letter to him, "First," and he actually will probably never see this, and that's okay. For me, it just matters that it's finally written.
I was only fourteen when I first met you the summer before my sophomore year of high school and you were interested in my best friend. The interest was hardly mutual, and I'm sorry that I ever encouraged her to give you a chance. She was awkward and unprepared for a boyfriend, you were an ill fit, and I was naïve. I didn't have feelings for you at the time, and I actually despised you.
You were a year older than me in school, two years chronologically, and I thought it was crazy how you could drive already, had your own car, and maintained a job. I could've sworn you were one of the smartest people I knew, and retrospectively, I see that also wasn't true. You could crunch numbers and solve equations, but that was where your wisdom ended.
Our relationship developed slowly, strangely. When you and my best friend broke up that winter, for some reason you came to me for help and comfort, and I could offer you nothing but support over text. None of it was secret, and maybe that's why I thought it wasn't weird. My best friend knew you sought solace in me as she had, and she didn't think anything of it. She was happy to be rid of you and for the guilt of breaking your heart to transfer to my responsibility. I didn't think anything of it either. No one did.
Until we got to know each other. You told me about your athletics, which seemed like everything requiring strength, your job at a summer landscaping company, your family, your aspirations for college. You became a person to me rather than just "my best friend's ex-boyfriend," and I had never had a boy like that in my life. The experience was entirely new to me, having a boy want to talk to me and ask me how my day was going, and I clung to it. I knew it was wrong to allow myself to develop feelings for someone my best friend had dated not two months before that. That part, I kept to myself.
You and I never saw each other outside of school, we never hung out. Then you asked me if I wanted a ride from school instead of taking the bus home. I jumped at the opportunity for more than one reason.
We flirted, we talked, we joked. We went through the usual steps of starting a relationship, and for me it would've been my first one. I had no idea what I was doing and I just followed your lead. No guy had ever even had a crush on me before (not counting elementary school), so I wasn't about to mess it up. When you asked me to be your girlfriend after school one day next to your locker, I said yes. Four days later, I had my first kiss with my first boyfriend.
Everyone knew we had been getting closer. I didn't blame my best friend for being mad at me and feeling betrayed, even if it was because she thought she should be out of principle. She hadn't liked you when you dated and barely did before you started - at least, that's how I justified it in my head.
My friends didn't know what to do; I was the first one in my group to have a boyfriend. I always imagined that it would be like in the movies where your boyfriend and good friends could hang out and it not be weird. They didn't like you because you were kind of weird, socially awkward, and couldn't joke to save your life. I had ignored all that, but no one else seemed to.
We started dating around Valentine's Day, and even though I thought I would be into romance, I wasn't. You were, though, so I enjoyed the ride with you. We had our first elongated kiss on your couch that February 14th, and I was so uncomfortable that I called my mom and asked her to pick me up (you didn't know; you thought I had to go home for dinner). I thought I was bad at kissing and that making out was gross and weird for everyone, especially the first time you do it. I thought that you knew what you were doing so I had to be the one that was messing it up. I wondered if you hated it at first as much as I did, but I never asked.
You expressed your emotions, you remembered dates, you held my hand without me asking. We met each other's families and everything went smoothly. You were more emotional, in fact, that I thought a guy could ever be. I didn't know what a relationship was supposed to be like, but I had always been strong-minded and knew what I wanted, and in the case of you, what I didn't want. I wasn't ready for any of it: the commitment, the responsibility, the emotion. And you were piling it on me in amounts that I now know weren't normal.
I broke up with you in April, two months later. This was our first breakup.
I came home from school one day, while you were at track practicing for your pole vaulting, and I sat down in front of my computer and wrote you an email. I knew that I would say something stupid - and I had never done this before - so I thought maybe the best way to introduce this subject was the professional approach. When I told my mom, she gave me sympathetic eyes; she had seen this coming.
You called me crying. I didn't know what I expected, but that wasn't it. You begged, and even threatened to end your life. This was absolutely terrifying. In school you would send me text messages about wanting to get hurt at your track meets so that you'd have a different kind of pain to deal with, and the guilt of doing that to you almost killed me. Everyone told me not to take you back, but I didn't know what I wanted; I was completely numb to my own feelings because I was so caught up in yours. I was so concerned that you weren't okay that I read texts you sent me to my parents. I didn't know what to do. This was my first breakup. I didn't know what was normal for a two-month relationship to be terminated.
The guilt reconciled our relationship. A month later, at the beginning of summer, we got back together. And everything was actually okay. You worked at the local pool and got me in for free, so while you lifeguarded I swam and adored my insanely muscular boyfriend from below. My friends, who had supported the breakup, did their best at tolerating you for my sake.
In June, you turned 18 and I turned 16 in July. We went further in our sexual interactions, not because we were older but because it felt right, and I wasn't afraid to tell you this time what I did and didn't like. First and second base, I guess they call it. We were comfortable there, together. If you wanted more, you never pressured me or pushed me. Everything about that part of our relationship was on my terms.
Summer ended and school picked up in the fall, and we had formed a more concrete bond. Sure, we bickered sometimes but nothing that was relationship-threatening or explosive. Everything was fine; we even discussed the future together, and what we would do when you graduated in the spring. You had plans to go to Edinboro University, and for a split second, I wanted to follow you when I would graduate the year after you. I loved you, and even today I think I did. It was the first-relationship-high-school-teenager love, but it was real to me. We were in love, and I thought we could be together for a long time.
We unraveled quickly after that.
We were both athletic in high school. In the fall in particular, I was on the varsity tennis team and you were on the varsity soccer team. You were a very physical person in that you liked being physically active; you loved to work out, play sports, get sweaty. So it wasn't ideal that almost every soccer game you had, you were on the bench. If you were lucky, you were put in for two minutes.
I learned this when I realized you took your anger out from everything on me. Your frustration and anger manifested into how you treated me, regardless of if I did anything. If I defended myself, you came back even harder. You knew exactly how to make me cry, and more often than not, I went to bed with tears streaming down my face.
That's where the fighting started. Then it branched out to things that actually did have things to do with me. It was everything and anything that didn't go your way. If I took a nap while you had free time to talk on the phone. If I didn't say I love you because I was in front of my parents. If I was with my friends. If I didn't stay for your entire soccer game, whether you played or not or no matter what I was doing or had to do that night.
I blame my submission on myself. I didn't want to hurt your feelings or make you break up with me, so I constantly apologized and told you that we were a good idea. No guy had ever wanted me, and you were the only one that had. What if you were the best I could ever get? I was picked on almost every day until early high school, and being with you made that stop. The pain of being unwanted was worse than my relationship. What I didn't realize was that the pain was coming anyway, from the one person who had stopped it in the first place.
All of my junior and your senior year was like this. We fought, we cried, I apologized, we stopped fighting; it was the same cycle every week, which became every couple days and finally every day. I broke up with you a second time for about a day, but it was so insignificant that I don't even know why I did it. You were stressed from all the college stuff you were worrying about essays and transcripts and GPAs, and I thought that was a reasonable excuse for you to take that worrying out on me. You thought you were smarter than me, so it frustrated you when I offered to help you write your essays since I was good at English and you weren't. I always forgot that you liked feeling masculine, and when I threatened that, it made you angry with me.
Since you were such a gym rat, you suggested that I go to the gym and lose some weight. I was comfortable in my body but by no means confident, so I thought that if anyone would know what they were talking about, it'd be you. I wasn't ashamed of my body but I wasn't proud either, and I didn't know what to say. You wrote work out plans for me when I told you I didn't have a gym membership. You asked me if I wanted to hang out, told me to wear comfy clothes, and then would take me to the gym as a "surprise." None of this happened only once. At a certain point, I started lying to you about doing the workouts you made for me, but you knew.
When we lost our virginities to each other in January, on New Year's Eve, our appearances didn't matter. For as horrible as our relationship was at times, this wasn't one of them. It was peaceful and you respected me when it came to those things, so maybe that's why I wasn't opposed to doing it. I was your equal when we did anything sexual, because it was always you doing the work and me reaping the benefits. I was selfish and longed for that attention that you gave me when you kissed me in those moments, so I was reluctant to let it fade. And it's something we can never change, even though for a while after we broke up I wished I could.
And then, all of a sudden, guys started to notice me. Guys at school, guys who were friend with my friends, guys on Myspace. I was being noticed by actual guys who thought I was pretty. The attention was exhilarating. I never cheated, and I never would, but sometimes I wish that I hadn't been so prudish. I knew me and you were never going anywhere. But I didn't know if they were interested in me because I was unavailable and that if I were single, it would be different. I wasn't willing to take a chance on it. I craved being desired by anyone since you barely acknowledged me unless to yell at me or make out with me. Those guys said I was attractive and funny and smart and everything you said I wasn't, and I let them ask me questions and we talked about whatever they wanted. Today, I'm pretty ashamed of it, but back then, I felt unstoppable and irresistible. That's how I knew our relationship wouldn't last.
I never told anyone how our relationship actually was. I was mortified that I let someone treat me this way for so long and I hadn't done to stop it. The more I thought about it, the more that the relationship wasn't worth it anymore. I don't know if you felt that way, too; again, I didn't ask. I didn't want your feelings to influence me to run back to something I knew was wrong. You made everything my fault, and fortunately I stopped believing you. I fought against you harder until you broke me down every time and at that point I only apologized to get past it. I didn't care anymore. I didn't love you anymore.
My junior prom was in April, and I had already resolved to break up with you after that. Prom, to my great surprise, was actually not horrible, considering that all my friends at that point hated you. We were the only couple at my table who didn't end up crying, broken up, or mad at each other. It was practically a miracle.
Your senior semi-formal dance was two weeks later, and I dreaded it the second that prom had ended. I knew I couldn't break up with you before that, because I would look like the bitch who left you without a date on your final high school dance. I bought a dress I hated, let my mom do my makeup strangely, barely did my hair, and showed up with a smile because my friends had gotten invited by his friends as dates and we all stuck together. They were the only reason I was excited at all to go.
You got mad that I didn't want to dance during every slow song. The dance is only four hours, you reminded me countless times, you can't sit out for every song. But I wasn't sitting out; I was just dancing with my friends because the more you criticized what I said, what pictures I wanted to take, what I looked like, the less I cared about if this dance was ruined for you. I thought I owed you everything, for breaking your heart, for having a good prom, for you just being my boyfriend, but that dance solidified that I owed you nothing.
When the dance came to a close at 11 pm, you and your friends made plans for everyone to meet for a late night meal somewhere that was cheap and still open. You invited me to go with you, and I grumbled that I would go.
The food at the dance, first of all, hadn't been that great. Everyone joked that the chicken had looked like a hamster covered in gravy and my stomach had been unsettled all night. Because of this, I decided that I didn't want to go out with you afterwards and told you that.
You pushed me to tell you why and asked what was wrong, said that I had acted weird all night. You accused me of lying when I said I just didn't feel well.
When you pushed me for the last time, I snapped and told you that you were right, that I was lying. That there was a different problem.
I broke up with you that final time on May 30th. You paced up and down my sidewalk for three hours asking me to take you back, promising me you would change and that you were sorry, sobbing so loud my mom came out of her bedroom to see what was wrong.
I refused everything you said. Nothing would ever change, and we both knew that. Nothing would ever get better. We weren't meant to be together.
You told me I ruined your senior year. You called me names, swore at yourself, brought up things that you'd "let me get away with." You said I was being unfair. I let you say it all. You needed to get it all out, I knew that, and my resolve was more solid than ever. The more you talked, the more I knew that my decision was the right one.
Things quieted down for about a month. We didn't speak to each other or see each other, but in the middle of June I had a pregnancy scare (which I knew couldn't have happened, because now I know what it takes for an egg to be fertilized) because I couldn't remember when my last period was. In my head, it had been months. I was 16 and I panicked. When I broke our silence and told you my fear, you got mad at me and blamed me for it, and told me that I better not be as if I had made it up and crossed my fingers to be pregnant. I took the test three days later, with my cousin holding my hand in support, and when it came back negative like I knew it would, I told you immediately. You responded by saying you regretted ever dating me, and we never spoke again.
My initial reactions towards you used to be anger. Frustration. Embarrassment. Regret.
Over five years later, and a whole lot wiser, I realize I actually have a lot to thank you for.
Because of you, I figured out exactly what I did and didn't want in my next boyfriend. I saw the way you treated me, and I vowed to never be like that with anyone. That emotional, that controlling, that petty and temperamental. I would never put someone else through that as you had done to me.
Because of you, I became more independent and confident. My body, whether you liked it or not, suits me and satisfies me, and I'm happy with how I look. My self-esteem is my own concern now, not based on anyone else, and I know what I deserve in a relationship. You gave me a voice, when for a year and a half you silenced me.
Because of you, I found a better guy in every way. His horrible relationship ended just around the time ours did, and when he heard about that, he messaged me immediately because he had kept an eye on me for a long time (he only told me that recently). He treats me right, builds me up instead of bringing me down, supports me, encourages me, and values my intelligence almost above ever other characteristic. He makes me feel beautiful, and I realized who I had the potential to be from having a good relationship.
I don't wish you ill will or hope that you read this someday, because frankly, this is more for me than it is for you. I don't regret our relationship and I don't think you did either, but I hope you grew up as I did and understand how to function as a boyfriend in a healthy way. I don't hate you or resent you or regret our relationship, because what's done is done. And no matter how either of us feels about it, you're part of my past.
Thank you for making me want to be who I am today, because that killed the person I was when we were together. I'm ashamed of that timid, pushover, manipulated, suppressed person, and you made me realize how much better I could be. I didn't have to be like that, no matter who treated me which way. I'm this way in spite of you because I deserve it. So, thanks.
I'm sure your perspective on this is vastly different, but honestly I don't care what you have to say about it. You had enough time to tell me how you felt back then, and you're not taking my voice away from me this time.
I don't know where you are or what you're doing these days, but I wish you all the best. No part of me ever wants to interact with you ever again and I imagine you feel the same way.
Our relationship was ugly and our breakup was even uglier but I don't blame you for anything that I'm not to blame for as well. We were young and immature. Overall, though, I ended up in love and happier than most people I know. I hope, truly, that wherever you are, you're happy, too.