Partners in Crime and Romance: Or, Me and My Dork

Surprisingly, I’ve ended up in a relationship. Even more surprisingly, we’re planning on making it permanent, once I’m back in the states (I’m currently studying abroad). He’s my best friend, and I can’t wait.

I met him while working at a scout camp. I was nineteen and he was seventeen. I thought he was cool, but so not my type, because he was younger, a redhead, my height, always happy, and he talked A LOT. I was pretty sure I wanted a tall, dark, and brooding type, after all.

Two years later, we meet again, back at the same camp. He’s my buddy, so I run right up to him, shouting his name, and give him a big hug. As you do. Honestly, I think the change might have started with that hug. But I was too dim to realize it, when I was a girl barely past her teens who’d come out the other side of a domestic violence case, a manipulative Friend With Benefits, and working at a call center. And we were just friends, as I kept telling myself every time we worked together. I kept my head down, and did my work.

What really made me realize I was falling for him was the dumbest thing ever. I overheard him and a couple other people talking about the best way to get to know a girl. And then they changed the subject once they realized I was there. My suspicious mind went into overdrive, wondering if this meant one of these dear boys had caught a case of feelings for me. The naturally following question was, “If they did, which one would you prefer?” One was only barely eighteen, another was too much of a doormat, and then there was the redheaded goof who talked too much. 

My brain had a horrible “Oh no” moment. I did not want to fall for another guy. It only ended badly. I was a mess, and nobody wanted to deal with that. Besides, two years age difference. Even if he was hilarious, cute, immensely likeable, and he had good taste in music. I was determined not to go through that again. 

As the very smart girl I was, I tried to ignore it. I thought about it as little as possible, keeping my distance from him, refusing to mention his name even in my mind. I was sure I could make this awful little crush go away with sheer willpower. Because I was smart like that.

Maybe a week later, a group of us went out stargazing. Somehow in the dark, he and I ended up lying right next to each other. His arm was touching mine, and my nerves were going crazy. Maybe it’s ridiculous and cliche, but I completely forgot about my plan to make it go away.

However, I was still determined not to act on it. Because he was a nice guy, really friendly to everyone, and there was nothing else in it. We hung out, took long hikes, and listened to music together. One of our friends told us we should date. I looked at the ground and didn’t say anything. While on a hike, we were sitting right next to each other. He tried to point something out to me, I couldn’t see it, and he leaned in closer to show me. I wanted so badly to just kiss him, but I didn’t. I wasn’t going to make an idiot of myself. We stayed up late listening to music, and took a walk in the full moonlight out to a hill overlooking the camp, talking about everything and nothing, eventually cuddling up together for warmth. Just for warmth. Nothing else in that. Completely platonic (I am dense). In fact, I didn’t have any clue that we were thinking anywhere along the same lines until he kissed my forehead, and told me he was dumb because he’d never kissed a girl. And, grinning like an idiot, I smoothly offered to rectify that.

First kiss on a moonlit night in the mountains, complete with a fantastic view. I’d say that was a pretty good way to do it.

It wasn’t a real thing, though. Over the course of the summer, we kissed a few more times, went on a couple dates, had one amazing makeout session, and that was it. I was craving more, with my depression hitting me so hard. I was addicted to him. He was a crutch. We lived on opposite sides of the state. It wasn’t right. And when he started acting distant, I decided that I wasn’t going to beg. It wasn’t so much heartbreak as it was a slow dissolve, but that didn’t mean it hurt any less.

I moved on. Went on a few other dates, got diagnosed, started both antidepressants and therapy. I was still crazy about him, and really didn’t want anyone else, but he obviously wasn’t interested, and I needed to be better. For me, not for him. I started dealing with my depression and the self-esteem issues I have in relationships. I started college. I applied to my school’s study abroad program. I was still hurt that things ended the way they did, and I really wanted to ask him why, and what was wrong with me, but I knew better.

Fast forward three years, and out of the blue, he starts messaging me on Facebook, talking about the new Avenged Sevenfold album, and how I needed to listen to it. We started talking again, and I was quickly getting right back where I started. Especially when we got started in a battle of classic rock puns. Plus, I was planning on moving closer to him already (again, not for him), so I figured the timing was getting better. And then he told me he was going back to camp. I’d been ready to trade up camp, finally, for a higher paying job, especially as I was getting ready to leave the country. But, I realized, this could be my last chance to figure out why. And maybe–just maybe–I could work it out, this time. Because I didn’t want anyone else.

I was moving out of my apartment that summer, so, the first weekend, I headed down the mountain to start on that. Then I got a text from home, saying to let him know if I needed help (turned out he was in the same city, staying at his friend’s for the weekend). After much second-guessing and agonizing over it with my roommate, I invited him out to dinner and ice cream with us. Throughout the evening, I couldn’t stop laughing, and he and I talked all night long, before falling asleep cuddled up on my couch. 

This was quickly becoming like the summer three years ago, but I realized I could live with that. Now, I was more mature, had years of therapy behind me, and I would be living near him after I got back from studying abroad. I could work with that.

The next weekend, I was going to a play my sister was in, and I invited him to come. Somewhere during the play, we ended up holding hands, and continued afterward, when we went to Denny’s with the cast, some of whom were friends of mine. Awkward questions about how long we’d been together abounded. Especially with my dad introducing James as my “not-boyfriend.” 

As I was finally driving him home, very early in the morning, still holding hands, we talked a lot more. And then, after three years of waiting, he asked me to be his girlfriend. (And as it turns out, the reason he’d stopped talking to me so long ago was because, for various reasons, he thought he wasn’t good enough for me. That was something I never would have guessed.)

This redheaded goof who talks too much, is two years younger than me, and is my height is everything important that I’ve ever wanted in a guy. He’s honest with me, goes to concerts and on random adventures with me, and he makes me smile so much my face hurts, and then he laughs at me for it. Being around him always makes the world a little brighter. He takes my abrasive sense of humor in stride, and is always there to support me when things go to hell. And, we’ve been apart for months, and our relationship is still strong. I’m crazily in love with him, though I’ll never admit it to most people.

I’m leaving Europe in less than a week. Maybe I should be sad to be leaving that dream behind, but it means getting back to my redheaded dork, and on to more adventures. The first on my list is an engagement, as neither of us wants to let the other get away again.

I was pretty sure I was never going to find a guy I could stand long enough to want to marry. Even if I did, I was pretty sure he’d lose interest as soon as he saw what a hellish place my mind is. But he’s always there to assure me that he’s not going anywhere, and that I’m stuck with him as long as I want to be.

To those of you out there who are sure nobody could ever want you, I know that life is hard. Everyone tells you nobody can love you if you don’t love yourself, or conversely that only love can save you from yourself. Don’t listen to either of them. Try to love yourself, definitely. Seek the help you need, and do your best to become a you that you’re happy with. Don’t see your significant other as your knight in shining armor, but as the reliable sidekick who always has your back. Because this is your story, and you’re the hero. You have the power to save yourself.

Thank you for your time, friends. I wish you all the best.

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We Call ‘Em Toxic People

Well, friends, I’ve talked a lot in the past about my older sister. Once upon a time, she was arrested for domestic violence against me. She got better. With therapy and medication, we both did, and we’ve had a much healthier relationship.

I’m sure you can sense the “but” coming.

And indeed it did. Because she’s been giving me the silent treatment for over a month, after I said something offensive (and I’m still not sure what). I’ve tried to apologize and explain further and further, but not only is it beating my head against a brick wall, I’ve realized that everything hasn’t been all sunshine and roses since we “got over” everything. No, I’ve spent this entire time still walking on eggshells to try and keep her happy. Even though our relationship, according to myself, has been so very great.

Take last Christmas, for example. She was trying to tie a mattress down in a truck bed, in the middle of an evening snowstorm, in a hoodie. She pulled me out of a vet appointment to help out. I offered her the snowboarding jacket I had in my trunk, but she wouldn’t take it, even though she was obviously cold, and got very snappy when I asked if she was sure. Snappier than she’s been with me since The Incident (aka the day she was arrested). And I was supposed to stay at her apartment that night!

So I told her to calm down, and I left. I finished taking care of my cats, and I drove back to her place, fully expecting to be locked out. But no, she wasn’t home yet. Second thought was that she went to her boyfriend’s place for the night so that she could ignore me. And because I’d pushed her so hard to take the stupid jacket (I shouldn’t have offered a second time), our relationship was strained, and it was all my fault. In short, I spent the evening flashing back to all the emotions of the times before The Incident, when I didn’t know what I could expect from her. Long story short(er), that night was the first cutting incident I’d had in years. And it turned out to be over nothing, as she came back a couple hours later, having stopped at DI, and wondering why I was sitting in the dark with my stuff half-packed. She had no idea, and treated me as kindly as normal for the rest of my visit.

As a precursor to this current incident, she got annoyed with me for thinking there was some deeper meaning behind a message she sent me, telling me I was invalidating her feelings. That’s when I lost it. After taking the time to calm down properly (I know better than to try to talk to her in the heat of the moment), I told her to remember that she was the one who abused me, and I can’t control my, for lack of a better word, triggers. She had been passive aggressive in the past, and my brain was still used to that. I told her it was invalidating to have your own former abuser tell you what to feel.

And thus, I have been shunned. Even on Thanksgiving, my parents were over at her place. My mother called and put me on speakerphone so everyone could say happy Thanksgiving. Everyone except my sister, who went into the other room so she didn’t have to talk to me.

Now, I realize, she hasn’t grown up nearly as much as I thought she had. She’s not the mature adult I can rely on. She’s notĀ anyone I can rely on. She harped on me for suspecting something else going on, and then she proves me right. She’s being passive aggressive, and I can’t trust her. That hurts like hell, because I love my sister dearly. But maybe this time I’ll learn my lesson. I don’t need her. I have a fantastic support network: three amazing best friends, and the greatest boyfriend a girl could ask for. It’s time to truly detox my life (not that she’ll give me a choice, anyway), and stop being her doormat. We obviously can’t be close, if she’s going to be childish like this. And I’m better off without her.

My advice to anyone else out there who wants to forgive their abusers, or already has: yes, forgive them, but that doesn’t mean you should turn a blind eye to them, and what they’re doing to you. Be wary. It takes a hell of a long time to regain trust, and for good reason. Don’t take their shit. You’re better than that, and you don’t need them, if they’re going to treat you badly.

Lessons Learned From A Haunted House

Ah, October! Season of so many things dark and horrific! Everything that is beautiful! The one holiday I adore! How it makes me reminisce, back to my younger days, working in a haunted house. And the things I have learned from it.

After transitioning high schools, adjustment was tough. I was friendless again, and trying not to make all the stupid mistakes I’d made in junior high. So, what was a poor girl to do? Be nice to everyone, rule number one. Second, try to join some clubs. Through my short-lived association with the drama club that year, I found out that the local haunted house needed actors. Well, having been a fan of suspense and horror for the last couple years, I was quick to fall for the idea.

Haunted House

Yes, the haunted house in question looked just like this.

At the meeting I was directed to, however, were not a bunch of drama geeks. Nah, these were the kids I’d always been afraid of—and admired a bit. The rebels. The goths and emos. And there I was, probably the only person not wearing black!

But I got in with ease, and devoured the cast manual. Though I failed in my first role as an asylum patient, I was given a new role within two weeks. Zombie.

And that was when I met her. My haunted house role model. A very short goth in her early twenties, who didn’t take crap from anyone. She was the queen of that room, and we all appropriately worshiped her. Her motto, which I instantly absorbed? “Suck it up and deal with it.” Or, sometimes, “Go hard or go home.”

I only got to work with her a few weeks before my throat gave out and I had to be transferred to a quieter role, but those weeks formed my perception of my work at the haunted house. According to the owners, I became one of the best, most versatile actresses they had. I didn’t whine if I wasn’t given the role I wanted. And I did my best, every single night of every single season for five years. I got bruised, cut, groped, suffered allergic reactions, and lost my voice repeatedly. It didn’t matter. I sucked it up, and dealt with it. I emulated herĀ take-no-crap attitude.

Since then, of course, I’ve learned. You can’t always suck it up and deal with it. Sometimes, you can’t give your all. But sometimes, you can. And when you do, you shine. Heck, you’re freaking made of moonbeams!

As to the other lesson in the plural title of this post, you know why I love horror, even though I’ve now got a pretty permanent fear of the dark? It’s looking that fear right in the face. Acknowledging it. I’m facing something that’s meant to scare me, and staring it down. Telling it that it can’t. Proving I’m stronger than that. Pushing back against my fear with everything I’ve got.

Beyond anything else, I think those were the most important lessons I learned in those five years.