A history of dating.
Considering the trauma I experienced around sex in my childhood, it is no surprise that I avoided dating. Until Bradford.
It was the summer before I turned 16. My sister was hanging out with a group of friends. I felt tolerated. Bradford, a year older than I, was part of that group. He wasn’t overly smart. He differed from most boys I felt attracted to (and therefore avoided). Tall and gangly, he liked to drink beer and hunt.
I realized he liked my sister. I ignored the sense I was a consolation prize.
Bradford gave me my first kiss that summer. I liked it and it didn’t send up any alarms. Rather, it was quite heady.
It wasn’t long before it went further. We never had intercourse. We did everything we could think of leading up to it, though. Most of which frightened me. However, something inside me pushed me to continue.
We fooled around everywhere. In the Livingroom on the sofa before school. At his house. In quiet corners of the local park. Even at the laundromat our family owned and I worked at.
Afterwards, like clockwork, I would feel sick and inexplicably angry. I broke up with him on a nearly daily basis. Yet, the next morning, he would be at my window, tapping for me to wake up. Every time he’d walk me to school.
I liked it. I hated it. I needed it. I associated pain and pleasure with anything sexual. I didn’t know everyone else didn’t feel the same.
Eventually he asked me to get engaged to be engaged. He offered me a promise ring. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I taunted him until he grabbed my arm and twisted it. That was my cue. I couldn’t date someone who would hurt me. That was the end of us. Sort of.
I didn’t date again until I met my ex-husband. But not for lack of opportunity.
For example, my stepfather was the president of the local Jaycees. Sometimes he took me to meetings with him. I even worked at their fundraisers. One member was a creepy, nasty man. I played “chicken” with him for months. Me wanting a little tease and flirt, him wanting so much more.
Mostly, I kept a step ahead. There was fear and a frisson of excitement in the whole thing.
Until one day at the Flemington fair.
The Jaycees ran a high striker booth, raising money for MDA. I loved volunteering there. I could tease and goad men into trying to ring the bell. Sometimes, especially at night when everyone was drunk, I could even get a competition going.
That night, I took a break. The man followed me, asked if he could hold my hand. I felt powerless. My father conditioned all ability to say “no” out of me years before. The danger of that man was thrilling. Even as a little voice inside my head was screaming of the danger.
We walked around the fair, then cut across the back of the 4H booths. H pinned me against a pole and kissed me. I stood there, powerless, while he whispered in my ear details of what he would do with me, if I were a little older, or he was a little younger.
I threw up in the back of my throat. I shook with the need to run. Still, there was the inexplicable voice in the back of my head, praying he would hurt me, rape me.
I don’t think the turmoil inside showed. He retook my hand, and we walked in silence back to the high striker.
Another time I was walking the streets (a common pastime) when I came upon another older man. He had a cane, and a pronounced limp. He asked if he could join me. After several minutes of chitchat, he asked if he could hold my hand. I fancied him a gentleman. The only thing he did was give me a chaste kiss before we parted ways.
Excitement and disgust warred inside me. Still, when he showed up at the convenience store I worked at and offered to walk me home after closing, I said “yes.”
We walked and flirted for a time. When we reached the front of his boarding house, he invited me to his room. The push inside me toward danger and fear made my “yes” inevitable.
We lay on his bed and kissed. It had been years since I broke up with Bradford. The kissing was nice. Not too exciting, but not dangerous, either.
He sat up and took off his shirt, then gently lifted mine over my head. Everything was going well until he whispered in my ear. “I’m going to make you feel like a real woman.”
It was like a splash of cold water. I grabbed my shirt and muttered something about needing to get home. I apologized profusely as I put on my shirt and grabbing my purse. He didn’t move from the bed.
I shook all the way home. After that, I avoided men, although I continued to put myself in dangerous situations. Until I met my ex.
A story for another day.