Trying to fill in the gaps… trying to understand the process that has shaped my personality as an adult. Excuse me if I ramble a little, I’m not quite sure where I’m going yet.
The first guy I really dated was 18, six years older than me. When I met him I liked his sweetness, despite his outward appearance. He was tall, with long blonde hair (shaved at the sides), and he had tattoos and piercings. My mother would tell you that the attraction was ‘shock value’ when I took him home, but she is wrong. He may have shocked, yes, but I saw something in him that was much deeper than face value; I saw his ability to love. And love me he did.
After a couple of years, I realised there was no future; he wanted too much of me, and I wanted to be a teenager. But I hated being alone. I dated several people for short amounts of time, but never seemed to find what I was looking for, probably because I didn’t really know what that was. Looking back, I think I wanted affection and stability, along with the acceptance to do as I pleased. Too much for any teenager to find, I would imagine, but I was searching hard for something that only my parents could have given me. I needed to be loved, and I needed to matter.
During my teenage years, there were people who did me a lot of good. While I could list names of people I dated, there are few I could mention who really stick in my mind as having influenced my life.
There was a lad, only a year older than me, who I met at a school disco. He was quiet and shy, and I imagine he wondered what was going on when I approached him and started chatting. I can’t have scared him too much though; we met up again a few days later and it wasn’t long before we were together. He was a calming influence on me a lot of the time. He was the first person I dated that I felt able to talk to about the serious stuff. He listened, and he cared. He showed me that relationships weren’t just about the physical things, and that was a turning point for me. He still listens now, on occasion. I don’t talk to him often enough, but I’m glad we stay in touch.
The first girl I kissed… a revelation for me. I wasn’t just attracted to boys; in fact, I was much more attracted to intelligence and personality than anything else. She was a thinker, like me, and we talked about everything; there were no secrets. She was a stunningly beautiful girl, inside and out.
When I was 15 I met a guy who was older than me. It was a different kind of dating experience, spending time with a guy who knew a little more about the world. I spent time with his family, as well as time with him. We travelled together; I have great memories of coastlines in a car, driving to another town every day, during the summer I finished my GCSEs. He wrote me poetry, he quoted Shakespeare and he made me feel like a princess. More than anything, he made me feel secure, and I was heartbroken when it ended.
That takes me to the year I met the father of my daughter; the most important relationship of my teenage years, in some respects, but also the most damaging. He blinded me with words, he held on to me with stories and he abused me by making me feel not good enough. Once I was pregnant, I decided I needed to be with him full time and we moved into a little flat of our own. The year I lived there with him took away every ounce of confidence I ever had. He beat me, he cheated on me and he lied to me. The day he hurt my daughter was the day I found the strength to leave.
Did I learn from him? Yes. I learned that words are the least important thing in the world. People can say anything but, without the actions to back it up, it means nothing. He took a lot away from me, but I took one thing more valuable than anything I’ve ever known. I took that child. I walked away with the knowledge that she was safe and loved, and that she needed nothing but me. It took a while for me to have the faith to believe I could raise her alone, but raise her I did.
I raised another too… After another abusive relationship, I found myself with two children to look after. I found my strength and did what I needed, and you know what? I did ok. I took the best of what I knew, and learned from the worst, and I did ok.