You’re a 17-year-old boy. You’ve recently managed a seriously awkward transition from the kid that loves Pokémon and hangs around with that crying dude who might turn out to be a serial killer, to actually sitting with hot girls in class. The occasional eye-contact, the occasional FULL ON CONVERSATION. Rad. Suddenly the ultimate goal, an actual girlfriend, a real life girl who wants to hang around with you and touch you and stuff, seemed ever so slightly closer.
As this 17-year-old boy, you’ve been trying hard to work out how you should behave with these girls. You’ve had friends who are girls for some time, who you’re confused about because you want to see them naked but who you can also hang with, just like your bros. You definitely know who the ‘dicks’ are in the school – who don’t give a shit about girl’s feelings, cheat on them, and are truly undeserving of the attention. You know you could do better than all these guys. But unfortunately, despite how long you grow your hair, how much you smoke, or not give a fuck about school, they still don’t come.
What is this?
You’re very confused.
Then one day, a girl who you’ve been friends with for a while, best friends, who has subtly removed you from a lot of your other friends but you’re too busy trying to ‘treat her right’ to notice, who your parents don’t like at all, who your friends don’t like at all, turns up at your house in rural Wiltshire.
Your parents are out. You’ve been playing along to most of Piece of Mind by Iron Maiden on your bass guitar and losing your shit because you’ve managed to get the gallop down, and suddenly your friend-who-is-a-girl is here. And she’s here to take away your virginity.
Imagine the colours that explode inside your brain when you realise this, the heady mix of nakedness with someone for the first time, coupled with….smarties. She liked to eat chocolate after sex.
In a way, you think it couldn’t have gone better – it was with someone you were comfortable with, who you knew, it was fun, and now maybe you’d both be boyfriend and girlfriend and have a great time together forever. After all, she was one of three girls in the school who like metal. It was surely set up, a done thing.
But remember, you’re a 17-year-old who’s just had sex for the first time. You didn’t question why this was happening. Or why she suddenly wanted to sleep with you.
Instead of it being the dressed-black double-kick gothic fairy tale you wanted, it went like this….
‘I love you’ says your 17 year old self
‘I love you too’ she says
‘Are we going out?’
‘Hmmmm, no – I love you but I’m just not sure’
‘Sure about what?’
‘You. I’m not ready. I need time to think.’
Your head doesn’t explode in confusion, it rather descends into a murky forest of questioning and emotional turmoil. She becomes the focus of your everything. And she drags you along through the mire because she knows this.
Time goes on.
You distance yourself from your friends. All your time is hers, even when you know she doesn’t want it. You smoke, you drink, you medicate, you self-harm, and you love how you think you should love; unconditionally, with no regard for self or others. Only her.
She leads you further. The holiday she goes on, the boy she sleeps with and texts you about while she’s away, the joint birthday party you agree to have at her house just for her, only to find her in her room with an old boyfriend half way though, causing you to take a drunken drive down a country lane and crash your car into a ditch, climb out and stumble back to the party, collapsing onto your dad as he holds you, confused and hurt.
But it doesn’t end. You love unconditionally. It’s the right thing to do. Its how you should treat people. Right? You shrug off the warnings from your parents, the fact they break down, not knowing what to do with you, their happy boy turned-emo-sad monstrosity.
It gets worse. Your heart breaks at the breathless declaration of the abuse she’d suffered, in the middle of sex. You try to offer your advice, to help. But what do you know? This happened to her, not you. The forest grows darker, the fog thicker, and there’s no sign of the road out. And she still isn’t your girlfriend.
The escape comes in your gap year. You’re working, you see less of her, and somehow loving her quite so completely becomes less important. You reach a point where you call her. And finish it. And the quite relief is like sunshine on your face, like a forest opening up onto grassy plains. But you carry her with you your whole life. You still hate the horror of what happened to her, and you wonder what she’s doing. But you learn that that love you gave to her, the one that dimmed everything else, well that was dangerous love. And it can never happen again.
Written by Simon Faulkner