Here’s the link to Part 1.
Middle says, “Why can’t there be another word besides, boyfriend? I know a boy and he’s a friend but when you say boyfriend, it’s weird. Why can’t there be another way to say it?” She has a point. I hope my Middle doesn’t get concerned with wanting a boyfriend any time soon. Junior high is next year. Ugh.
As my children approach the awkward years of middle school and high school, I kinda start to freak. Not kinda, really freak. There were many growing pains for me in those years. I try not to project my experience onto them, but some days, when they come home venting to me about how they feel, I can’t help but be taken back immediately to the 7th grade at Whitehouse Middle School in Texas, awkwardly walking the halls, watching all the cool girls in their tight jeans with beautifully rounded bottoms get stares from the cool boys as they walked down the aisle to their desks. Back in the day, pinching someone’s ass at school was very common. When the asses were pinched, it was like a gold star of approval. The girls would giggle and they boys thought it was okay, after all they were complimenting her by pinching her, right? I didn’t have an ass worth pinching. (I know this seems totally distorted talking about it this way, but when you’re a low self-esteem middle schooler, you’ll take attention from the opposite sex any way you can get it. Now when I think of someone pinching mine or my girls’ butts, I want to punch them in the neck.)
Fast forward to 9th grade just after we moved to San Diego, California, I was 14 and I ‘got’ my first boyfriend. Oh my, pure bliss. I could actually say that someone liked ME. He was Italian and magnetic with a melting smile and HE LIKED ME! He was 16 going on 17. He was independent, and had is own Toyota truck. We’d drive up to his house in that truck many many times. I spent two and a half years with that boy. He’d roll down the windows, take off his shirt, and smoke a cigarette on his way home. (Taking off the shirt was his way of preventing his shirt from smelling like cigarettes so his mom wouldn’t know. She HAD to know.) Maybe he had other reasons for taking the shirt off.
We were going to get married. Oh yes. He loved me. Oh yes, those were my uber moody years. Looking back, I was absolutely dreadfully miserable and jealous most of the time. I had succumbed to living in a way that wasn’t authentic or what I knew I wanted to be, because I wanted to be accepted by my boyfriend. Breaking up was unacceptable in my head, because, how would I ever get a boyfriend again? I allowed him to change me. (Boyfriend: Curly hair, no, I want your hair to be straight.) My mom swears that my hair was straight and my eyes were blue until I hit puberty, and then I turned into a wild curly haired green-eyed girl. This hair was never gonna be straight unless a flat iron was close by. (Boyfriend: Your outfit, no. I’ll take you shopping and you can get these Reebok hi tops and an outfit that I choose.) Oh brother, the 43-year-old me just wants to go back and give some advice to the 14-year-old me. (Joy, you don’t have to settle. This isn’t the only boy that will EVER like you. Stop living in extremes. Life isn’t all about having a boyfriend.) And yet it was, for me, at that age.
I gave in to his advances very early. Remember, I’d wanted a boyfriend for so long and saying ‘no’ would mean, maybe I wouldn’t be able to keep him. So I gave in. I said yes and yes and yes and yes again, until I was 17. The more I said yes to him, the more I said no to food. It was my way of maintaining some control in the chaos.
There was so much dishonesty and arguing in our relationship. One of our arguments was about the difference between a job and a career. Whoever he was going to marry wasn’t going to need a career. That argument didn’t go well. Basically I argued about wanting to have an education beyond high school. (Go me!) I gradually realized that we weren’t compatible. That was my first experience with being vulnerable and having my heart really broken by a boy. By the end of our relationship, I had moved on to Coronado High School for my senior year. I was empowered to start over. We finally broke up during that year in Coronado. I was so tired of the lying and deceit. He had taken up real estate in my head and heart for too long.
A few days later, I proudly strolled into the GAP shortly after we broke up. I fell in love with a sleeveless tropical drop-waisted red dress with floral patterns on it. I bought that dress because I knew he’d hate it. (Take this boyfriend. Look at me now, boyfriend. I don’t need a YOU to be happy.) I wore that dress like a gold star. I wish I still had it.
I came out of that relationship, at 17, wounded, lost and jaded. Trust had been majorly violated, and I thought all boys were just like that boyfriend.
Let’s pause between boyfriends and watch this video:
Honey, why you don’t have boyfriend?
I’d thrown all caution to the wind after my first heartbreak, and decided that I wanted to do the heartbreaking for a change. So I excessively partied that senior year of high school and my fake junior college year. Alcohol and drugs were my comforts and numbing tools. Navy boys, guys I met in Tijuana, guys that I worked with at the Marriott, I said yes and yes and yes to whoever, with no commitment, no love, just acts, plain and simple. I knew this wasn’t the way intimacy was intended to be, loveless and heartless, but my heart was frozen for a time. Frozen.
In my college years, there were some boyfriends, dates, and crushes too. By then, I realized that saying yes and yes and yes wasn’t working, so I said ‘no’ regularly and it felt good. I began to set more limits and boundaries. There was a boy in college that I thought I’d marry and didn’t. It’s clear in hindsight, that we weren’t compatible. However, that relationship launched a series of counseling episodes that helped me deal with the lack of closure in that relationship and something that the therapist referred to as ‘codependency’. (I thought, “What the heck is codependency?”) He gave me a book called Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. That book totally changed how I viewed my relationships to the opposite sex up until that point.
I had to deal, cope, and wrestle with why I was choosing men that were no good for me. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach? You wake up and wish that it was just all a bad dream. Loneliness, grief, sadness and despair were my bedfellows after breakups. Ben Harper captures that feeling in this song.
I had to evaluate the type of man I’d typically chosen. I had to choose someone that actually loved me, ‘for reals’.
I did. He’d been standing right next to me all along. We’d worked in Communiversity together, shared the same friends, taken the same classes, worked in the cafeteria together. He’d wisely befriended my roommates, spent time with me any way he could, and listened to me for a couple of years.
Working the graveyard shifts in campus safety was exhausting. I was burnt out and tired. I went to bed around 9am and prayed, “God, help me find a man who loves me, for me.” This is what all we want, right? We want someone that’s going to love us, scars, wounds, joys, triumphs, and all. Someone who sees us, truly, and sticks around. Someone we can share life with and continue to share life with many years later.
What I prayed for was shortly revealed to me, “Joy, that dream guy you’re looking for, he’s right there.” It’s literally like I’d had blinders on until that point. He was hanging with me all along, just waiting.
A few weeks later, we drove in my Big Green Mama (see here) to San Dimas Canyon Park and had ‘the talk’. I didn’t want to beat around the bush. So I basically told him I was ready. I was ready to be committed. I didn’t use the word- boyfriend. I used the word commitment.
That man became my husband. I’m so glad that I finally said yes to the right man.
He likes ME.
This phase has been tough. I can eat 2 oz of protein at every meal and the rest for the next two weeks. I’ve been trying to keep down chicken and I’ve not been successful. I eat it and then STUCK. I think it must be too dry. I’m raising the white flag of surrender to chicken. (You win, chicken, for now, but I’m comin’ back to try you out again later.)
40 pounds down. New shoes and a new hair cut this week. It might be time for a new dress.
I’m feeling pretty good. I’m not going to let the chicken get me down. 🙂
Until next Friday…Love you loves.