By E.J. Gordon
I had a boyfriend in high school who I keep in the “bad memories” column. At 16, I thought “Teen Love” was supposed to be epic. In all of the movies and soaps I watched as a kid, Teen Love began with some sort of magic and all interactions thereafter were to be intense. It started at a party that I was at because I had been stood up by a different boy. This new boy –“Mike” — came over, took my hand, and told me how wonderful I was and how he would never blow me off in a million years. We talked all evening, and when he held my hand, I felt such excitement, that I thought, “Finally, ‘movie love’ is going to happen to me.”
I immediately became his girlfriend, and we had a few weeks of passionate teenager-ness, which consisted of talking on the phone for hours, making sure we saw each other every day, and making-out in the back seat of a car while a friend drove us around.
And then everything changed.
Mike and I did not go to the same high school, so every day after school he’d call and ask me what I wore that day. This was not meant as some sort of phone sex foreplay. It was meant to make sure that I was not wearing anything too sexy for anyone that wasn’t him. On the days that I had to wear my cheerleading uniform, I used to lie and tell him that I wore my sweatpants under my skirt (which we weren’t even allowed to do), because he thought my skirt was too short. Then he started asking me who I talked to that day. Did I say hello to that guy I dated freshmen year who dumped me? Did I talk to the hot quarterback in my World History class? Did the theatre guy who had a crush on me say anything to me at my play rehearsal?
If I ever answered my boyfriend’s questions ‘wrong’ — he’d hang up on me and not answer the phone for hours. Then he’d yell at me. The jealousy got worse …
One time when we were at the local mall, I was talking to a guy working at the GAP about jeans for a minute or two. When I turned around, Mike was gone. I couldn’t find him anywhere in the store, and I had to go wandering around the mall by myself trying to find him. Once I did, he said, “Let’s just get out of here.” The minute we were in the car, he began accusing me of flirting with the sales clerk, and how could I do that to him? He told me I was a slut for letting this clerk talk to me. He became very needy. When I got off the phone with him at night, we used to have to say to each other, “I love you.” Then we added, “I’ll never leave you.” Then we added, “I’ll never cheat on you.”
We kept adding on. After a few months, we’d just end the conversation with, “My 10,” meaning, “My 10 Promises”. He’d insist on finding a way to see me every day, and during the weekends, I was expected to spend most of my time with him. Mike slowly pulled me away from my friends. He would alienate them by being a jerk around them, then he would try to convince me that they were bad influences on me. If one of his friends hooked up with one of mine, he would say she was a whore, and if I associated with her — then so was I.
I began to stop hanging out with my friends outside of school. My Friday nights were his, and my Saturday nights were his. If I had a special occasion to attend, like a birthday party, I’d go, but I’d have to leave early to meet him. One day after school, my girlfriends wanted me to stay to help decorate a locker for a friend’s birthday. I was due at Mike’s, but my friends had been accusing me of blowing them off, so I stayed to help. As soon as I was done, I flew over to Mike’s house. When his Mom answered the door, she warned me that he was very, very angry. When I went up to see him, he threw an 8 x 10 framed photo of me at me, and I jumped out of the way, just in time.
He accused me of putting my friends before him. My parents made no secret of NOT liking him.
My Dad could barely talk to me about it, and my Mom kept hinting that he was not a good guy. I accused her of being a snob since he wasn’t in the same “socio-economic class” as our family (which was definitely NOT her issue with him, but I knew saying it would get her to back off).
I finally got to a place where I knew I didn’t want to be with him anymore, but I didn’t know how to get out of it.
He would get so mad if I did anything “wrong” that I was scared to break up with him. He would threaten to kill himself if I left him. Finally, we got into a monster fight at a party, he grabbed my arm so hard that he left fingerprint bruises on me. I knew I was done and had a good enough excuse to leave him (like I needed one), so we never made up from that fight, and I never saw him again. I promised myself I would never, ever date anyone again who tried to control or “suffocate” me.
Now, as a mother of two daughters, I want to make sure my girls never get sucked into that type of relationship. While I got out pretty unscathed, there is no doubt in my mind that the violence would have eventually escalated.
The Big Question: How do WE prevent our daughters from entering a harmful and potentially dangerous relationship?
Before a girl is allowed to date, she needs to be educated about dating. This should come from both parents. Mom should share her wisdom. She should talk to her about her own positive and negative experiences, and share with her stories like this one, highlighting these Red Flags:
1. He asks you what you wore when you weren’t with him.
2. He is jealous of the time you spend with your friends or family.
3. He makes comments about how much you eat or that you don’t work out enough.
4. He asks you who you talked to when you weren’t with him.
5. He expects you to spend all your time with him.
6. When you “upset” him, he won’t speak to you.
7. He asks you to PROVE how much you love him.
8. He is at times violent, throwing things, punching walls, smashing plates.
Dad needs to teach his daughter that a boy who TRULY loves her will respect her, her choices, her body, her mind, her friends, and most of all, her family.
A teenage girl needs to know the difference between reality and fiction like 50 Shades of Grey, that the red flags above are not a sign of passion or a demonstration of how much a boy loves her, but rather a reflection of how little a boy thinks of himself.
A jealous, possessive person is an insecure person who doesn’t respect himself. And if it’s too late, and parents realize that their daughter is already in a destructive relationship — they need to get involved immediately. They need to bring her to a therapist to help her see what’s going on, why she is with a guy like this, and how to get out of it safely. They need to talk with her … not tell her, “You may not see him” — because we all know how Romeo and Juliet ended. Rather, sit down and talk to her about the signs they’re seeing and how much they are worried about her. And if she says that he’s threatened to hurt himself or her if she ends it, they need to talk to his parents or the police.
I’m lucky I got out before the situation got too violent, but the news is full of stories of teenage girls who were not so lucky — and I am committed to making sure my daughters aren’t one of them. I plan to repeat to my girls over and over Maya Angelou’s most wonderful advice: “The first time someone shows you who they are, BELIEVE THEM.”
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.