My Bad Romance: A Cautionary Tale

This post has been running through my head for a long time, though I’m not quite sure why I feel compelled to write it. It contains some of my most humiliating, devastating, secret and hidden issues, and all of a sudden at 45 years old I feel perfectly okay to share them with the world at large. But there is a method to my madness I promise.

When I was 13, I had a boyfriend named Curt - my first love. We got together when I was in the 7th grade, not honestly, but because our friends thought we would make a good couple, so they lied and told each of us we liked the other. Despite the nefarious beginning, we actually were a good couple, it seemed. Curt was well-dressed and well-mannered, cute and funny. In short, he was pleasant to be around, for a Libra girl who cares about appearances. Ours was an innocent love - we used to hang out with our friends and kiss for hours on end, nothing more. My parents had divorced which was very stressful for me, but in the boyfriend department, all seemed right with the world.

Then I messed up, and all these years later, I am still being affected by it. Which is partly why I’ve been thinking about it so much. A boy named Gary Fox, a name I will always remember and always detest, saw me after a football game at a pizza joint with my friends. I was in the 8th grade, and he was two years older so already in high school. At that time, I was going to school in the high school also - our junior high had been blown away in the infamous "Terrible Tuesday" April 10, 1979 set of tornadoes that hit Wichita Falls, so we had been sent to the high school while they built it back, which was really hard - we were all too young and small to be with all those older kids, and we lost our privileges of being the oldest in school and bossing younger people around, so it was not a fun position to be in, plus the high school was way overcrowded with us added to the mix.

So, this dumb guy sees me and just decides he wants me. Except instead of being a dashing Ryan Gosling-style suitor as in The Notebook, he is an ass. A skinny, punk-faced, wannabe cowboy and mean to the core, he could look right into anyone’s face and lie like the dickens with a smile on his smug face. Sort of like Rhett Butler, but without any charisma or redeeming value. But I didn’t know all of that then. I just thought he was annoying, like a bug I could not get to quit buzzing around my face. I had no idea that bug would be something that would affect my life to this day.

I have to get ready and head for the city to work. To be continued… :-)


I am laughing at your comments from earlier. I can’t believe you are actually interested in this bad after-school movie, but thanks for your support. I need you to know, I don’t feel a lot of “emotion” about writing these memories down. I have emotions about the present and the future, but not this past, which feels in some ways like a scene from a movie I once saw, more than a memory of being present in all this mess. I am talking about this both to help myself get in touch with why I have some of the personal issues I do, and to hopefully, I pray, help others not go down a similar path or stop bad things before they get to this point. I am lucky to have come out relatively unscathed. Relatively. In bocca al lupo…

I need to explain some things about Curt. He was a model boyfriend, until Gary Fox came into our lives, at least as far as I knew - the kind of guy you could definitely take home to Mother. His shirts and Wranglers were always new and starched looking, his boots and belt always matched. I liked that very much. He didn’t cause a lot of trouble, was respectful, and several girls were quite smitten with him for years, but he was initially faithful and sort of made fun of a couple of them behind their backs - he didn’t seem impressed with these gals flinging themselves at him, which made me feel more solidified in my position as his girlfriend. His mother ruled the roost with a tight fist, I believe, and maybe that’s why he was so well-behaved until later in life. He was not the smartest cookie in the box. I didn’t like the fact he was not good at writing, which was one of my strong traits. I wanted him to be more intelligent or complex in his thinking. I heard, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, that a girl who had wanted him when we were off/on for the five years of junior high to high school (and who he referred to as “clownface” behind her back, due to excessive makeup), wound up marrying him or living with him at least, and she shot him in the leg. I found that odd but not surprising. Some of these chicks were a piece of work.

But for a long time, while Curt and I grew up as teenagers together, people thought we would marry after high school. It was that kind of very serious, long-term relationship. I guess I didn’t really ever think about it that much, marriage I mean. I had so many problems I couldn’t begin to think about getting married right out of high school. But I did think we’d be together for a long time and I was crushed when the strain of all we had done to each other resulted in us breaking up our senior year.

So the night that Gary saw me, hanging out with my girlfriends at the pizza place at the mall, I was not at all interested in replacing my current relationship with anyone, much less some yahoo wannabe cowboy that rode bulls and raced cars and acted as if he were all that. I didn’t pay much attention to him but he paid a lot of attention to me and got someone to tell him my full name and where I lived, which he used to find my address and phone number.

Because of the divorce, Mother and I had moved into a much smaller house in an area of town far from my friends and outside my high school district. This was pretty much like a death sentence for me - after the 8th grade she intended to put me in her and my father’s old high school instead of where I was currently going and where every friend I had went to school. She had gotten me my own phone line, and it was brand spanking new when Gary called the house and she gave him the number. I was really annoyed - that number was for my friends and here was this idiot on the line, who now had my private, unlisted number. I tried to blow him off and just go on about my business, but that was not going to work for him. He kept calling, and found me at school, and generally made a total nuisance of himself in an attempt to woo me despite me being very clear that I had a boyfriend.

This went on a few weeks. And then I made a decision, using my own particular brand of Libra logic, and this is where it all went very, very wrong. I take full ownership of this decision as I know no one else was involved or advised me of it. I am an observer of patterns. I don’t know why, I just am - it’s probably why I do things like design software and anticipate users needs on a website. And in my frequent visits to school and discussions with various angst-filled pre-teens, I noticed that longevity in relationships was rare, and people often dated fast and furious for a week or two, then broke up and went out with another person. It was just a practice that everyone seemed to accept. So, I reasoned, if I broke up with Curt in a lovers tiff, and went out with Gary Fox for a week, I could pick a fight, break up with Gary and then get back together with Curt. Typing this plan out 30+ years later, I see how stupid and convoluted it is, but at the time it all seemed marvelously simple. I felt confident I could do all this and win Curt back, because… it was Curt! He was mine, I was his, it was known by all. What could possibly go wrong???

Quite a lot, as it happens. I initiated the plan - I picked a fight with Curt and broke up in a huff. I believe there were even faux tears on my part - I have been known to really put it on when needed (it’s a wonder I never went into acting.) Then I agreed to go out with Gary. I can’t describe just how uninterested in actually doing this, I was. He was such a moron he either didn’t know or didn’t care that I had no fascination with him whatsoever. At the end of the week, and enduring whispering at school about breaking up with Curt and the cold shoulder from many of our friends, I picked my fight with Gary on a Friday night, mentally getting excited about calling Curt the next day and patching everything up with him. Victory would be mine! But I was wrong. Gary didn’t care we broke up, he kept calling and kept coming around. He made it clear we were, in fact, not breaking up. I just didn’t know what to do with that information. My father was gone - he had moved to Louisiana after the divorce, and for some reasons I can’t even remember, I didn’t tell my mother at that time. I am an only child, so I had no siblings to confide in, and in breaking up with Curt I had pissed off our close friends. So I was sort of all alone with my brilliant scheme, gone awry. I didn’t know what to do.

So I kept dating Gary, one foot half out the door, trying to figure out how to escape. He practiced on a mechanical bull, and he tried to get me on it just so he could throw me off and onto the ground. Everything just escalated very fast. He was rough with me - he often grabbed and shoved me and got in my face, threatening me. He threatened all sorts of things - to beat up Curt, for one, if I tried to contact him. To harm my mother. To harm me. To harm Curt’s whole dang family even. I don’t know why I didn’t stand up for myself somehow. It is a big failure in my life, and I know a contrast with how many people see me and my willingness to speak up now. I have no excuse or understanding about why I didn’t find a way to do something else. I just didn’t see a path to go down that I trusted in. It’s a shame I didn’t have the internet and social sites back then - I could have started a Facebook group about him and outed him to everyone in town for being a chronic abuser and general scumbag. Although… that causes kids a lot of problems these days too.

I had become close to another girl that was outside my clique of Curt friends, who was dating Gary’s BFF, also two years older. She was really about the only one I could talk to, and she often was part of the mayhem as we double-dated a lot. And then one night, when my mother was gone from the house, he forcibly had sex with me. I didn’t want him to but I didn’t know how to stop him either. I just shut my mouth and dealt with it. But I was only 13, and it was a very confusing experience for me. There was no notion of “date-rape” at that time - people didn’t talk about that 30 years ago, so I had no context really, except to know that this was not something people my age did and it was way inappropriate and rude. Or at least I didn’t think they did, because no one my age talked about it and I don’t recall if we’d even had sex ed classes yet or not at school. That is more common now than it was then.

I called my girlfriend and found out that her boyfriend had sex with her too. I would find out later, from Gary, that he and his lovely BFF had a bet about deflowering us… two 15 year old assholes taking virginity by force from 13 year olds. Real manly. How terribly impressive, in fact. If you’re a brainless ninny with no other ambition in life, I guess.

She and I were so totally clueless, that we felt we needed a plan to run away because we were pregnant. We weren’t actually pregnant - this discussion happened only an hour after the deed was done. But we believed we were from our limited and collective knowledge, and we figured we needed jobs, to get money to live, and we needed to go to Dallas. When you grow up in Smallville Wichita Falls, Dallas is The Metropolis which you aspire to get to, if you’re a big city type. So we thought maybe we could, with the help of a ton of makeup and lots higher heels, pass for 16 and we could get jobs to pay for an apartment and these two babies. It really is comical, when you picture it. We never even discussed what they had actually done to us, beyond asking “Did you want to?” and “No.” to each other. We were defenseless to stop it and dominated by these two guys - what was there to say? My biggest worry was that Curt would find out. And then it would REALLY, irrevocably, be over between us, because who would want me after this?

After this little incident, I became unruly. I was mad that Mother didn’t somehow know what was happening. I was mad that my father had left us, and me, and moved away and now I had this heinous ass to contend with. I was mad that Curt could not kick his ass and get him to go away. I was mad I had lost my pretty house in a nice part of town where all my friends were. I was just plain mad inside.

I hated Gary, but he kept having sex with me as if I were a person who was actually attracted to him. He had begun hitting me when I didn’t act like he wanted me to - one night he even spanked me in front of a crowd of people at the skating rink. I was…. appalled. Totally speechless with horror about being humiliated like that. He called me fat if my weight fluctuated any - the beginning of my weight issues probably began then but I didn’t know it. I loved to antagonize him. It made me secretly happy to be annoying to him, like it was the highlight of my day. I started drinking whiskey - he always had alcohol or access to it, and obviously I don’t have an alcoholic gene thank goodness, because I could take or leave the whiskey - I was mostly drinking it just to be an ass and I even pretended to be drunk sometimes to be a bigger one. I have a habit of wanting to control things too much to really let go and “escape” into drinking, so those moments for me were about saying “FU, Gary Fox” than anything else. I hated him. He literally repulsed me. But I continued to let him sort of control me because despite acting out, I did not tell anyone what he was doing away from the eyes of parents, teachers, other students, etc. And he was telling everyone I was the problem, which I supported with my carrying on like a wild woman of Borneo, so they believed him.

In the link I keep wanting everyone with a daughter to read, 10 Signs of an Abusive Boyfriend, the author says that “it is all about HIM” and “he controls her every move.” I don’t know how that seems to happen so easily and so quickly but it did, for me. I used to, a long time ago, think of myself as having been brainwashed but I really don’t know what that means. All these years later and totally removed from this situation, it’s hard to imagine being able to BE brainwashed. I’m so obstinate that would take some doing! But something crazy was going on, because I kept my mouth shut. Firmly, staunchly shut because I really believed he would kill Mother & I, which was what he started threatening after he had sex with me and escalated to hitting me. He used to bring me home and tell her I had gotten into fights with some chick at a rodeo - over him! Lmao!!!! I would have paid all my allowance for 12 months to some girl to take that moronic wild beast AWAY from me. But who would want him? And besides, I wouldn’t really wish him on anyone else.

So this is how it went for much of my 8th grade year. I did sneak around and call Curt and sent him notes behind Gary’s back. I pined and longed and yearned, while staying busy doing other things, a skill I came to master. I wanted my normal life back. It would forever be gone. But I kept hoping… what is pining without hope of relief, after all?

I wish I could say the story ends here, but it didn’t. It does end here for tonight though. And I have to say, I’m really glad in some ways “all’s well that ends well” because my life no longer resembles this hotbed of horror. It is never too late to turn things around, for anyone in a bad place, is my point.

To be continued… again. :-)

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