There were 90 some people in my high school class. 60ish of the students were girls, 30ish were boys. Of the 30ish boys, 7 were what my friends very subjectively considered dateable. Of those 7, two were my height. And both of them had girlfriends.
With odds like this, I had little hope of having a boyfriend in high school.
But… in the fall of 11th grade one of the two, Scott, started passing notes to me in Spanish class. Now his girlfriend – who was tall, blonde, athletic, gorgeous, also a model, and who he’d been dating since middle school (it was a K-12 school) – had mono and was out of school for an extended period of time. I’m sure he was visiting her and making her feel loved, but his behavior in class said he was open to other possibilities. After much note-passing chit-chat, he asked if I wanted to go with him to listen to the symphony practice in the school theatre that week. Yes, I did.
So we began dating. And flirting at school. And passing notes. And calling each other. And lo and behold, I had a boyfriend. I loved it! We had a blast and completely enjoyed each other. This went on for several blissful months until…
Reality snuck back in towards spring when his girlfriend returned to school. Quite understandably, she wasn’t having me and Scott one bit so that ended my initial foray into having a boyfriend… and began the next several months of uncomfortable moments of me having to observe them being boyfriend-girlfriend at our very small school and feeling angry, bitter, and sorry for myself.
Being that this was at least 10 years before I had any sort of useful communication skills, my approach was to avoid and not speak to either of them. But life’s funny. When you’re meant to be in someone’s life, and they’re meant to be in your’s, something is absolutely going to happen to bring you together.
Enter: senior year AP Economics. A tiny class of 10ish people where the instructor assigned Scott and me to share a desk and would not let me move no matter how I pleaded. Looking back, this was an epic scene in a coming-of-age romantic comedy of girl tries to ignore boy who has hurt her, while boy does everything in his power to get her to talk to him. I did pretty good with stonewalling him for at least a couple of weeks, but eventually I cracked. And when I cracked, it was like a floodgate opening up everything we felt for one another and we were immediately caught up in each other again.
Another place where life is funny is that it also unwaveringly brings about situations where you have to face your shit. So one day in October of senior year, I’m sitting in my AP Art class that his girlfriend (that, based on what he said, I believed he was no longer together with) is also in and for whatever reason we are the only two students in the class that day. Like all girls, we get to talking and quickly realize he’s pursuing both of us. This will not do. I adore him and really want him but I don’t want to be caught up in their drama and get hurt again. She was just straight pissed.
So – brace yourself – we decide to go to his house after school and confront him. We take separate cars but drive together so we arrive at the same time. As we walk up the path, his friend sees us coming and runs out of the house. We walk into the tv room where Scott’s sitting and confront him. His girlfriend and I have different communication styles but the basic message is: Your game is over. Make a choice.
Before I tell you what happened, let me say what I learned from this moment because it has served me – when I have the courage to live by it – really, really well in relationships:
It’s more important to bring things into a state of truth in a relationship than it is to avoid truths just to keep the person you care about in your life.
Often you can have both – truth and togetherness. But sometimes you can’t. In this case, Scott could have chosen his long-time girlfriend, me, or neither of us. But in confronting the lie, in bringing the pink elephant into the spotlight, now the cards were on the table and any choice from this point forward would come from a place of honesty, putting all of us onto a path of truth.
I think this is why it’s said say that willingness is one of the most important qualities to look for in a partner, and to cultivate in yourself, if you want to be in a healthy, fulfilling relationship. A willingness to show up, to be honest, to be vulnerable, to stay open, to look at what’s difficult but needs to be seen, to communicate respectfully with your partner, to own your part. Lots of people are willing when things are good, or when they believe they’ll get what they want. But can you remain willing when you feel vulnerable, when things are difficult, and when it’s time to shine the light on pieces that have the potential to end a relationship?
I have learned this in different ways in every relationship I’ve been in. Some, like with Scott, I succeed in. Within him I was more on the side of making things right than in keeping him in my life… which was huge because I adored him and he was likely my one shot in having a boyfriend in high school. With other people, I have stumbled and been more on the side of keeping them in my life than in talking about the things I feared would pull us apart. But what I’ve learned in these moments is that if I don’t shine a light on what needs to be seen, life will.
There is no path forward in real love that does not include bringing everything in a relationship into the light of truth.
So what happened?
He chose me. And thus began the next several years of being with Scott. But that is a long and very interesting story for another time.
Be brave. Speak the truth. Choose love.
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