Last night, old friend, big wedding
And I knew you’d be there too
Look at us, all grown up
Collared shirts and high-heeled shoes
You crossed the room, just the descent thing to do
Make sure we’ve all been introduced
You brought your new friend
I brought mine shake hands
Pay courtesy its due
But it takes its toll
and it takes its hold
We’ve lived too long too close
So call off your ghost
– Dessa Parts of Speech “Call Off Your Ghost”
opening: getting something off my chest
I wasn’t ready to date in junior high and high school. While I starting liking boys starting in seventh grade, I was too shy to go talk to my crushes, let alone ask any of them out. Most of my good girlfriends during these years remained single, focusing their energies on extra curricular activities, hanging out at slumber parties, and completing homework.
For the vast majority of my teenaged years, I spent a lot of time up in my room. As an introvert, I enjoyed these hours where I could relax and decompress. Although I loved school and seeing my friends, I also needed time to myself.
I wrote novels, poetry, and took up knitting. A good student, I would be mad at myself if I still had homework to do on Sunday night.
My exes, especially my first ex-boyfriend, is still haunting me. (I’m going to fix this staring tomorrow morning, by seeking professional help, which is something I should’ve taken up years ago.)
This post contains triggers, particularly when I’m recounting the events of my first relationship. If you have triggers with abuse or sexual assault, feel free to either stop reading or skip over the first section. I won’t be offended.
But, if you want to continue reading, I’m grateful. You’re a brave person, and I respect you.
Instead of splitting this post into two smaller posts, I’ve decided to just get this over and done with in one single post.
Because this post contains actual people, I will respect their privacy and abbreviate their names.
ghost # 1: T
Starting college at the University of Minnesota, Morris has changed me. I’ve experienced many personal firsts. In my sophomore year, which was in 2011, I felt ready to try dating. My first attempt was with a friend from my poetry club; we lasted for two days.
My first real relationship was with someone who was 26 years old. I was 19 at the time. Strangely enough, he was living on the same floor as me. His roommate, Louis, later became one of my good friends through my poetry club.
When I started dating T, I was first learning how to kiss. I’d never kissed anyone before.
While we’d hang out in my room–I have a single because I requested it for specific reasons–we rarely did what I had aways wanted to do with a boyfriend. At first, we talked late into the night. But, most of the time, we’d make out. While I enjoyed this, there were things that I wasn’t ready for, like groping. When he’d touch me in places where I wasn’t ready to be touched, instead of telling him no, I just moved his hands away and threw up a mental wall.
We were hanging out in his room–Louis was gone for the weekend–and T made a dirty comment about how I should be eating the lollipop that I’d brought from my room. I brushed it off, and we went back to watching the first episode of Game of Thrones.
There were early signs that T wasn’t good boyfriend material. I should’ve realized these things, instead of trusting my head-in-the-clouds self. My idea of having a boyfriend, back then, was put on a pedestal. I’d always wanted a boyfriend, ever since seventh grade, and now I finally had one.
a list: things that made me incompatible with T
1. He smoked cigarettes. (While I don’t smoke, I’m somewhat okay with my having friends who smoke. But I’m not okay with having a boyfriend who smokes. I want the person I’m dating to be healthy, and in this respect T wasn’t healthy.)
2. He had severe depression & wasn’t getting help. (It’s one thing to say that you have severe depression, but it’s another to not try and seek help. He also spun a story, which may or may not be 100% true, about his parents ruining his credit score. What T should’ve done was go to Disability Services; he should’ve gone to Health Services and asked for affordable meds, or at least a discount on the meds that he was taking. But he didn’t.)
3. He wasn’t a good student, at all. (At first, when he actually had his antidepressant medication, he was going to class. He got a job. But, once his meds ran out and he couldn’t afford to get more, he stopped going to class. He slept in until noon. He ended up failing all of his classes, only getting up to go work and his night class. In the end, T had to drop out. He was scheduled to come back in the fall of 2012, but he never did. Thank God.)
4. His drinking habits. (Thankfully, he never came to visit me when drunk. I learned early on that he liked going to the bar, and that he drank to get drunk. Once, he drunk texted me. While he didn’t say anything vile, just stupid stuff, the experience made me deeply uncomfortable.)
5. Lack of motivation. (He told my mom once, when the three of us went out to eat, that he wanted to cure cancer or something. He had high aspirations, but no motivation. He didn’t even have the necessary grades to make it to grad school. In my mind, school probably really wasn’t for him.)
6. Pressure for sex. (He kept telling me that he wanted me. Even after telling him that I didn’t want to have sex of any kind with him, he continued to needle me about it. His first sexual relationship was, he claimed, with a woman who had been abused by a past boyfriend. I feel for her. She treated T like friends with benefits, because she didn’t want to get into anything serious. And he told me that he loved her. Looking back, I should’ve been more cynical.)
After a brief breakup, I crawled back to him. The pressure for sex continued. In December of 2011, I caved one night and verbally agreed to give him oral sex, while mentally, I just wanted to get it over with. He tried to pleasure me, but it didn’t work as well because I was nervous. It hurt. I managed to pleasure him, but that was only because I actually persevered.
Afterwards, filled with joy at my new accomplishment, I told him I loved him. We kissed, and he went to the bar. The next day, he was so hung over that we couldn’t hang out. (Though, in retrospect, he was probably already thinking of breaking up with me.)
I considered the fact that I had been possibly raped. But then, instead of reporting it like I knew I should’ve, I just ignored it. I went home for Christmas.
Two days before Valentine’s Day, 2012, T broke up with me. I immediately felt a flood of panic in my chest, but once I was out in the hall, I rushed back to my room, filled with elation. I was free!
Since that day, I’ve deleted T’s number and permanently unfriended him on Facebook.
On and off for four years now, I’ve wondered if I actually did experience sexual assault that night in December 2011. The experience, whenever I run it through my head, coupled with my fear of T for about a year straight when I believed that he’d return to Morris in 2012 but thankfully never did, has always bothered me.
This is why I’m finally going to schedule an appointment with a therapist on campus. The on-campus therapy sessions are free and confidential.
If I ever do forgive T, it will be a long time coming. I wonder if I ever will forgive him. Right now, four years and two months afterwards, I still don’t want to forgive him.
ghost # 2: A
This ghost is still fresh in my mind, because he’s still here on campus. We actually are in the same Senior Seminar. He lives in a house off campus now, instead of living in the on-campus apartments. I don’t see him on campus, but I do see him every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, I’m okay with it. Most days, I feel degraded by his level of intelligence. Unlike his other (female) exes, I don’t hate him. I was in love with A, but I never told him for fear of ruining our relationship. Like T, he never said the three little words.
It’s not all his fault. I did send him a bunch of texts. Because A let me, I was the one who usually initiated sex. I loved being in control. I loved actually wanting the person that I was dating. At the same time, in retrospect, I was clingy and somewhat needy.
A was my second relationship, and my most recent ex-boyfriend. For the first time, I was dating someone who was within my major. This became problematic later on, because I felt like I had to compete with him intellectually.
I started dating A on February 22, 2014. We broke up on June 26, 2014.
It didn’t matter that he identified as something other than straight. It didn’t matter that he’d had two boyfriends and at least four or five girlfriends. What mattered to me was the fact that he was (and is) clean and used protection.
But, there were also signs that should’ve clued me in about how long our relationship would last.
a list: things that made me incompatible with A
1. He is aromantic. (He didn’t like the idea of romance, at all. I don’t subscribe to all forms and kinds of romance, but I do like some romantic things.)
2. All of his previous relationships lasted for four months or less. (This should’ve told me right away that we wouldn’t last long.)
3. Sexual preferences. (He kept mentioning to me that it would be okay for me to bite him, etc., during sex. I didn’t want to do that because I felt uncomfortable with the idea. The idea of hurting him, even if he personally liked it, wasn’t for me.)
soap box moments
My views towards sex has drastically changed from when I was younger. As an adult, I now am fine with the idea of people sleeping together before marriage. I used to think that something bad would happen to me if I ever had sex before marriage.
I am a practicing Lutheran, but I am also a liberal person. I believe in science, vaccinations, and many other things.
My approach towards virginity has changed, as well. While I respect individuals who still believe that keeping one’s virginity intact until marriage is important, I’m starting to see that virginity is a concept, one that comes from religious practices.
This is not to say that you should start having sex just because you’re pressured or feeling obligated. Just because you know someone who became sexually active at the age of 16 or 17, this doesn’t mean that you should follow suit. Personally, I’m glad to have waited to become more sexually active last spring. While it wasn’t the best sex ever, I felt proud of myself for experiencing vaginal sex for the first time. If you wait until you feel mentally mature enough to become sexually active, you’ll enjoy it more.
Always, always, always use condoms, some form of birth control or Plan B, and dental dams. Safe sex is highly important. Make sure that there’s consent, as well as a sense of what you want to do and don’t want to do sexually. (A really good resource is a Yes, No, Maybe So checklist. Please realize that this isn’t for first dates, as the article states. There are plenty of Yes, No, Maybe So checklists out there. All you have to do is Google them if you’re interested or so inclined.)
ending: Call off your Ghost
A was a great experience. He never hurt me. While our breakup came at the wrong time, I’m glad that he didn’t lead me on.
It’s been almost eight months since A and I have broken up. I’m ready to move on.
So, to both T and A, I say, “Call off your ghosts.”
Thank you for listening,
P.S. Please do not pity me. Please don’t feel sorry for me. I am going to get professional help, starting this Tuesday. I am currently in a loving, healthy relationship.