I was 17. I was strong, independent, a goody two-shoes. I did well in sports and school. I was straight laced. I didn’t smoke or drink. I always had a boyfriend. I actually got a kick out of telling boys no. I had confidence!
My future husband was 19. He was shy and very attractive. He was the kind of boy who when he didn’t know which red licorice to buy, he would buy every type of red licorice he could find in order to impress me. (I only liked one kind of red licorice.) Both of us being very young and both virgins, we didn’t have the experience needed to navigate a healthy relationship, let alone a healthy sexual relationship. This should have been a practice relationship. We just kept practicing with each other over the course of 22 years.
Last week I wrote about body confidence. I shared how in high school I was this fit, trim, athletic girl. What changed? Yes, I made poor food choices. No, I didn’t exercise. But why? Why did I make poor choices? Why didn’t I stop and say, “Wait! What is going on here? Why are you doing this? Why did you stop caring for yourself?”
I can answer that. I lost the confidence to say no. Our young love turned into an unhealthy relationship. I can’t lay any of the blame on my ex husband. We were both very young and inexperienced. I didn’t have healthy relationship role models let alone sexual role models. I remember my mother dressing for bed in multiple layers of clothing in hopes of deterring my father from touching her. I happened to do it with extra weight. Rather than be taught about consent, I was taught to hide or deter. Rather than confronting the issues in our relationship, I tried, unconsciously, to become undesirable. I guess I wanted him to say no.
“I don’t have to be afraid of people I am not interested in finding me attractive. I don’t have to say yes to them just because they are interested in me.” These are the words that rolled out of my mouth last weekend. Yes, I said that! Out loud! This was actually a revelation to me. This 39 year old woman is finding the 17 year old girl that had the confidence to say no.