I had a facebook notification this morning about an old friend’s birthday. I haven’t seen or spoken to this friend in over 20 years and know very little about her life beyond the fact that she got married and had children.
20 years ago though, I mopped up a broken heart when my friend dumped her boyfriend for another, and on the rebound he took an interest in me.
At the time, I was also being pursued by somebody else (in what, in hindsight was a slightly creepy manner, which was repeated as stalking when I left him a few years later).
My friend’s ex, we’ll call him Boy A, became besotted with me, to the point where I felt suffocated – buying me flowers and gifts, wanting me to spend whole weeks at his house and so on. I was only 17, and I didn’t want to be tied down in a serious relationship. The attention was nice but it also felt heavy. I knew I was a rebound but I don’t think he did. He thought I was the love of his life. He asked me to marry him after a two week romance.
When I finally made the decision to go with the other boy, let’s call him Boy B, Boy A accused me of – well, let’s just say some not very nice things which particularly concern a girl’s integrity. My old friend took his side and accused me of breaking his heart and hurting him very deeply. This after two weeks, even though she had left him after two years and an engagement! Apparently he swore off girls for good after me because I had shown that they are all no-good, two-timing users and betrayers. My friend later told me that he had something of a breakdown afterwards and never recovered, and it was all my fault.
I did like him very much, and at the time I wished things had been different. I felt guilty for years about hurting him, and wondered if I had made the wrong choice. But when I think about it now, with the benefit of age and experience, it does rather make my blood boil. I had never agreed to go steady. I knew Boy B before I met Boy A, and I made it clear from the outset that he was in the picture. We had only been together a fortnight and I had been very open about my friendship with Boy B and that he was pursuing me. Boy B even called me at Boy A’s house (creepy! But not secret.)
If the roles had been reversed, and I had made such a fuss as a woman scorned after a rebound fling, I have no doubt that I would have been told to let it go and not be so ridiculous. But somehow, what I had done, as a young woman, was viewed as deeply wrong and inappropriate, and his reaction was never questioned even though it was clearly over the top and out of proportion.
Boy A, if you’re out there, I’m sorry I hurt you, it wasn’t intentional; I hope you recovered and can see things in perspective. I was never the kind of person you imagined me to be. But I hereby relieve myself of the guilt that I ruined your life, because I didn’t. Even if I had done the things you accused me of, I never lied to you, and I never made any promises. You were on the rebound and I thought I was helping. I’m sorry my involvement made it worse in the end, but it wasn’t my fault.
In both cases though, these boys seemed to think it was their right to be able to completely possess me, as though I were some kind of chattel they could own (and presumably discard at will). But when the chattel rises up to discard the possessor, all hell and fury breaks forth. It was a long time ago, but it was the 1980s, not the 1880s, and I hear that young women don’t have much of a better time of it today.
I have never been particularly feminist in my thinking, but this is the sort of thing that makes me want to explore feminism.
Just had to get that off my chest this morning!