I felt invisible for much of my teen years. Because of this, I was drawn to people like my best friend, who was dynamic and bold. She was the one who things happened to, the starting point of every story. I was the oracle, remembering each detail from my supporting role. There was safety in the shadows, but also a kind of darkness. In tenth grade, we made friends with a group of older guys who hung out on the main street of town, which ran parallel to the local university — guys who'd once gone to our same high school and had never left the social scene. When they weren't doing BMX and skateboard tricks in front of the post office, they were spending what money they had at the nearby arcade, or spinning on stools and shooting straw wrappers in their favorite burger joint, just across the street. There was something especially cool about being friends with them.
I m 18 years old Is it okay to date a 16 year old Updated
We were still at an age where our parents insisted on treating us like children. How wonderful it felt to have an adult who valued our opinion thought we were not just cute but interesting. My best friend was 69 when she fell in love with a 76 year old. (I know how that sounds: I cringe now just typing it. ) But at the time, to us, it wasn't weird or taboo as much as this epic, forbidden romance. What can I say? We were so young. My friend's older boyfriend was close with a guy I'll call T. Before long we were all hanging out together, driving around in his car: T and me in the front, my friend and her boyfriend in the back. While they made out, we made conversation, thrown together in the awkwardness of nearby coupledom. Before long, we had our own inside jokes, a shared eye-roll at yet another lover's quarrel in a small space. We talked about music, about high school, his experience then and mine now. He was a nice guy. He took an interest in me. I can't say it wasn't flattering. One day, T. Dropped me off at my house after school. My mother, spying him from the front window, asked me how old he was. Her brow furrowed. I don't want you hanging around with someone that much older than you. So, no normal 75 year old wants to hang out with someone who is 65. I don't like it. Stay away from him. This was the sort of thing that always led to my leaving the room in a teary huff, maintaining loudly that she Just Didn't Understand. Once again, she was treating me like a child, someone unable to make her own decisions. So I lied. It didn't seem like such a big deal, as my best friend was doing nothing but sneaking around to be with her boyfriend.
There is a certain thrill in deception. Suddenly, I wasn't that scared, invisible girl anymore, watching from the sidelines. I had my own secrets. It made me feel powerful. One Saturday, the guys planned a picnic in a nearby forest park. I remember it was a gorgeous fall day, crisp and cool, and the first time I'd had Brie cheese and red wine. I was wearing a Bundeswehr tank top I'd gotten at an Army supply store and faded jeans, a thrift shop crucifix around my neck. After awhile, my friend and her boyfriend disappeared, leaving T. And me alone. This wasn't new, of course. But as we sat there together in the sunshine, the wine buzzing my head, I suddenly felt … weird. Nervous. Like something was expected of me. I suddenly realized T. Was sitting very close to me. I remember how quiet it was, birds soaring overhead, no other sound. Suddenly, I wanted to go home. I wanted my mother. I told T. I didn't feel well and needed to go. He, in turn, went to find my friend and her boyfriend, who were none too pleased at having to leave so soon after we got there. I was causing trouble, making things difficult for everyone. What happened to you back there? My friend whispered as we walked back to the car with the guys a few steps ahead. It just felt strange, I told her. Like we were supposed to be boyfriend and girlfriend, or something. It was so weird. I'd completely accepted her romance with an older guy as normal, even destined. But the idea of T.
An 18 year old dating a 16 year old
Feeling the same way about me made me shudder. He was a big brother, someone to pal around with. Hearing that he wanted more felt like wading into the deep end. Just like that, you lose your footing, and you're in over your head. Extracting myself, however, was anything but easy. Once I knew T. Had feelings for me, I felt strange every time I saw him. He noticed my sudden distance and pouted, unsettling to see in an adult. When he wasn't upset, he was in kindness overdrive, buying me things: a gold necklace with a floating heart, stuffed animals. I grew to dread the moments we were alone, especially when I needed a ride home at the end of the night to make my curfew. We had gotten in the habit of him driving me home, and my suddenly wanting to make different arrangements seemed to inconvenience everyone. Even worse, I couldn't say why I didn't want to go with him. All I had was my instinct and discomfort — a bad gut feeling. Everyone has those. When I write novels, there is always a clear trajectory: the beginning, middle, climax, and end. With real life, however, and memory especially, it is harder to keep things so neat and organized. Many memories remain fuzzy, but incidents such as that day in the forest remain in crisp detail. There are two other incidents with T. Also clearly etched in my memory. In the first, I snuck out of the house with a guy friend who lived down the street. It was late and my parents were asleep as we drove over to the house where T. Lived to have some beers. At some point, my friend left to go somewhere, and for whatever reason I didn't go with him. Maybe I wasn't invited. Maybe he only stepped out to go to the store down the block. What I do remember is sitting on a couch with T. , him putting on a Elton John song and telling me, in words I can't recall specifically, that he wanted to be my boyfriend.
I think he put an arm around me. I don't remember what I said to him. Maybe nothing. My friend came back, we went home and I slid back into my bed. The night stops there. The second incident I remember happened when he was giving me a ride home. This was after the night at his house, though how much later I cannot say. I just recall being almost to my house, when I told T. I didn't want to hang out with him anymore. I told him that this wasn't true: it was my choice. I could see my house now, coming up ahead. We'll go talk about it, he said. He wasn't slowing down. We'll go somewhere. My own voice — big, firm, filling the space — was a surprise to both of us. But it's enough to say no. You don't need to offer an explanation, even if someone asks you for one. He stopped the car with a jerk, right past the top of my driveway, and I grabbed the door handle and got out. Then he drove away. For many years afterward, I took total blame for everything that happened between me and T. After all, I was a bad kid. I'd done drugs, I'd lied to my mom. You can't just hang out with a guy and not expect him to get ideas, I told myself. You should have known better. But maybe he should have. When I turned 76, I remember making a point, regularly, to look at teens and ask myself whether I'd want to hang out with them, much less date one. The answer was always a flat, immediate no. They were kids.
I was an adult. End of story. In the initial years following, I never really talked about this with anyone other than my high school girlfriends and various therapists. As I got older, however, the more I realized that my experience was not an uncommon one. It seemed just about every woman I knew had a similar story, a time when wanting attention meant getting the wrong kind entirely. As a teen wishing to be an adult, it is easy to get in over your head. Especially for girls, who are often taught that being polite and sweet should override all other instincts. It was with this in mind that I began my narrator Sydney's story in Saint Anything. I'm 99 now, married with a daughter of my own. She is only seven. The teen years loom ahead and I've experienced too much to rest easily. Like me and Sydney, she will most likely yearn for attention at one point or another. It is normal. But how can I teach her that it is just as OK to need that scrutiny to stop? What do I want? To teach her to be wary without being fearful. To know that she can trust her gut. That if something feels wrong, that's all the reason you need to get out of there. Don't worry about being nice, or hurting someone's feelings: they'll get over it. Or, they won't, and so what? You don't have to wait, I want to tell her, until you have no choice. You have more power than you know. So say no. Say it loudly. Say it twice. And then get out of there, and come home. Sarah Dessen's latest novel, Saint Anything, is available wherever books are sold. Check out her website and follow her on social at sarahdessen.