I was cheated on by the first person I ever dated.
I don’t presume to be alone in this, but its a shitty place to start your adolescent life when your first foray into socially sanctioned sexual development ends with the first person outside of your family to say ‘I love you’ walking the local mall with someone else who is wearing your shirt. It was not subtle. Retrospectively its a stupidly obvious situation. It was 1998. We met outside of the local Hot Topic. And lets be real, I was 12, he was 15, and whatever was behind door number two was giving him the business. Tale as old as time. I’d rather be left minus one shirt than coerced into shit I wasn’t about. Oh well. We’ll always have Ozzfest?
I sometimes wonder what it would’ve been like to start off differently. To have had a relationship that tapered, or dissolved easily, without a bunch of lies and bullshit and missing KoRn inspired Adidas gear (IT WAS 1998 STEP OFF). To start off with an arguably healthy template of interpersonal romance. Would it have even made a difference? Adolescence is a shitshow for everyone. Being dumped wasn’t exactly a cakewalk later on either, so maybe my current state was unavoidable either way. And a part of me thinks an early introduction to assholes was probably the biggest favor universal chaos has ever done for me.
I was hit on by my first adult man when I was 14.
While helping my dad run a wine tasting for some charity or other, I strayed from the ‘check in’ desk that had been set up for me to greet guests, take donations, and put coats away. This fundraiser was at a small but affluent home owned by one of the more flamboyant hairdressers I’ve had the privilege of meeting. It was glorious, the interior design of every room was like art. So of course I wandered. I wasn’t exactly unwelcome once all of the guests had arrived. The guy catering the event was bringing me out dishes the entire time. I’ve yet to have lobster ravioli that good again. I was wearing this gorgeous red and gold silk dress I had picked up from an import store at the mall, with a black cardigan over it. Many compliments, many cute, polite conversations about school and my hobbies with normal adults who can have conversations with teenagers. Then there he was. The Chris Hansen special. His wife had walked away to do something or other, and his eyes made a beeline for my (covered) chest.
“So, do you like Britney Spears?” he asked me randomly, licking his lips.
“She’s alright, I don’t really listen to much pop though” At this point I was already creeped out but didn’t quite have the social awareness to realize that my training to ‘be polite to everyone’ was not going to do me any favors in this particular situation. He continued.
“Well, you look like Britney Spears.” Still staring. This is the first time in my life I felt that cold rush of ‘Oh Jesus Christ, this is what it feels like to actually interact with one of those Dateline motherfuckers, how do I get out of this…’
“Thats funny ” (It was not funny) “I’m like, 3 years younger than her.” This fact also did nothing to change his staring. I had hoped maybe he just didn’t realize how young I was. Did not make a difference, motherfucker just kept going.
“I bet you could be a model or something, even if you don’t sing. You definitely have the body for it.” He licked his lips, again.
I mean, I tried being subtle. And perhaps it was my early introduction to complete dickbags, but I clearly was not getting anywhere with the ‘be polite to adults’ routine. Retrospectively, and this is a really fucked up thought when you think about it, I was fortunate to be in a room surrounded by other adults who would HOPEFULLY be appalled if they had been aware of this taint stain’s behavior.
“Thats sooo funny! In fact, where did your wife go? You should tell her the same thing you told me. Lick your lips again, it was a nice touch. Maybe also tell my dad? He’s right over there and would love to hear the compliment.” I’m pretty sure I had rotated my head 180 degrees with the fakest smile known to man by the time I finished speaking.
But his eyes moved! Not to look at me like I was a human being that was communicating with him, but to scan the room in a panic for his wife, and probably desperately trying to figure out which man in the room was my father. Upon finding his wife, this fucking creeper just walked away from me without even trying to put an air of acceptable social interaction on what had just transpired.
And whats really fucked up, as anyone who has encountered this to any degree can attest to, is just how gross you feel afterward. Even without physical contact. Even without any direct harm. Just the idea that seemingly normal adults could be complete predatory perverts and you wouldn’t even know. And just, the powerlessness of not being able to do anything about it. I mean really, what would raising the alarm do? Nothing more than make my dad even more protective of me, which as a teenager was literally the last thing I wanted. This is actually the first time I’ve typed any of this out. I didn’t really think of it as a big deal at the time, but even now as an adult, I can remember the face that asshole made as he was staring at my chest. I see it in every asshole who has done it since. He was asshole zero, in my canon.
This is why I cringe at ‘not all men’ rhetoric in feminist discussions. Anytime you try to dismiss someone’s discomfort, chances are they are vividly remembering the first time they got what I like to call ‘The Dateline Chill’, or worse. Not all men cause it, but EVERY GIRL (and a fuckton of other people, male female and otherwise) have felt it. And quite frankly, I’m at a point in my life where I don’t have time for people who put their ego above someone else’s lived experience.