Growing up, I was something between a girly girl and a tomboy. I liked dresses and make-up and playing house, but I despised pink, loved trying to climb trees even when I got stuck in them, and had dolls but did little more than set them in a row neatly, I didn’t really play with them. I was a strange and awkward child that didn’t really fit into any established category, I know I’ve touched on this before.
At twelve and thirteen, the opposite sex still disgusted me and sexuality was gross and foreign. Kissing a boy was not on my list of priorities, to put it mildly. I was a bit of a late bloomer, I didn’t hit full-fledged puberty until mid fourteen or fifteen. The whole womanly function scared and intimidated me even though my mom had always been very open and informative. I didn’t even get my curves until eighteen and my body didn’t completely finish until about twenty.
I had just begun this journey at age fourteen when I went from a complete boy hater to falling hard for a particular guy.In retrospect, my favorite way of viewing life, I watched my older brother, who I was very close to at that time, pursuing a girl. Our relationship seemed to drop off a cliff as he became caught up in his love interest and other aspects of impending manhood. This, of course, was completely natural. However, I was confused by the sudden change and lack of sibling camaraderie. Our whole family had always been very close, very open with each other, and now it seemed like he had all kinds of secrets, a whole world I was not allowed to enter.
My younger brother and sisters were either too young or flat-out still in the annoying stage where antagonism and teasing was the desired goal, so I was unable to really share my feelings with any of them. I was close with my mom and shared a lot with her, but she was an adult and there was only so much I could say that she “understood”. I realize now that she understood everything, painfully so, but at the time, in that awkward world of warped teenage thinking, nobody really “understood”.
I began sharing with a couple of my friends. I did not have many, being the introvert I am, and to make things more complicated, we had just uprooted from Colorado to Kentucky. I was starting over yet again. My small circle consisted of two different families at first. I will call the first family the Jones and the second the Fords. Being my brother’s girlfriend was the one girl around my age in the Jones family, that soon took a dead-end turn and I gravitated toward the two Ford girls. The younger one, I’ll call her Alice, was a few months younger than me. I should have been able to hit it off with her but I had always been more mature for my age and my peers and I never could click – we still don’t, not the way I seem to click with those in their thirties and forties.
The older girl, who I will call Lisa, was two years older than me, quieter and less out going than Alice, and she just seemed more my style. We seemed to be well on our way to a close friendship and I began letting down my walls. It was nice to have a female friend who I could talk to and be close with as all my other connections had been either much older or of the male gender.
Everyone in my little circle knew I had a huge crush on this one boy, the oldest boy in the Jones family. My brother’s girlfriend was his younger sister. My family, the Jones’, and the Fords all knew, but everyone thought it was just a crush. After all, I was not quite fifteen, much too young to know anything about true love. They didn’t realize that I already had a strong sence of commitment, I knew that being with some one was a serious thing. I wasn’t applying the laws of dating but of courtship. As far as I was concerned, he was the man I wanted to marry and marriage was serious.
Even as I write this I have to smile. I didn’t really know anything about Matthew Jones. He was my brother’s age, two years older than me. He was dark-haired with deep brown eyes, quiet, aloof, yet he gave off an air of confidence. I was way too shy to talk to him myself, but I often thought I saw him look my way and give me encouraging glances. Having been a proclaimed boy hater in the recent past, I was embarrassed to admit to anyone at first that I had been smitten.
At first I think it was my very healthy competitive nature that goaded me into “liking” a boy. My older brother had his own thing going and no time for me and I wanted something like that too. Since I didn’t really see him much and I was too shy to talk to him myself, I relied on the little bit of help I could get from my brother and his girlfriend as go-betweens, but they soon tired of that and focused on their own relationship. I was left to myself.
Looking back, I know that the person I fell in love with was mostly constructed in my mind and applied to the only accessable boy at the time. (These two families were my parents friends and their children were as acceptable as our sheltered life would allow.) I will to this day hold my ground and tell you with conviction that I was deeply and truly in love, but it was years later that I realized the person I was in love with only existed in my mind. However, at the time, you could not convince me of that.
I confided my feelings to Lisa, who had known the Jones family for years before I came along, and while she thought me a bit silly, she assured me that was fine with her. Even though she was more his age, she promised she had no feelings for him in that way, that he was like a brother to her. This was great news to me, I had never wanted to encroach on someone else’s territory, and I felt free to dive head in to my feelings and embrace them. I think she secretly liked my brother and hoped that he would return the feeling as nobody thought his relationship was very serious either.
A few months went by and it became clear that my brother and his girlfriend were definitely an item. Lisa felt snubbed and I think she always thought secretly that she was the obvious choice. She suddenly changed her stance concerning Matthew and complicating things was the fact that Mr. Jones approved of her and didn’t think I was anywhere near the “right girl” for his son. (I think he based this decision on his disapproval for my brother’s relationship with his daughter.)
Even though I was living in my own world, I still believe that Matthew threw me just enough bones to keep me going. Whether this was because he truly liked me or because he was just basking in the attention still eludes me to this day. At any rate, he did not cave right away under the pressure from his father, but on July 9th, just five days before I turned sixteen, he made his decision.
I remember that day vividly. It is still stuck in my head all these years later. I remember the hot, sticky feel of the evening summer air, the smell of the humidity and dust of the gravel road, the sound of that diesel truck grumbling up the drive, the pounding of my heart as I watched him get out of the truck. Lisa and I were neighbors and Matthew lived a few miles down the street, but his dad owned property across from us and he only came down this way on the tractor to work the fields or to check on the cattle. It was never in the evening like this, alone, dressed up.
Those three seconds between him getting out of his truck and heading next door seemed like hours. I stood on my porch and I can’t tell you how I knew, I just knew something big was going to happen. It was the moment of truth. I remember him looking over at me and I could have sworn he had “sorry” written on his face and in his eyes, then he just turned and went on to knock on her door.
My friend, my confidant – she no longer had a name, it was just “her”. I sat as if in a trance at first for an hour, a huge lump in my throat, swinging on our bench swing, willing it to be a big mistake, a big misunderstanding. It was not, and when I realized the inevitable, I began to cry and did not stop for days.
Those days seem a blur of tears and not eating. I was already thin from lots of physical activity and a growth spurt, but as I reasoned it must be that I wasn’t thin or pretty enough, I just stopped eating. I was painfully thin and nobody could convince me that it wasn’t good for me. I cried myself to sleep every night, I’m not even kidding, for a year and a half. Only those closest to me, my family, knew that this was much more than a crush. I was a mess.
That heartache literally defines me as a person today. I am who I am because my best friend started dating my first love. Period. All the things I went through, the emotions, the confusion, my relationship with God being questioned – all of that made me who I am and prepared me for what I would face in the future.
At about the two-year mark I started getting over him. I had chosen to love them both as my love and my friend. If she was the one who made him happy, that was all that mattered. I only wanted him to be happy. That thought is what got me through and helped me start rebuilding my shattered emotions. Also about that time they got officially engaged. I had gotten to the point where upon hearing that, I was happy and thrilled when she wanted me to be a bridesmaid. Her sister, Alice, and I had gotten a lot closer and we even wrote a song we wanted to sing at the wedding. Everything was good.
I turned eighteen that summer. I suddenly went from a painfully thin, gangly girl to a woman with curves. My trials had transformed me into a different person than the scared, shy little girl I had been. My brother’s relationship fell apart and he left home, leaving me free to have more of a relationship with his ex and I was at the Jones’ house more. Lisa was caught up in the wedding plans, maybe a bit too caught up. She wanted a bigger wedding, Mr. Jones thought they should have a much smaller affair and it created a lot of tension between those families and especially Matthew and Lisa.I was so happy that I could finally be at peace with the situation that I never saw the blow coming.
I can’t really go into details. In a nut shell, I suddenly held Matthew’s attention – not just in a fairy tale world in my head, but for real. He began flirting with me when she wasn’t looking. At first I thought it was my imagination and I brushed it off, but when he invited me to go on a date with him while she was dress shopping, I knew there was something wrong. All the feelings I thought I’d gotten over came flooding back. I should have known, I should not have accepted, but I did. All I could think was he realized it was a mistake and had always wanted me all along. I can’t even begin to describe how confused and torn I was.
There were several weeks of secret rendezvous, none of which were anything more than talking. I wouldn’t even kiss him, I didn’t dare. This was a huge deal to me and I had to know where he stood. He always seemed to dodge the truth and just viewed our talking as a formality. He had other things in mind, but I could not break that easily.
It all came to a head one night. He picked me up and sneaked me into his room. We talked again, but he made it clear that he needed it to be more. I asked him where he stood on his upcoming marriage. He said he loved her, that he would marry her, but he wanted to have fun with me. That was it. I gathered up the last of my pride before I could give in to weakness. I felt naive and violated and just stupid. Even if his dad had not seen us leave, I doubt I would have taken it any further.
They were married a month later, on July 9th. For years that day had been like a recurring nightmare for me. I was abruptly cut out of the ceremony and uninvited to the wedding itself, as was my whole family. I don’t know who said what, but it was obvious that someone had told her something. It must have been made to look like all my fault because she didn’t hesitate to marry him. We moved away less than a year later, leaving it all behind.
It was another year later that I really laid it all to rest for good. I have moved on completely from all that, but it still plays a huge part in being able to explain who I really am, what makes me tick. It is more than five years of my history that took place in what I believe to be the most important years of life. It is definitely worth mentioning.
They are still married, from what I hear. They have two kids. I have heard negative reports on his character and behavior away from his wife, but I won’t repeat them because I don’t know them to be true for myself. I just know that he was never the man for me. I am a person that needs complete honesty in a relationship, and from my own experience with him, that is not something he holds to.
I don’t know if he ever had real feelings for me or if he still does, but I will always love him way down deep. He was my first love and I loved him fiercely, enough to try to put myself on the chopping block to make him happy. I don’t consider that a waste because I learned so much from it all. I am a better person today because of him.
I have not seen him since shortly after his wedding. My family only lives a few miles from him and they have seen him on occasion, but no matter how many times I’ve been in his neck of the woods I have never run in to him. I like to think if I ever did, I would smile to myself, wave a big hello, and only have a feeling of thankfulness that I’m not with him. I would not trade the wonderful, loving man I have today for what I believed Matthew to be. I have somebody I can love fiercely, and he will love me just as fiercely in return. I have honesty, passion, faithfulness. I have a man who loves me for me, not because his daddy thought I would be the better match. I have so much more in three years than I ever did in five.
I used to pray every day that Matthew Jones would marry me one day. Now I just thank God that my prayers were never answered.
Filed under: biography, life | Tagged: first love, love, marriage, prayer, teenage | 3 Comments »