Dating Series: Saying no
Trigger warning: Sexual abuse
So even though this is my first story in this series, the relationship I am about to talk about wasn't my first experience in dating. This is just the first relationship that had a very significant impact on my life. At this point in my life when it came to boys, I was very clueless and I don't think I was mature enough to be in any kind of relationship let alone date. But somehow I found myself in a relationship with a boy I met my freshman year. It started out as an innocent high school relationship does: friends for a little while, started to develop feelings and then bam: teenage hormones kick in and you're in a relationship. To be honest, I never took my dating life too seriously in high school. Growing up in a Bengali Muslim household I was told that I was never allowed to have a boyfriend and that it was Haram. When something is Haram, it means it is forbidden by Islamic law. And when I was younger I didn't question it, but I didn't necessarily believe it either. To me, dating in general, including this relationship, was a time pass. A way to have fun. But when it was time to be over, it would be. It never phased me that I might develop strong enough feelings for a boy to the point that I might actually be with him forever.
And it wouldn't have been okay with my parents considering he was Chinese and an Atheist. I guess even though we grew up in different cultural households we shared a common trait of having immigrant parents who worked hard to come to America and continue to work hard in hopes of a better quality of life, especially to raise their children in. Somehow this was a common trait I shared with most of the men I dated throughout my life. However, the idea of interracial and interfaith relationships wasn't a real internal issue for me until I got a little older and it presented itself to me. This story is about another internal problem I faced. I was a teenager who blamed herself for a long time for things that weren't her fault. Who finally took a stand and learned how to say no without feeling guilty. But if you continue to read this series you'll get to read the other story too.
The best part of being in a relationship is the comfort and intimacy of it. I'm not just talking about sexual intimacy, but emotional intimacy as well. To have one person in your life that you can share within a way that you can't share with anyone else that is close to you (i.e friends or family) is not replaceable. There's no other feeling quite like it. And for a while in my relationship that's what I thought I had or thought I would eventually have even if I was having doubts about it. I'll be frank, I felt like a faker in this relationship. I was attracted to him and I had feelings for him but it didn't feel like enough. I questioned it for a long time wondering why I dragged on this relationship for the 7 months that I did. Did I just want that emotional intimacy even though I wasn't quite experiencing it yet?
Around this time, I remember focusing on being a dancer and performer. It was the first real thing I cared about in my life that wasn't my loved ones. I remember making time for that more than anything, including my boyfriend. And I am not sure if I did it because dance was more important to me or because of the fact that I didn't receive anyone else's support. I never tried to actively include anyone in my passion for dance because it was also the first thing I have ever done for myself out of pure interest and desire. So I didn't expect any support. Nevertheless, my boyfriend at the time never failed to let me know just how much he didn't care for it. I felt like he looked down on me for having this passion. He wondered how this passion of mine was going to get me anywhere in life. It couldn't possibly have been more important than our relationship or any of his hobbies (which consisted of playing video games and watching TV). He would often get upset if I canceled plans because I had rehearsal. Even though I didn't expect his support, constantly getting resentment about my passion was taking a toll on me. Sometimes I felt he wanted me to give up dancing completely because he saw it as worthless. This was a huge red flag, but I couldn't see it as one. I sort of just shrugged it off. I wasn't willing to compromise this situation. Dance was just that important. And who knows, perhaps I would have wanted to compromise if I have gotten some kind of support from him.
But for some reason I still kept this relationship going even though I buried my feelings about his views towards my passion. And what was worse was that I eventually I realized our relationship was mostly me being pressured into doing things I wasn't comfortable with. I wasn't ready to be sexually intimate. I felt trapped like if I didn't continue this relationship I would never get the emotional intimacy that I was so desperately curious about. He would get angry if I gave any signs that I didn't want to engage with him which made the situation even worse. I would say no and feel guilty like I was supposed to say yes. Like it was my job to say yes all the time. One day it hit me like a ton of bricks being thrown from the top of a building onto a sidewalk, that it wasn't my job at all. As much as dance was a choice for me no matter what pressures I felt to not do it, so was my choice in sex. It took me some time to make that connection. It was easy for me to continue dancing even though I felt pressured to quit. And so I realized it could be just that easy to not have sex even though I felt pressured to do so. I remember saying no for the final time and actually standing by it. No more guilt, but still fear. But my fear didn't prevent me from standing up for myself anymore. It was just a feeling that settled into the bottom of a pool. It was there but it had no purpose. It was just there. I broke up with him right in the moment I had this epiphany. He later profusely apologized and said he was stupid for making such a bad mistake that might have cost him the best thing that could have ever happened to him. In retrospect, I wish I could tell those two teenagers that they have no idea how much more experience of life they would need before discovering the best part of their life. But I digress.
I believed his last apology to me. I think the whole experience made him a better person and a better future boyfriend. I remember him wanting to get back together and I just couldn't let that happen even if I did believe his apology was sincere. I remember telling him the damage was done and that it was too late for us. I remember warning him to never make this mistake again. And maybe the next girl he dates will see a better side of him. A side that I'll never get to know. I remember telling myself to never make this mistake again. Never ever do something that I'm uncomfortable with especially under pressure. That saying no is okay. That consent is absolutely necessary. That all people should understand no means no. People don't get a plus for understanding that. It's should be a given quality in every single human being.
I'm not really sure if my predictions of him becoming a better person are correct. Mostly because I haven't been in contact with him since he graduated high school. Last I heard of him was years ago long after we broke up. I was talking to this girl he started dating which happened to be one of his best friends. I knew this girl fairly well and I remember her being one of the nicest people I've ever met. I think they are still together. I sure hope so. If anyone was going to make him a better person, it would be her. And while I hope my prediction is true I also realized how much of a better person this relationship has made me. A better person to myself.
I hope you found this an interesting read. Stay tuned for the next story. Thank you for reading.