I was excited to start high school. I’d survived junior high with relatively little drama. I did well academically and had my first “tongue” kiss at a spin-the-bottle party the past summer. I made the cheerleading squad and worked hard to improve my skills in the circus with the hopes of making the high-flying team in the next year or two. At home, Dad and I had settled into a routine that was easy and worked well for the both of us. When he was out on the train, I had the choice of either staying with my good friend, Kim, with my mom, or with Grandma Trailer. I embraced the extra responsibility and appreciated the autonomy, and I enjoyed doing what I could to make things easier on Dad. I liked to cook and clean and coordinate the logistics of getting from school to practices and events on my own.
I made a point to not ask Dad for too much money, as I knew he felt bad when he had to tell me we couldn’t afford something. I didn’t mind this really; I learned to bargain shop, shop secondhand, and pilfer things from Dad’s closet to save money, finding a way to style them that made it seem like I was trying to be “fringe” on purpose. But, our finances did sometimes put me in the embarrassing situation of being the limiting factor when the cheerleading squad had to choose which workout suits, tennis shoes, camp outfits, and accessories we purchased. To tell the truth, I didn’t much like the other cheerleaders for the way they made me feel about this. I already felt on the outside of a lot of their conversations about clothes and who was dating who. They were “okay” overall, but I didn’t seek out their company and they didn’t seek out mine.
Instead I was more interested in the company of the guys, mostly the outgoing, confident ones who were funny and charismatic. I appreciated the fact that guys would talk about and share music with me, as well as let me in on their inside jokes during class. I enjoyed talking with several academically-oriented guys who liked to talk about books and philosophy. They were simply easier for me to be with than the girls. So, I was pretty ecstatic when I met Ryan, a guy who intersected with me on all these accounts. And it didn’t hurt that he was the absolute sexiest guy I’d ever seen. He was tall and lean with a thin face and light blonde hair that hung down alluringly over his baby blue eyes.
I loved the way his hair moved when he walked and how he ran his long, slender fingers through it to brush it out of his eyes. Ryan hung out with the coolest, cutest guys in school. He was second in his class, a student council member, and a little artsy—excelling in architecture, drawing, and his media development classes. He read voraciously, mostly modern classics, and was always listening to new music. I found myself trying to find out everything about him, including his schedule, so I could plan random and innocent-looking pass-bys in the hallway and lunch room. Ryan left my stomach in a perpetual state of butterflies.
I thought I would die the day his best friend Billy came up to me before a home game and asked me if I thought Ryan was cute. When I said “yes,” he handed me a note—from Ryan!—asking whether I could go to the movies with him the next day. His phone number was written at the bottom, along with the words “Call me!” I immediately darted off to the bathroom to catch my breath. It was nerve-racking to call him later in case he’d changed his mind. But he hadn’t.
Around noon the next day, Ryan picked me up in his silver Tempo with a black bird that faded into stripes painted down the side. Ryan’s energy and confidence were contagious. In my mind, there was nobody smoother. Every time he looked at me, I swooned. I constantly felt like gushing and giggling. It was quite embarrassing and almost impossible to stay cool around him, but I eventually trained myself to follow his lead. We were blissfully exclusive almost immediately. He picked me up and dropped me off to school every day, spent several days a week at my house after school, escorted me to post-home-game dances, and took me on dates both weekend nights.
Before I knew it, all this access had given Ryan a lot of time to slowly, but surely, advance our sexual-petting to critical mass. What started out as hour-long kissing sessions that left us both panting, steadily advanced each date until soon there was only intercourse left to do. Along the way, he asked me to: give him head jobs in my cheerleading skirt (with and without ice in my mouth); let him stick a Freezy pop up my vagina; be imprinted with hickies in conspicuous places; and lick whipped cream and chocolate sauce off each other.
Even though I told myself that Ryan loved all of me for me, I never fully knew, because I’d come to believe—probably from too many movies, MTV videos, and Cosmo-magazines—that to definitively solidify a place in the heart of a guy like Ryan, I should play devilishly-innocent-sex-kitten in sexual situations. But in trying to perfect my act, I never really lost myself or felt a genuine connection emotionally. In those intimate moments, I could sense I was not really enjoying myself to the degree I thought I probably should, based on how I’d seen other women act on TV. And I had no idea how to express what I liked verbally.
I suppose it really wasn’t Ryan’s fault; since I indiscriminately acted like everything he did to me was pleasurable. He wasn’t receiving honest feedback. So much for controlling the appropriate “contingencies of reinforcement!” And in the end, the more I conceded physically, the more Ryan lavished his love and attention on me, so it felt worth it. He slipped me love notes during passing periods and had several sweet nicknames for me. I could tell I was on his mind and that he considered me something special. All high school events that year faded into the background. I barely noticed when peers my age completely stopped inviting me to their parties or asking me to gather with them after school. My world revolved around Ryan and whatever he wanted.
Eventually, as each of his best friends, one by one, lost their virginity, Ryan began to lose his patience with my one remaining locked-door. Most of his friends and their girlfriends were juniors, not a freshman like I was. For some reason, it was the one request I had the strength to deny Ryan. I was proud of this fact until one day, a month before the end of the year, Ryan dumped me over the phone out of the blue. A week later, a friend of his told me he was dating a girl named Nicole, who definitely was not a virgin. Utterly heartbroken, and feeling I had no recourse or say-so in the matter, I left Ryan alone and suffered in silence.