This year, I am eighteen-years removed from my graduation from high school. I no longer am worried about my math grades (thank God!), how I am going to pass my swimming class, or who I am going to sit with at lunch. I no longer get up early to wash my hair, pick out the perfect outfit, or feel stressed about if I am “cool”. I’ve grown, I’ve matured, I pay bills and taxes (albeit sometimes late and certainly always with resentment), I’ve found that being “cool” actually means being intelligent and interesting, and while I’d like to say that my style is better, J. Crew is still a part of my everyday wardrobe. We evolve, we grow up and become adults, but do we really ever change? Especially when it comes to relationships and dating: are we still in high school?
My first serious boyfriend (ironically also named “P”), was a tall, handsome basketball player who was quiet and sweet. I was sixteen-years-old and was already a hopeless romantic in search of love. “P” was shy and reserved with a very kind heart, and I was instantly taken with him. He was my first taste of love; we dated for two years and awkwardly made it through losing our virginity to each other, and saying “I love you” for the first time. We went to dances, parties, and I was his biggest cheerleader at every basketball game. It was a young love that was so sweet that I still smile when I think of him. And here’s where the other shoe drops… He was an aspiring alcoholic. I remember how much under-age drinking went on when I was younger, and how much boys at that age liked to drink – but he had a legitimate drinking problem at the age of seventeen. “P” would drink a few nights a week, and would normally get so drunk that he would call me to come pick him up and take him home. I was young and in love, and I wanted to help – so I would drive to get him in the wee hours of the night, watch as he stumbled to my car and struggled to open the door, and reeking of alcohol he would lean over to kiss me (usually right before vomiting on himself)*. Despite knowing that I shouldn’t allow someone to put me in this position (a sixteen-year-old girl taking her parent’s car at two in the morning to drive her drunk boyfriend home), I went each and every time – because I loved him, and I just wanted to help.
Fast forward to this afternoon: my most recent ex (the “P” of my thirties) texted to ask me a favor. His job is one that he may be called into work, and if this happens when he has his children he will need someone to watch them. He reached out to me today, explaining that his kids wanted to see a movie and if he was called into work he would be “screwed”. He asked if my daughter and I would join them at the movies, so in the event that he was called into work I would be there to watch them. While we were in a relationship, this was something that I was always beyond happy to do for him (it’s what couples do for each other). In past breakups I’ve always continued to do this for him, both because I adore his kids and he needs the help. I declined to go along and help him today; we are no longer in a relationship.
Of course “P” asked me to do this today, just like my high school “P” asked me to pick him up when he had been drinking: because I am reliably helpful. But have I really evolved or changed in the last two decades – specifically in relationships? It seems that I am still the same girl who will trip over myself to help someone (which is a good quality), but at what cost to myself? Neither of these men cared how their requests may have impacted me, yet I was always willing to do whatever they needed.
How similar are our current relationships to the ones we had when we were young? Have we really changed and grown up? Or are we still doing the same things, with the same wrong people?
*He’s doing well now, so don’t be too sad for him! He’s married, has two adorable kids, a great job, and by all accounts he no longer drinks… he figured things out for himself.