I waited until I was 25 to love someone. I hadn’t intended to wait, life didn’t really give me a choice. I didn’t have that high school sweetheart or a college boyfriend. I was a broken girl navigating men and relationships with little regard for myself. A man I thought I loved had broken me, he taught me that my body wasn’t mine, that permission wasn’t needed for this ride. That my body’s purpose was to be given for consumption and that I had little worth outside of that. I was told to be seen but not heard so much that I had forgotten that I had anything to say at all.
I was 25 before a man that wasn’t my father told me I was beautiful. I was 25 before a man that wasn’t my father told me I was smart or funny, or interesting. I was 25 when I had my first relationship where I didn’t use my body as a bargaining chip because it was no longer all I had to offer. Before him I thought I was empowered, I told other women what they did and didn’t deserve in relationships and empowered them to assert their needs and wants. I thought that I was empowered with my sexuality and I thought that I didn’t crave the patriarchal construct of relationships because I was so evolved, I slept with whoever I pleased, whenever I pleased. I truly believed that these short flings and one night stands were what I wanted. In reality, deep down in the depths of my soul, I feared that I could contribute little to a relationship outside of the curves of my hips and perkiness of my breasts. I didn’t think anyone would want me and rejection was absolutely terrifying, so I gave men the part of me that I knew they wanted, and they received it, greedily.
Then one day I met this man who laughed from his belly at my jokes, who I caught staring at me because he thought I was so beautiful, who sometime just wanted to hold me because he slept better with me there. The relationship was far from perfect, but he filled up a part of me that I didn’t even know was empty. As these things often do, that ended abruptly and it broke me a little, but I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. I’ve spent my teens and early 20’s letting men break me, letting them come in and take pieces of me. I never thought I would get those pieces back, but when he told me I was beautiful, I realized that I didn’t need those parts back, I was no longer the person I had been.From then on I wasn’t so fragile anymore. When he left me it cut me, but he didn’t take anything, he left me the way you should leave everything, better than it was before.
I’m not sure if he loved me, he never said he did, but that doesn’t really matter. He cared about me in a way that allowed me to love myself again, that love, love of self, is what got me to where I am today, it allowed me to look at health as a lifestyle and not just a means to an end, not just a way to be skinny as to be appealing to men, outside opinions of me were no longer important. Because of him I will take my own advice and demand more, I know my worth and I will never give myself to another man that doesn’t deserve me. Twenty years from now I will look around at my life and I will thank him for giving me back what they took from me.