We're gearing up for our 20th high school class reunion this upcoming summer. Facebook page all set up, requests for contact information flowing, plans being made. One of the plans is a slide show of photos and people have been posting them on our group site.
This one came up yesterday:
Due to privacy concerns, I cut everyone's faces off.
I'm the girl in the peach. 9th grade dance. I vividly remember that night.
We started at my friend's house for a pre-dance party. *I* had a boyfriend as did one other friend and they were there as well. I was so nervous because I felt so ugly and fat and unattractive and just really wanted my boyfriend to not see any of those things. I felt like my boobs were HUGE and that I was going to look ridiculous in the dress next to all my friends. The friends to either side of me in the picture were the girls I looked at and thought, "If only I could be as skinny as they are!! They're so skinny." It's mind blowing to see this picture and to see no boobs, no belly, none of the physical imperfections I was so sure had neon signs pointing at them. And that I'm smaller than some of the people in the picture and about the same size as the "skinny" girls. Really. I have a hard time reconciling what I see in that picture.
The other part I'm working towards reconciling is what happened later that night at the dance. While my boyfriend and I were slow dancing, he started blowing into my ear and licking it in a totally pervvy 9th grade boy way. And then he pressed closer against me and I felt how turned on he was. And I totally freaked out. Like TOTALLY freaked out. I remember being totally unprepared for something so sexual. The most we'd done at that point was a couple of open mouth kisses and hand holding. I had no basis for how to handle something so forward and instead of it feeling exciting and awesome like our innocent first kiss, it launched me into a full scale panic attack complete with tears. Not right in the moment. In the moment I felt paralyzed. Like I had to let him do this and pretend to be totally fine because I didn't want anyone to know how terrified I was. It felt so wrong and invasive and my brain and ED told me it was because there was something wrong with ME. I should be loving this. What sort of a freak are you?
It also was the catalyst for me feeling like I had to make up grand situations to cover my inability to react in an emotionally appropriate way to things. To protect myself and to keep from looking stupid, when my friends descended on my crying mess of a self, I made up this big story about a boy I had previously dated and how he was so awful to me and dancing with my boyfriend at the dance triggered all that, blah blah blah. I just really needed support and sympathy in that moment and couldn't see that happening with the truth. I really felt like people would think less of me if I just said, "It was too much. I feel uncomfortable." So, I made something up. And it worked. And kept working for years and years. Anytime I felt uncomfortable and needed an emotional buffer especially in relationships/sexual situations, rather than being able to be honest about it, I'd create a grand scenario in which this over the top emotional reaction could live and make sense.
It's funny because I used to think of myself as a compulsive liar and endured a lot of shame at EDs hands because of it. But I don't think that's what it was anymore. It was a coping mechanism and I was a child. I was doing the best I could with the limited tools and resources I had. And when it kept working and kept me safe, I just kept using it. The ability to just turn my inner self off in intimate settings with men just because the norm. Sometimes because I truly liked them and didn't want to be hurt when they'd eventually leave (which is what ED always told me they'd do) and sometimes because they were a complete stranger and I'd gotten myself into a situation where I didn't feel like I was allowed to say no. Those stranger situations were always also fueled my the alcohol I used to buffer against the possibility that NO ONE would find me attractive. Which was even worse.
Anyway, it's a lot of rambling. It's been spinning around in my head for a while now since seeing the picture and in an effort to just give everything I experience during this process a life and a voice, here it is. Hopefully now that it has its own being it can fly away, taking its guilt with it and leave peace in its stead.