Dear Teen Me, from Author Holly Green

Dear 14 year old Holly,

Your “boyfriend” is a dirtbag*. Hard to hear, but true. And I’m not using the quotes because I think he doesn’t exist, like one of your friends has been implying. I remember what he looked like and how it felt when you put your arm around his waist (you hadn’t noticed the love handles when he’d had his shirt off at the pool). I’m using quotes because even though everything you remember happened, he wasn’t real. At least not in the way he said he was.

It was like every girl’s dream. Your freshman year of high school you go to Grand Cayman for spring break. An insanely good looking boy asks you to dance at a beachside bar. You say yes. He asks you to walk on the beach by moonlight. He tells you he’s a senior, he’s going to college the next year on a football scholarship, and he lives in just an hour away from you.

You go to a small school. Boys there barely look at you. It’s like he plucked you out of obscurity. Your very own fairy tale.

As you walk on the beach he holds your hand. He tells you how pretty you are. He walks you back to your hotel, kisses you goodnight, and asks you to meet him again the next night. You do. You cuddle in a beach chair and he kisses your neck. You can’t believe this is happening to you.

But your last night together when he talks about seeing you when you get home, you’re not sure. He lives an hour from you and your driver’s license is a year away. He’s leaving for college in a matter of months and you’re only a freshman. And there’s this – some of the things he’s told you don’t quite add up. But he talks you into it.

When you get home there are long phone conversations every night without much substance. He comes to take you out to a movie one afternoon and kisses you goodbye on your front porch. When you’re on the phone at night he keeps telling you how much he wants to take you out again, but that movie is the last time you ever see him. A month later he tells you he’s grounded and can’t talk on the phone, and that’s the last time he ever calls. You are devastated. I still cringe thinking about how long it takes you to recover.

Over the course of high school, you’re going to find out that just about everything he told you was a lie. He wasn’t a senior, but a junior. So no football scholarship. He didn’t go to the school he said he did, didn’t live in the city he said, didn’t live as far away as he claimed.

I don’t know why he did this. You’re a freshman. You would have been impressed if he was a sophomore. You don’t even like football. You were just excited because he was cute and he paid attention to you.

Oh, and that girl he told you was his best friend but nothing romantic – she’s his girlfriend.The thing that really gets me about this whole debacle is that you knew something wasn’t right. You knew that his area code didn’t go with where he said he lived. You knew that he shouldn’t be taking the SAT spring of his senior year when he’d already been accepted to college and that “I just want to see if I can do better” is a lame excuse. But you liked the attention and the idea of him so much, you convinced yourself you were in love.

So, like I said, total dirtbag. No question that you’re better off without him, but for a long time you’ll find it hard to trust boys.

I know that I should tell you that life is good now, you’re happy with where you are, and you wouldn’t change anything in your past because then you might not be the person you are now. Screw that. Don’t give him your phone number. Leave the whole thing in Cayman. Let it be this perfect thing that happened to you, the thing romance novels are made of (without the burning loins – it didn’t go past kissing), and then move on.

You’ll find real love. Love will plan your first date instead of asking “So, what do you want to do?” when he picks you up. And he’ll call you the next morning. Love will come over at 11 pm to help you finish your project for metals class when you’re ready to throw it out the window. Love will teach you how to ride a bike again. And he will work three part time jobs the last semester of college to save up enough to buy an engagement ring.

Still, I wish you hadn’t wasted your time on the dirtbag.

Love,

31 year old Holly

* changed from a much stronger word, because you’re not comfortable with that kind of language yet