“I always wondered why it was so easy for people to leave. What I should have questioned was why I wanted so badly for them to stay.”
— Samantha King
2007 was the year I met Dwayne*. I remember walking into my graphic arts class, and out of nowhere he said, “Hello” to me.
This caught me off guard. I had been in the class for at least a month, and this is the first time I noticed him. Don’t get me wrong, Dwayne was definitely worth noticing. He was the stereotypical pretty boy. Girls wanted him and guys wanted to be him. He had the face and body that all those movies told you to stay away from because he is likely a heartbreaker… Sometimes, the movies aren’t wrong.
I was caught off-guard because at this time of my life I didn’t understand why he wanted to talk to me. I was 21 and living my best life; I was the editor of my college newspaper, and well-known on campus. I had also recently lost 70 pounds. But, I only saw the fat nerdy girl from adolescence who never had a boyfriend. To me, Dwayne acknowledging me had to be a mistake.
As weeks pushed on, his attempts to get to know me were incessant. He eventually learned the location of my newspaper office and started coming by frequently. Occasionally, he’d just drop off lunch for me even if I wasn’t around. The staff became intrigued with his visits, and secretly, so did I.
I had the courage to ask him one night about his visits and what he was really looking for. He said he only wanted friendship. I was a little disappointed, but I went along with it.
As time passed, I genuinely only saw him as a friend. One night, we were chatting late on AOL Instant Messenger (yes, I just aged myself), and he sent me some dick pics. I was in total shock —this is a guy who told me he only wanted friendship!
When I asked him about it, he said he had only been joking around. This was, of course, a huge red flag and an opportunity to remove myself from a potentially manipulative situation. But I had so little experience with the minutiae of relationships at this point in my life, so I figured I was overthinking things and I should just focus on our friendship. Plus, I liked the attention, and Dwayne gave me a lot of it. Our relationship remained platonic for nearly a year, and Dwayne became one of my best friends.
Then one day, everything changed. We were alone, and Dwayne kissed me. I still remember the shock and excitement I felt. I didn’t particularly enjoy the kiss, because it was so sloppy and aggressive. But Dwayne himself had been a safe place for me for a year now, so I didn’t mind. I was still a virgin at the time, so we didn’t have sex that day, but we did everything else.
After our very physical interlude, Dwayne told me what happened was an accident and that he didn’t mean to allow his hormones to get so out of control. I was absolutely crushed. Dwayne had been someone I thought I could trust, and his hot-and-cold routine was incredibly confusing and hurtful. I wanted to leave the situation and cut him off, but I was so attached to him and addicted to the attention he gave me. So, I stayed. Our friendship crossed over into that grey area again and again. It got to the point where Dwayne finally admitted to me that he and I were more than friends. I often wanted him to give me the girlfriend title, but he never seemed comfortable with the idea of us giving each other labels. Afraid that my need for an official status would drive him away, I stopped pressing the issue.
I turned 23 the next year, and became increasingly insecure that I was still a virgin. I asked Dwayne to be my first. Despite the fact that this relationship was incredibly toxic and damaging to my self-esteem, it was (sadly) the healthiest romantic situation I had been in since Jude and the few men in between. I still felt safe with Dwayne, despite the fact that he was clearly struggling with commitment issues, among other things. After knowing Dwayne for about two years in our situationship**…I gave him my virginity.
Our situationship seemed to be going in a positive direction until a month later, when Dwayne disappeared without any explanation. He deactivated his social media and stopped answering my phone calls and texts. The only reason I knew he was alive was through mutual friends. This devastated me. What had I done wrong? What had I done to drive him away? What was wrong with me?
I remember spending the summer sad and often in bed. I only got out of bed to go to work, and exercise with a friend who insisted that exercise would help my mood. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. I lost even more weight because I also had no appetite. At that time, I was beginning to transition my hair from relaxed to natural. But as a result of the situation, I decided that I no longer wanted to look like the woman he once knew, so I cut off my hair.
As autumn approached and the school semester began, Dwayne reactivated his social media and reached out to me. I was hesitant, but open, to his explanation for ghosting me. Shortly after reconnecting with him, I discovered via Facebook that Dwayne was in a relationship. The anger and pain that I felt was blinding. I remember calling him at 6 A.M., crying and screaming. He didn’t want to commit to me, disappeared without explanation for two months, and then reappeared with a girlfriend--a slim woman, beautiful by societal standards. Someone he could be proud to be seen with in public. A woman to whom he’d have no problem committing, because no one would give them disgusted looks on the street or stare at them on the subway… A woman who looked nothing like me.
I wish I could say that after all of that I was done with Dwayne. I wish I could tell you that I moved on, and I never allowed him to hurt me again; unfortunately, this was not the case.
As I reflect back on all of this, even today, it is so painful. I can see the pattern of this situation in my present life, 10 years later. My heart is literally aching, and it’s hard to breathe. But we must walk through our pain to get to the other side, right?
To be continued…
*Name changed to protect identity
**Situationship (my definition): two people who may be sexually and/or emotionally involved with each other and behave like they are in a monogamous relationship, but neither parties are in an actual romantic relationship with each other.
Example: One or both parties displaying jealous, possessive behaviour or imposing certain requirements/expectations for one another that usually occur in monogamous relationships. This is usually accompanied with a refusal to bestow official titles (e.g., ‘girlfriend’, ‘boyfriend’, ‘partner’, etc.) and/or the avoidance of acknowledging of the relationship altogether.
Profile Photo Credit: The Divulge Project