Third grade, I had a crush on everyone in my class, boys and girls alike. I had my first boyfriend when I was in the 5th grade: 10-years-old. That lasted the entire school year. At age 12, I was viciously beaten for daring to sneak a kiss from a boy I had a crush on. And, it was downhill from there.
Perhaps as a result of the beating I endured, I didn't dare chase after anyone when I returned to school. That was my 7th grade. Same held true for the 8th grade. Ninth grade, well, that was a different story. Going into 9th grade, I met a new neighborhood boy who was cute and rather fun to be around. In retrospect, he was what we call today "flamboyant", although I didn't really consciously pick up on it at the time. (although I'd bet that, on a subconscious level, it was exactly what drew me to him: the unspoken knowledge that he was also gay.) And, he was aggressive. We had quite an enjoyable time together that lasted until his family moved clear to the other side of town.
Then, I met the guy who, to this very day, I consider THE love of my life. He was one year and one day younger than myself. We were compatible in every way imaginable. Except sexually. But, I'll come back to that. We were literally inseparable for almost 2 years. We'd have sleepovers every day. His place or mine...it didn't matter. What mattered was being together. Only during the school day would we be separated. When his family moved across town, it didn't deter me. I'd find a way to see and spend time with him. I've never loved on that level before or since. Why weren't we sexually compatible? Truthfully, I don't know that we weren't.
The truth of the matter is that the beating I absorbed for daring to love that other boy, when I was 12, got in the way of my showing my Mr. Right my true feelings. I mean, he knew I loved him, for sure. And, I had know doubt that he loved me equally. He even let me know, on several occasions, that the physical attraction was mutual. He never verbalized it, mind you. It was more the look in his eyes, the smile on his face. More than anything, it was the...well...let's just say it was his own physical, and quite noticeable, arousal that told me more loudly and more clearly than any words could've. And, it wasn't once. It wasn't even twice. This happened quite a few times. Eventually, I guess he lost patience, or figured that I wasn't interested in him "in that way". By the time we were 18 and 17, we'd drifted completely away from each other. I've never loved as intensely or completely since.
If I could give my younger self a piece of advice, what would it be? Easy. I'd tell that badly battered 12-year-old boy to:
"...never, ever be afraid to love because of who you are. Never, ever be afraid to show your love. Don't let what just happened to you control the rest of your life. Yes, what happened to you was traumatic. And, no, you didn't deserve what happened. However, if you don't get back on your feet as fast as possible and continue to be who you are and love who you love, then that boy and his group of bullies will have totally won. They will control the rest of your life even though you'll probably never, ever see them again. For as wrong as it was, what happened, happened. It's over. You heal, you grow, and you win by getting back on your feet as fast as possible and continuing to be that same 'you' you were before the attack. Being bullied, even as brutally as you were, isn't the end of the world. Now, it's up to you to pick yourself up, move on with your life, and continue to grow into that awesome person you already know is there inside of you. Anything short of that, and you've completely allowed the bullies to win. And, in the grand scheme of things, that would be much worse that what they did to you physically."If only. Since I can't time travel, I pass my knowledge on to today's struggling youth. Who knows? Maybe it can help somewhere along the way. Knowing what I know now, it's the emotional scars of being bullied that last the longest, that potentially cause the most damage. And, knowing what I know now, keeping your head held high and moving forward with your life is a great way of starting the process of healing those emotional scars. Bullies win only if you let them.