When you’re a teenager, you think you know everything. When you’re a teenage girl, you think you know everything and then some. In fact, you pretty much feel untouchable. Your parents are stifling you. Or, so loose on discipline that you don’t take them seriously. Your friends are more important to you than pretty much anything. You become ever thankful for your first floor bedroom and easily lifted window that leads to the backyard. Even if you know that whole pillows-stuffed-under-your-blankets thing won’t fool anyone. And you know – just know – that you are ready to do anything and are plenty grown up for whatever comes your way.
That was how I felt at 14. Partly because I had already led a childhood of foster care and abuse and also partly because my mom was often in the hospital with erratic Diabetes, leaving my older brother and I to fend for ourselves. Luckily, I think she unaware of half the antics my best friend and I got into during the summers of our youth. The parts she did know, however, don’t make me look any better.
When I made the decision to lose my virginity to my then-18-year-old boyfriend, I thought I had it all figured out. Actually, I thought I had the perfect plan. I knew how unpleasant the whole experience would be. I also knew that I felt no ounce of love for my boyfriend. So the way I saw it, losing my virginity to a guy who would soon be on his way out was a no-brainer. Get the shitty experience out of the way with him and save the good love making experiences for when I fell in love with someone. Easy enough, right? Wrong.
What I didn’t take into account was the fact that I would carry that day with me forever. I would remember the thick, hot Summer air as I trekked across town to his apartment. I would still feel the uncomfortably hot bedroom with a single round metal fan and a creaky twin bed. The pain wouldn’t soon leave my mind either, as it left its evidence of that day stained on my underwear. And I would remember the walk home directly afterward, home to an angry mother who hadn’t for a minute fallen for the stuffed bed gimmick. It was the first time in my life I was ever grounded. And, I think, the first time I ever truly disappointed my mom. And, really, myself.
Even now, as a married adult with a child of my own, that day sticks with me. And I marvel at how much I thought I knew as a child-woman, on the cusp of something big but not quite out of the days of Barbie dolls and sleepovers. I won’t say that I regret what happened. Your experiences, mistakes and achievements, are what collectively shape the person you become. But it is one of those scatterings of memories that make you cringe to remember. That make you want to shake your former self and ask them what the Hell they were thinking.
But I learned that a muggy summer day, two weeks before your birthday and two weeks after school let out, can become something more than just a longer day than the last. One decision can shape your summer or even your adolescence and force you out of childhood. Or, send you screaming into adulthood.