When I was 14, I had the sexuality of a lampshade. Obviously, I wasn’t like my other female peers. The girls in my high school locker room had breasts the size of watermelons and their hips were beginning to widen. They were developing into women. Meanwhile I was just this tomboy who hated wearing a bra and didn’t shave her legs since her mother had hidden all the razors. So–in a nutshell–I was this hairy, fourteen year old who was struggling to feel even remotely feminine like my blossoming female peers. I literally had nothing that these other girls could possibly want.
During my youth, I made friends with the neighborhood boys down the street and I would frequently shoot soda cans off the wall with my next door neighbor. The one childhood friend that stood out the most from the rest of the Lost Boys was Mick.* My mom was friend’s with his mom way before either one of us were even born. I wasn’t all that close with my older brother mainly because we were ten years apart so Mick naturally stepped into that role. His family would invite me out to dinner and to special events. And we’d end our nights watching movies or playing video games. We were hanging out almost every day. His family felt like my own. Mick felt like an actual brother to me.
Growing up, I frequented the lake every summer with my family. I spent every waking moment in the water. Whether I was cruising on jet ski’s or swimming out far past where my mother would let me, I was in the water till the sun was setting. When sophomore year of high school came around, I decided to join the swim team. I wasn’t that bad of a swimmer and I felt like it was something I could excel in.
As a member of the swim team it was mandatory to attend morning and after school practices. But since I hated mornings and the pool was never heated (even though they assured it would be) I chose to practice in the afternoons. The second I was done with class, I’d race over to the locker rooms and strip down. During swim practice one day, I had started up a conversation with another member of the team–her name was Lily*.
Lily was the complete opposite of me. She was tall, muscular, drank soda for breakfast and had zero filter. In between laps, her and I had started engaging in small talk. Through all the small talk, we became friends. I’d catch a ride with her after school and vice versa which was a relief since I didn’t have to ride with Deb anymore (read all about that here). We’d either order a pizza and watch ridiculous internet clips or we’d go to the movies. I always had fun when I was with her. And she had an incredible sense of humor.
While balancing school and swim practice, my social life was beginning to take off. I’d balance my weekends with either Lily or Mick. One afternoon while Mick was showing me how to play bass guitar, I got a call from Lily asking to hang out. I told her I was at Mick’s but hopefully with his parent’s blessing–maybe she could join us. From that day forward we became the trio that would always hang out with one another.
During my junior year in high-school, I was struggling with personal issues. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was riding the rocky waves of depression and suicide. As a result–I distanced myself quite a bit from friends but managed to still hang out with them whenever I wasn’t cooking up some excuse as to why I couldn’t. During lunch period, Mick had pulled me to the side to talk with me. He pulled out a small stack of cut up pieces of paper. He motioned me to start looking through them. Each piece of a paper had words scribbled on it. I started to peel through each one–unveiling a message as I attempted to go deeper and deeper into what Mick was trying to tell me…
I could feel this gigantic lump in the back of my throat. I wanted to vomit. I didn’t want to vomit out of being purely nauseated by the idea that Mick was asking me out. I wanted to vomit because this situation was an absolute nightmare. Nothing was right about this and the setting couldn’t have been worse. Looking out of the corner of my eye, I could see people staring at us. There wasn’t a mystery as to what was happening in that very moment. The people that hung around us at lunch were smart enough to pick up on social cues. I could see Lily staring at us. This wasn’t a private thing. They were pretty aware of was actually happening.
Let’s just take a moment. If you have to know anything about me–then you have to know that I HATE being put on the spot. I hate being thrust into a situation where I have to make a decision in front of other people when it could have been done in private. A situation where there’s a 95% chance that I will say no but yet feel forced to say yes due to the surroundings. FUCK. I hate that with every fiber of my being. My childhood friend was confessing his love to me in front of other people and I just didn’t feel the same. Now I had to do the very thing that super sucks for literally anyone…
I gotta be that one asshole that breaks my friends’ heart.
Unrequited love isn’t exactly the best thing in the world. We’ve all been there. And now I was in this position of where I had to express my feelings which were polar opposite to his. I told him that I just didn’t feel the same way and that he felt like a brother to me. The dreaded words that any guy doesn’t want to hear from someone who they find remotely attractive and have feelings for. Besides if there was even a shred of those feelings–I would hate to ruin our friendship over it. His honesty (and mine) made shit weird from that day forward.
Our friendship immediately changed. I wasn’t as open with him anymore. I avoided any and all alone time with him. I wasn’t coming over as much. Conversations between him and I were extremely brief. Someone who was like a brother to me had viewed me in this non-platonic light. He immediately went from being my brother to this acquaintance…
In the light of it all–Lily and Mick became closer and closer. They were talking daily. And through all their late night instant messenger chats (of which Lily had shown me)–they had started flirting. I was happy that Mick and Lily were developing a romantic relationship. They were taking an interest in one another. And I was excited for their relationship—for now.
Halloween–my favorite day out of the year had finally arrived. I was invited to a costume party and since I was allowed to bring some guests–I invited my best friend to join Mick, Lily and I. I’m not sure how it all began but somehow the evening went from being a thing I looked forward to all week to a thing that felt like absolute torture.
At this point, Mick and Lily had developed into an item. They were cuddling with one another almost all evening. As we were sitting alongside the pool, we were talking about different horror films. I had recently borrowed Silent Hill from Lily and promised to return it to her that evening. Like an idiot–I forgot it at home but I thought I packed it. When she asked me why I hadn’t brought it–I told her I must have forgotten it while I was rushing to get ready. Her response threw me off…
“I love when I catch people in a lie.”
I didn’t even lie. I’m only human–I forgot her DVD at home. Instead of brushing off the issue, and moving on from it–she proceeded to call me a liar in front of other people. She casted me this dirty look while Mick sat there in silence. I was so frustrated and put on the spot, I immediately walked away and sat elsewhere. Staring at the clock relentlessly, I began to wonder when it was time for me to go home. I just wanted out. As the evening continued, Lily had made it a point to talk about me to other people while giving me the ‘i’m-obviously-talking-about-you-and-I-want-you-to-know-it-stare.’ I felt nauseous, embarrassed and a little confused.
This party was supposed to be fun and stress free. It had turned into this nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. That small, insignificant, petty behavior over some stupid DVD was becoming the catalyst to Lily’s snarky behavior towards me.
It would always be over something small or completely unnecessary. If I didn’t shave my legs once for practice–I was heckled for that (in front of mixed company). If we were playing a board game and I didn’t understand the rules–she would talk down to me in front of everyone else. She was always finding a way to make me feel insignificant. She was always trying to make me look like the village idiot. And I think in some way, she felt incredibly satisfied over it. Being relentlessly bullied by her made me feel incredibly small and powerless. Through all her unnecessary hostility towards me, I would do the very thing that I always do–I overanalyzed it to death. I just couldn’t figure out what I did wrong to deserve it. And it was bothering me. I just wanted this unrecognizable monster to bring my friend back–wherever she was.
Remember when I said that I overanalyze shit to death? I played out every scenario in my head. I broke it down and tried to get to the root of every moment she was cruel to me. This was becoming more torturous than Algebra. I didn’t say or do anything. I never put her down. I never criticized or judged her. I was a friend to her. I brought her to these damn outings. I introduced her to Mick. What the fuck man! What. the. fucccck.
During a contemplative moment of her behavior one evening in my kitchen, my mom threw a wrench into my thoughts…
I had nothing for her to be jealous of. I was this raging tomboy with short hair and baby fat. What did I have that she didn’t have? The whole thing made zero sense.
My friendship with Mick had pretty much disintegrated into ash. I was hardly hanging with them anymore since I was tired of feeling like a worthless piece of shit after the fact. So, when their whole relationship went up in smoke, I realized more than ever that I needed to be Lily’s friend. I know what you must be thinking. Why would you want to be friends with someone who was so cruel to you for no reason at all?
No matter how many times I got verbally bruised by her, I knew that in some way I could look past it all. Our friendship had gone through a rough patch of insults, one-uppers and put-downs. I could either hold onto that growing resentment I had for her and let all her negativity get to me, or I could let it go and get to the root of the matter–and why she felt the need to act the way she did.
Lily and I ended up attending the same junior college. I reached out to her and tried my best to be cordial although I was extremely disappointed and upset by her behavior. As we walked together between our classes, I asked why she felt the need to be so mean to me…
She said that the reason why she behaved the way she did was that she always felt as if she was in second place next to me.
But why? Why would she feel that way? Like I had stated previously–I had NOTHING that any teenage girl could envy over. I was in no way this thing to be jealous or threatened by. And then it hit me. It hit me like a giant school bus. Her relationship with Mick. That’s when all the hostility was happening! She was doing it to feel good about herself (which is extremely unhealthy). She was viewing herself as ‘the alternative’ or ‘second best’ next to me because he chose her after me…
I had no idea she felt that way that entire time. I wish I could have put together the pieces sooner and maybe it wouldn’t have caused such a rift in our friendship. But I was completely clueless. But in light of her explanation and apology–I forgave her. I know that may seem shocking to believe, but I did. I wanted to salvage our friendship despite her cruelty.
No one ever wants to feel as if they’re a consolation prize. I get it. I mean, I don’t want to feel that way either. But there’s a reason why I don’t–I know my worth. That’s the key to all of this. I know that I have value. Lily had value but it was blinded by this perception of being in ‘second place’ because Mick chose her after me. And that’s just fucking silly. Whether he dated her before meeting me or after me didn’t matter. And that’s the point she was missing. If Lily knew her worth than she wouldn’t have felt that way. Period. Lily was worth more than she realized, she just didn’t believe it at the time.
If you have this perception of being ‘second best’ then you are second guessing your worth. It takes a lot of self-discovery to realize that. Lily, for example, is worth more than she realizes–she just couldn’t see it for herself. If you know your self-worth, then you know you’re valuable. If you value who you are then you know deep down in your heart that you’re always first–never second.