I spent a huge amount of high school wishing I had a boyfriend and self-consciously pretending I didn’t care about boys at the same time. Boys’ disinterest in me was near total, and I told myself not to sweat it because I was just wise beyond my years or perhaps intimidating to them, neither of which was remotely true.
All of this changed when I met “Peter”—who grew up into a nice man whose real name is not Peter—the summer after 11th grade. We went on a few “dates” to a big pile of wood chips in our hometown that everyone called, yes, “woodchip.” I liked Peter because he was sweet and smart and seemed to exist outside of our high school’s social ecosystem, which played perfectly into what I thought I was: somehow exempt from the normal trials of high-school social life.
Pretty much immediately, though, I became exactly the kind of high schooler I thought I wasn’t when, at the cast party for our school’s spring production of a student-written play about race (yikes), I hooked up with another dude, “Marshall,” who was basically the opposite of Peter in every way except that he was also very nice. I remember judging Marshall harshly for writing “your [sic] awesome” in a text message to me, which is so awful of me I want to slap myself.
Everything spiraled profoundly out of control when I told Peter this, and even though we were “on a break” so I could focus on college applications or something like that, he was understandably hurt. We made up, but things were never the same. When we broke up it was for good.
A few days after Peter and I stopped talking, my mom found me crying in my bedroom (I cried a lot then, as now) and gave me some great advice: “This relationship didn’t matter all that much, but in your life, you will have relationships that do. Think of how you feel now as practice for when it really matters.”
I think my mom was both right and wrong about that. This was my first and last love triangle. I am now almost 30 years old, but I still feel guilt about how I treated Peter and think about him regularly. He was nice to me, and I wasn’t really that nice back. I didn’t technically cheat on him, or lie to him, but I was indifferent to a person I liked for basically no reason other than I didn’t know how to be a nice person yet. Peter, I’m really sorry. I offer as my penance this deeply embarrassing video.