I’m guest posting over here today. Something has come up from the deep subconscious ethers that is fitting for LYPL, not so much for simple living http://www.jennaprosceno.com. It’s a beautifully tragic story as some beauty often is. I hope that it resonates with someone.
To continued emotional living,
It started out like most romantic stories do…boy meets girl. Girl is interested; boy pretends to be only half interested. That is until girl moves forward with life and begins to talk to other boys, at which time boy becomes interested to the point that other boys become apprehensive to talk to her, yet boy never commits. Take that and spread it out over 20+ years, and then add a shit ton of other people into the breakers of quiet chaos and you will have this story.
In this story, there is no outward drama; in fact friends inside of the circle, unless super close, would never have guessed that anything had been awry in our high school romance. Actually, I didn’t even realize the manipulation pattern, or what it cost me until this nice fat Mercury Retrograde which has been serving me my repressed emotions up on a platter. But cost me it did. In addition, the back and forth would eventually turn into a twisted love triangle that was subconsciously too much for our young selves to handle. In fact, it may have even cost a life.
When it comes to manipulation in romance, of course it isn’t just men that do this. Everyone has the potential to be manipulative, even a little sociopathic. This can happen either a little bit or to the point of destruction. How far it goes will depend on how self-aware the players in the game are. The point that I am trying to illustrate in this post is that no matter who does it, or if both people do it, there are consequences. Some that you may not see for a very long time, like 20 years later in my case, and some you see immediately within your next relationship. Make no mistake about it however; you will eventually feel the results of manipulation one way or another.
I’ve realized this over the past two days and it all started with a dream. A dream about someone that I lost long ago. From there, I began to think of things and events that I haven’t thought of for over 15 years. Then I started to draw conclusions on things that had transpired. I’m older and wiser now, and looking back I can see the experiences and the patterns that I couldn’t see then. Like a piece of optical illusion art, when I looked closer to the image that I thought I had about my first love, things that I had not seen before magically appeared. And every circle that my guy and I did around each other would be overlapped by a circle created by the bad boy that would end up playing a fundamental role from 15 years of age to oh let’s just say…31…ish.
You see, in high school there was this bad boy…there always is right? Well he and I used to silently compete for grades in English Literature class. He would get a 99 and I would get a 95. Somehow during this time, Robert Frost became our unspoken mascot. That’s fitting actually. Robert Frost’s life was riddled with death.
The bad boy was infuriating to me because he could care less about anything. He was quiet and mostly pissed off. Handsome. Popular for no real reason. He was the kind of guy that would shove A+ papers in his bag and just walk out the door when class was over like it was no big deal. His arrogance was probably what was intoxicating. I was pretty insecure and could have mistaken it for confidence. Oh how stupid we are as teenagers.
My looking back with adult eyes, I think that he was angry and our private high school was a mere chess piece in a game he was playing with his parents. I could tell that it wouldn’t be too long before he got kicked out, and since it wouldn’t be for grades he’d have to do something really stupid. It was tantalizing to me. Why when you have the looks, the money, the brains, and the family would you be so deliberately fucked up? Needless to say we dated a little bit. Ultimately he was the kind of kid that would take you out to dinner, call you a lot, not want you to see anyone else, but then show up to the dance with your soccer teammate.
Just as he set out to do, half way through Freshmen year he was asked to leave. By then our friend circles were vast, varied and nearly all mutual. There would be no escaping one another. He would continue to call from time to time and ask me about any guys that his lookouts informed him that I had been seen with. Everyone thought that was cute. But it wasn’t.
With the bad boy in a different school, I continued on being a teenager going places with friends. At a particular pool hall that was all the rage for our teenage crowd, I ended up meeting my first love on Saturday night. He was a friend of a friend of a friend, all of whom knew the bad boy. He was a very nice guy and I liked him very much. He didn’t go to our school, but he was deeply familiar to me when I first saw him. As we quickly figured out, he grew up 1 mile from where I grew up. In fact, we went to elementary school together. He and his family had moved just as we entered into middle school, and I remember feeling relieved that he didn’t get to see that awkward phase of mine. Thereafter, we spent quite a bit of time together, and at one point we were together nearly every day. When we got our drivers licenses, his red truck was a constant appearance in my high school parking lot around 2:45. It always made my day when I saw him pulling in from the Chemistry lab windows. It was fun trying not to act too eager crossing the hockey field to him, but wanting to run to him at the same time.
Innocent. Cute. Simple. The way a first love should be.
That red truck would be the same one that that he taught me to drive stick shift on. We would drive the back country roads of Pennsylvania to my home. He thought the hills, curves and minimum traffic made excellent teachers for a novice. He would sit shotgun and be incredibly patient with me, even if I did grind the gears a little. I could never think of him and not think of that truck. Alas, his red truck would be the same one that would break down a few years later, and be replaced by the motorcycle that would take his life.
Once he bought the sport bike, I was the one that always drove us, as riding on motorcycles wouldn’t become part of my reckless angst until later in life. It feels like he was always in my blue ford sedan whenever we weren’t hanging out at his house while he strummed the guitar. His house was the main after school hangout for us and I just adored his parents. He and his father would pull up on their motorcycles to visit me at my part time job after school. Once is father even tried to get me to ditch work to go get ice cream down the road. They were mischievous together. To top it all off, his little sister was like the little sister that I always wanted and never had.
Some warm weather Sundays, we would be hanging out at his house and a large group of Harley Davidsons would pull up out front. All you could hear was laughter and exhaust pipes as good of friends of his parents stopped by so they could all ride out on an adventure together. I remember whistling at his mom once as she came downstairs with fringed boots and a Harley tank. It was a surprising contrast from her usual business attire and I loved it. We’d get the “be good” wave and wink from his father, and they’d all take off for a nice country ride and we would go back to listening to Pearl Jam. Thinking back on it, I was in my own personal utopia. Right now, I wish very hard that I would have been smart enough to allow it to continue through it’s natural course. No matter how far or how long or not long it lasted, any outcome would have been better than what is reality.
The thing about bad boys is that they always know when you are happy. There is some sort of radar in their twisted DNA that sniffs out when their target is happier than they are. Even if they are pretty delighted in their delusional existence, a target’s happiness makes them mad, insecure or both. Depending on how bad the bad boy is, this can mean a teasing phone call, or outright stalking.
The bad boy would call, I would deny any advances thinking that I was with my guy. The bad boy would systematically break down the validity of my relationship with him. I would fall for it because the bad boy knows all of the same people that my guy and I know, therefore he must hear things. I mean despite being together most of the time, I was never “officially” called girlfriend. I was sure that he wasn’t seeing anyone else, but manipulators need only one split second of an “in” then they’ve got you. It doesn’t even matter how smart, accomplished, educated, strong or opinionated you are if you’re not “awake”.
Master manipulators see the insecurities that you don’t even yet know that you have. They see it before you do and since we all have insecurities; everyone is fair game to become a target. Every. Single. Person.
Looking back as an adult, I’m not really sure why it would have been important to have a title anyway. By then we were 17…does it really matter? In your 30’s, yes it matters, but 17? Shortly after the bad boy ran interference, there were a few power struggles among the three of us, and one actual fight that no one knows that I know about.
At some point it may have even become a game between the bad boy and I – two very strong minded people, one trying to get over and the other trying to make him trip himself up. My first love was the one that got hurt. These realizations are what I’ve been coming to since I had the dream, and let me tell you how much this hurts. It took me fucking 20 years, but I am realizing in many different moments just how much damage I actually did just by participating. I have to take responsibility for not shutting it all down.
Maybe I didn’t shut it down because I didn’t realize what was actually happening as I “was just a teenage girl” as my husband said when I discussed it with him. Or maybe I did know what was happening and I used it to prompt my guy into action. To manipulate him to tell me that I was officially his girlfriend, or that he loved me or in other words, to get HIM to validate ME. This is usually the byproduct of being involved in any way with a bad boy.
You become like him.
You are in that moment one part victim and three parts participant. When a woman does not recognize this, it can have dire consequences as the pattern continues to appear within all relationships until it is acknowledged. This means that bad boys can cost you a really great mutual partnership.
The one day that the bad boy couldn’t interfere with was my senior prom as by then he lived out of state. My guy came to my house in his mother’s convertible decked out in a tuxedo that I couldn’t believe, with a baseball cap backwards on his head. It was adorable. We all got in the limo and away we went. He wasn’t much for dancing, but we did dance to one slow song, symbolically entitled The Last Dance by Garth Brooks
Looking back on the memory of the dance we shared ‘neath the stars above
For a moment, all the world was right
How could I have known that you’d ever say good-bye
That wouldn’t be the only symbolism of the night. There was another song that would also tell a story and be forever tied to us. Only we wouldn’t know it until after he was gone. One song told my story about him, and the other told his story about me. That prom would really be one of the last times that we spent together.
That summer we moved apart. He went one way, and I went the other. I was a freshman in college and he started to date someone new. It was the polar opposite of the prior summer where we were only separate to go to work, shower, and sleep. We were everywhere all the time doing nothing at all.
We saw each other around here and there. He did come to a party that I threw when my parents went out of town. Living out in the country 20 minutes from a police station, my parent’s property was the perfect location for a real banger. At one point, I looked around and there were people everywhere, but it was his face that I actually saw. He was standing in my dining room talking to a guy friend of mine from Baltimore. During the conversation, it was discovered that my Baltimore friend had a friend who had a nice motorcycle for trade as he was going to have a baby. His young wife’s compromise on not getting rid of the bike completely was to get something with a little less power. Consequently, my guy wanted something faster. Both guys agreed to meet and swamp bikes, and I ended up agreeing to get my uncle’s truck to transport it. It was a date, something to look forward to…a road trip into Baltimore together.
Shortly thereafter, the bad boy showed up to the party and my guy ended up leaving early. I remember watching from the upstairs window as his red tail light disappeared down the country road into the darkness. I wanted to go with him. The fact that the bad boy entered and my guy exited was a red flag that I didn’t pick up on until I wrote this piece.
Not long after that party, I was at the barn getting ready to ride one Sunday morning. My guy beeped me (remember those?!) I called him back from the tackroom desk phone. We briefly discussed going to get the motorcycle and asked if I could get my uncle’s truck. Finally, he said that he had to get going; we hung up and I got on my horse to go gallop hills. About an hour later, he was gone. He was going too fast for a particular back road, lost control and was killed.
And now, I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain but I would have had to miss the dance
The funeral was heavily attended. The bad boy was there, in fact he’s the one that called me to break the news to me. The day after the conversation about going to Baltimore, I had blown off class for a mental health day. I was attempting to sleep in when the bad boy called the house. I waved my father off to tell him that I’d call him back, but then my father came all the way into my room and told me that I needed to take the call now. As the bad boy broke the horrible news, my eyes fell upon my nightstand where sat the framed picture of us in the limo heading to the prom. We were stunning together and as the sun hit us just right through the sun roof, we looked luminescent. His eyes so blue, and my smile so wide. I thought for a second that I heard remorse in the bad boy’s voice as he spoke about the details. To a certain extent he wasn’t right after the death of Michael any more than I was. Years later the bad boy and I would climb the fence to the cemetery late at night to visit him. I’m sure he was thrilled to look down and see us there together.
The months preceding his death, I did the best I could as an 18 year old feeling grief for the first time. There were times that I would go to the cemetery and sit in my car and cry for an hour. I fully credit my friends, my parents and Mariah Carey’s Butterfly album for how I got through it. Alas today I sit with guilt. For the first time in 20 years, something that my guy’s father said to me after the funeral makes sense. He told me that my guy had a hard time with the relationship that I had with the bad boy. It bothered him to the point that he actually discussed it with his father. The bad boy was the reason why he went his separate way and couldn’t go forward with me. He went on to tell me that as a father, he wished it had all been different.
The bad boy had cost me the ultimate.
Holding you, I held everything
For a moment, wasn’t I the King
If I’d only known, how the King would fall…
I’m not saying that had these events never transpired that he would still be alive, but what if? Life is fleeting and one unconsciously made decision ripple affects all things. What if I had been normal and we had broken up normally, would he have been in the same place at that time? What if I had shut the bad boy down from day one and not allowed him to be a factor at all, would we have been together somewhere getting something to eat the day he died? Would he have died anyway years down the road from something else? Would I have taken him to get the faster bike and it happen nonetheless some other time? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but what I do know is that I fundamentally participated in the hurt that drove him away in the first place. Hurt that I can never apologize for or make right.
This is my cross to bear this lifetime.
His father died shortly after him. I had run away downstate to a corporate job that I had been headhunted for. I thought that the money and the distance would sooth all ills. I ran for so long that I didn’t even know that his father had died until a few years later. I knew that he was never the same after his son’s death, but I was supposed to have stayed in this family’s life. I had even promised his sister that I would during that one time that I took her out with me to get her out of the house. Maybe they wouldn’t have wanted me to be around after all, as I had become a very fragmented person. I probably wouldn’t have helped anyone.
Nearly a decade upon my move back to the area, still unconscious of what bad boys cost despite one marriage destroyed, I decided to stop by the cemetery to see him; my first love. Imagine my shock when I got there and his mother’s grave marker was there too.
Was this all fate? Was it supposed to happen this way, or did one soul’s contract play out in a different way than originally planned. Like a stack of dominoes that takes quite some time to get all the way around, did one chance encounter land onto another arbitrary decision that resulted in this? Was there one thing that I could have done to change this outcome? Some of the outcome? Is it my fault that he was killed and therefore that his parents died of broken hearts? These are the serious questions that I have.
One day when I go before my Creator, I guess I will know for sure. I’ll get a chance to review my life and see what other chosen paths made with my Free Will would have rendered me, and I will have my questions answered. For now, I can only think to atone for my hand in things, and lack of hand in things, by warning others about the responsibility that each of us has as human beings to one another. Walking around half-assed through life constantly blowing off emotions, leaving your personal bullshit unchecked leaves a life half lived. Half done. But full of unconscious destruction.
I would go on to play cat and mouse games with the bad boy for years more both before and after my divorce. This time however, I knew exactly what I was doing. It was an affair that was on my terms this time, and no one got hurt. This is because he and I were equal. I was single and his hardcore schedule as a doctor, and separate social circle kept him completely out of my actual personal life. I didn’t need him and he didn’t need me.
That’s what bad boys don’t want you to know…that they only respect that of which is equal to them…when there is nothing to manipulate.
I used to call the bad boy my kryptonite when in fact he was just a crutch. He was a catch all for any deep feelings that I was not willing to examine. Trust me, bad boys are only fun for a moment. They’re only good for sneaking out to meet up with once. Or for riding on the back of his bike going 120 miles per hour a few times. After that, if you survive, you have to get off the bike, toss him the helmet and walk the fuck away with your sensibilities intact. Bad boys cost you the Brads in life. The Christophers and the Andrews. They cost you the Michaels. All these real men want is to love you for all of whom you really are…yet they get pushed away as boring because we become addicted to the trauma of bad boys. Even if it doesn’t last forever, the non-bad boy would more than likely wish you well and everyone would part with their sanity intact.
What bad boy addicts need to understand is that the brain literally changes its physiology during trauma and that’s how drama becomes addicting. You’re chasing a dragon that you won’t ever catch. Bad men can become a drug. We get addicted to their promises, the challenge, the chase and the near misses of them “reforming” all because of our good influence. I’m not saying that they can’t change…but can they change all the way…forever? Are you willing to let go of something beautiful and gentle for the rush of the dangerously slim chance that the bad boy becomes the choir boy?
Once I met my now husband I was no longer willing to compromise. I had lost one Michael already, I wasn’t about to lose another.
Bad boys are who they are because no one has ever told them “no”. No woman has ever looked him in the eye and told him shut up and have several seats. No one has ever told him that he isn’t as special as his fragile ego tells him that his is and that women are not play things to manipulate around his commitment issues.
No one has ever said no …you can’t come in. You can’t come into my head, my heart, my soul, my future relationship, I won’t let you. No one ever told him to his face that his repressed daddy issues are not anyone’s responsibility to examine and get over but his own. But let me tell you something, if someone did square up to him and tell him any of this, he would disappear. He would slip quietly into the night with little fuss never to be heard from again despite living in the same town.
Want to know how I know?
At some point this whole bad boy thing has to be gotten over. It’s no good for anyone and it never works out. For if it did, there would be less single mothers and broken hearted daughters. It begins with the Divine Feminine becoming resilient to manipulation, because if no one wanted a bad boy they would cease to exist wouldn’t they? They would be forced to self-examine just like all of the rest of us mere mortals.
Years ago, I was cleaning out boxes while listening to the radio when I came across a large envelope full of mementos from my senior prom. Along side of a bunch of photos was the printed program with our senior prom theme: “I will remember you” by Sarah McLaughlin. It was fitting for a senior prom, especially for my close knit class about to embark on new adventures. Just as I flipped to the inside where the lyrics were printed, the actual song came on the radio. I took this to be a message from him, and in three verses I got it;
Remember the good times that we had?
I let them slip away from us when things got bad.
He wanted to have gone forward, and maybe he would have been able to get through the bad feelings about bad boy had we been older and wiser.
Or if we had talked about it honestly…
I’m standing on the edge of something much too deep
It’s funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word
We are screaming inside, but we can’t be heard
There were things that had to be said but he wasn’t in a place to say it, and I wasn’t in the place to hear it.
I’m so afraid to love you
But more afraid to lose
Clinging to a past that doesn’t let me choose
I know why he was afraid to love me.
Then he gave me a gift…permission to leave the guilt behind though it would be 19 years before I could;
Don’t let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories
I don’t know what would have happened to us had he lived. I do know that I am where I am supposed to be in life. However, I could have come around to where I am now a multitude of different ways that could have been less dramatic. I would rather that he be alive living his life somewhere even if we never spoke again, but that isn’t in the realm of possibility. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t find him or call him to apologize for hurt that I ever caused him, but I can say it now in my deepest thoughts.
I do understand that I am 37 year old Jenna judging 15-18 year old Jenna for not knowing then what I know now. That is horribly unfair of me, and I maybe I am being incredibly hard on myself, but it doesn’t ease the discomfort. This is because I know that we come into this life with all that we need to live a full life of loving others. I had that understanding for a long time but allowed it to get squashed. I allowed the pressures of conformity to take from me what I had came into this lifetime to do: love. When this basic understanding is missing from your conscious, you either end up manipulating, or you allow yourself to be manipulated. Or both. I wish to God that I had the courage then to just be who I really am because the real Jenna wouldn’t have allowed any of this nonsense. The real Jenna would have told that boy to stick it where the sun don’t shine and then she would have put her arm around that blonde haired boy and walked away. I wish for that Jenna a lot in life.
What helps me now is continuing to retrace the patterns. Recognize them, learn from them and walk it all the way back to present time and ask myself some hard questions. Self-examination is not for the faint of heart and in some way, I feel like he’s guiding me through it. He can’t help me to avoid the pain nor the guilt nor the deep desire to go back and do things differently, because that’s part of my lesson in all of this.
There is no escaping the emotions, I have to feel it to heal it.
In the end, this will make me a better wife. It will make me a more conscious friend and human being. I think that would be the best way to honor my first love and that time in my life. There is nothing like a good dose of your past being realized to sober you and awake you further. I may be powerless to change the past, but I have power over my future.
In the meantime, I will never weep for the memories…for they will always be there.