One of my best friends from high school recently uncovered our note notebook from our junior year. Reading it ten years later is both hysterical and heartbreaking. Among the heart-dotted eyes, Stereomud lyrics and obnoxious spellings of “nite” there is some insight into what love and boys can do to the delicate psyche of a sensitive 16-year-old girl as she struggles to find her path and figure out who she is along the way. Before I chose to combat heartbreak with sarcastic cynicism, I handled each romantic let-down with raw, unadulterated (if not immature) emotion.
Maybe it was one too many viewings of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (we miss you Pete) or maybe it was my flair for the dramatic as evidenced by my devotion to the theater department and the class’s thespian of the year award, but I took the infancy of my love life very seriously. Basically this resulted in me being a complete idiot for most of my formative years.
The depth of the pit I entered after losing my first “love” is astounding. To read it was actually a bit terrifying. My range of emotions seemed to only include malaise and borderline suicidal. The very thought that this might be normal for any teenage girl makes me never want to procreate. Also, I’d like to sincerely apologize to my parents, friends and teachers for being a melancholy freak show during that time in my life.
Oddly enough I remember my high school years fondly. The absolute depths of despair (for those of you who aren’t lit nerds) that I experienced with every spurned confession of love seems to have escaped my memory completely. Now, looking back at how deeply I let things affect me, I wish that I could journey to that time and impart some serious love knowledge on my wretched younger self.
The pattern of seeking male attention to feel pretty began in those years as I attempted to recover from that first broken heart. I like to think I’ve since outgrown that ridiculous view of my own self worth, but I have to admit it still rears it’s ugly head on the occasional Saturday night. Perhaps if, at 16, I had learned mantention isn’t all it’s cracked up to be I wouldn’t have put up with some of the truly abhorrent relationships I’ve found myself in. Too much of my correspondence with my young friend involved belaboring the idea that ending one relationship meant I would never, ever have another.
I would have taught the poor young miss how to channel the blinding sorrow and angst that accompanies a young break up into a driving passion to better herself. Since emerging from those naïve years where every broken heart was the end of my fragile world, my sense of adventure and purpose is never as strong as it is after I’ve been jilted.
Instead of woe-is-me I shall never love again sentiments I’m buoyed by Helen Reddy’s anthem (not really, that song is kind of terrible, but it’s a nice idea). I can’t imagine what I might have accomplished if I had only embraced that philosophy ten years ago. With the sheer volume of broken hearts I’ve endured (I told you I had a flair for the dramatic) I likely could have ended world hunger by now or at least developed nylons that don’t tear within the first 24 hours out of the package.
Honestly, the most heart-wrenching part of reliving these adolescent aches was the sheer disregard other young women had for each other’s struggles. This didn’t pertain to the friend who also laid her soul bear on the pages of our notebook but the other young women who made a cameo appearance or two.
In the midst of some of my (unnecessarily) darkest days, girls I had considered close friends turned on me for reasons now unknown but, most likely, undeniably trivial. Here I was shattered by the enemy gender, and I couldn’t even rely on my fellow Bettys to offer some perspective. So the last piece of advice I have wouldn’t exactly be directed toward miniature me (though I’m sure I have been guilty of betraying my own persuasion at one time or another) but the ones who have sunk a training stiletto into the side of a broken little girl while she’s desperately trying to find her worth outside of a relationship.
In a world where women can, at times, be viewed as disposable by the cruder sex, our friendships (both male and female, actually) are sacred. We should remember this at every age so we can be there to offer up the perspective we so desperately needed at 16.