I was stalked for the first time when I was 14.
My mother made the mistake of letting me, at 13, start dating a “nice” boy from our church. He was 18. No way was that a smart move. That age difference at that stage of life made for a power dynamic in his favor. He was always “joking” and “teasing” me, but his words were often put-downs to tear me down and build himself up. Usually the put-downs were public, too. I think he was insecure that he was a poor student and I’d always had straight A’s.
I was still young and foolish enough to believe that I should make our love work, despite his flaws and our differences.
He was constantly, and I mean CONSTANTLY, pressuring me for sex. I didn’t, but we did touch a little. That’s as far as it went, and there was constant pressure to do more than I really wanted to do.
We dated for almost a year, and then he went off to college. I wrote him a letter almost every day because he said he was lonely, and I thought it would make him happy to keep his mailbox full. I wanted him to know that I don’t believe in “out of sight, out of mind.”
I would spray my perfume (probably “Charlie”) in the air and wave the pages through the mist before sealing up my letters. I probably scented up the whole college post office, lol.
My letter writing didn’t have a chance to naturally taper off before he was back for good. He was only there at college for three weeks. He came home with his tail tucked between his legs, saying he was too homesick and missed his family and me. (I now wonder if the work was too challenging for him, too.) It was nice to see him, but I was very, very upset that he was giving up on his education. I didn’t respect him for it, and I feared he would be stuck in a factory at the same poverty wages his father earned. That’s not the life I wanted for myself if we ended up together. (He had already been talking marriage by then, and I wasn’t even 15 yet.)
Soon, I broke up with him. I tried to be gentle and say that over time I’d decided we didn’t have a long-term future together, and I wanted both of us to be happy. I didn’t want to say, “I know you are going to be a broke, unambitious guy who is kind of mean to me. I don’t expect any of that to change, and I don’t want you anymore.”
Maybe that was shallow of me. I felt a little guilty at the time, but with the wisdom of age, I now say: So what? Dating is not a sacred vow. It’s okay to break up for small reasons, bad reasons, or even no reasons. I had that right, and I wasn’t mean.
He did NOT get that. He was livid. He was not going to let me end things without his permission. He raged and argued and carried on so much that I stopped taking his calls and threw away any notes he left me.
That’s when he began stalking me in earnest. I’m glad it was not yet the age of social media and we didn’t have cell phones, but he managed to stalk me pretty effectively anyway:
- He called all my closest friends to enlist their help. Some of them he called multiple times. Finally, one of them told me.
- He got close to me at church whenever he could and when he couldn’t get my attention, he would try to have loud obnoxious conversations near me.
- He kept calling my home.
- When I worked the concession stands at one of our church’s softball games, he would come to the window multiple times, bragging about porn he’d watched or some other girl he was allegedly chasing, trying to hurt me.
- He would drive up in my driveway and honk, or he would get out and knock on the door. He got furious when I wouldn’t talk to him.
- He stalked my bus stop. I went to a small private school about 15-16 miles away in the next town over from my hometown, and there was a central location in my town where parents would drop off their kids to catch a schoolbus for that long drive. When we were dating, he would often drive up and I would get out of the bus to talk to him for a while before getting back on the bus. When we broke up, he would STILL drive up to the bus stop, look for me on the bus and honk his horn for me to get out. He sat there and honked and honked and honked. I just slumped lower in my seat and wished for time to pass or for someone to stop him.
Once he gave up, he spent months punishing me. My only contact with him at that point was at my small rural church and any of our youth group events. He was constantly interrupting me in Sunday School, mocking my observations, and just being an ass. Once in the parking lot, I walked by when a friend was standing by his car, giving him a hard time about some underwear that was on the backseat’s floorboard. (Why? I have no idea — gross.) He was laughing, and then he spotted me and said, “Hey, EFFIE knows something about my underwear being off in the back seat! Right, Effie?” (I did not. We petted a few times, but never in his car, and there was never any outright sex.) This was in my church parking lot, with church members all around. I was mortified but managed to say something like, “I don’t know anything about your nasty underwear, and I don’t want to. You’re disgusting.” At a church swimming party, he would ogle me and stand there with the older guys and talk filth about me, just within hearing range.
At one point, I asked his brother if he could tell their parents and ask them to stop him. Nothing ever came of it, even though the brother told me that his mother had talked about how terrible he was treating me. It was one of the things that disillusioned me about my church life, how obviously abusive it was and no one helped me.
I even dated his little brother — once — purely because I knew it would piss him off. I was ready to hurt him at that point for all he had put me through. The brother and I went parking, which is old country-speak for couples parking in a secluded spot, kissing and doing whatever else they fancy. I probably would have slept with him at that point as a rage-fuck against his brother, but after one kiss he started talking about how much he respected me and cared about me as a person. I couldn’t use him that way; it would have felt icky to be sexually intimate with a kind guy who felt like a brother of my own. We didn’t go out again. We stayed friends, and he became one of the few people who mocked his brother when he was being cruel to me.
My ex finally left me alone when another older boy at my church started dating me. I guess the ex felt at that point that his “property” (me) had been transferred to a new owner.
This relationship was traumatic, and it was just the first of several. It’s sad how being unprepared, being hurt, and being viciously targeted can make you so wobbly and unsure of yourself. Even when you’re a strong and brave young woman.
I think I carried the scars from this and other relationships into my current marriage, and that’s part of the reason why I let my husband get away with his failure to communicate and his sullen silences when he was angry. I get angry sometimes that I had so little guidance and protection as a young woman, but I’m not young anymore, and I can handle my life now on my own, with help from friends, my therapist and fidelity to my own goals and needs.