I don’t know exactly how it all happened.

He was an immature 16 year old. I was a mature 13 year old.

I think I had just gotten my braces on, but still— my teeth were seriously big and buck. And I was in my most awkward phase ever.

And yet…he asked me out.

I wasn’t ready for it, to be honest. I kinda freaked out and didn’t know what to do.

So I asked my dad for advice. I think subconsciously I went to him because I assumed he would talk me out of going out with this guy.

But instead he said, “Go out with him. If you don’t like him, don’t do it again. If you do, go out again.”

Seemed simple enough for my confused young mind. (But what father encourages his daughter to date?? At the age of 13?!)

So I went out with a boy three years older than me.

And my parents let me.

In fact my mom encouraged it. She was the one that introduced us. At one point in time, well into the relationship, she insinuated that if I didn’t want to have actual sex with him there were “other things” I could do. I know, ew.

We ended up dating exclusively for 18 months.

I’m a little embarrassed by it looking back, but then again he was an angel for me during that time in my life. It was the worst of my parents’ relationship, and he was a lifesaving distraction. He was a companion to my loneliness, and a way out of the chaos— and his home was exactly opposite of mine. He was respectful and kind. Just what I needed.

(But still! What kind of parents encourage dating at this age?)

In retrospect, I think this relationship caused me to grow up faster than I already was, which was a form of trauma for me.

However, there were many positive things that came out of this relationship, but one experience that stands out in my mind: I remember he wanted to hold my hand at school, but I was hesitant to show any pda. I had been very shy and insecure my whole life, wanting others to like me, but never really being liked except by one or two friends. I had this poignant moment where I realized I didn’t have to care what other people thought. That caused me to think about what I wanted. I wanted to have fun and enjoy my life. I started holding his hand at school. That gave me so much confidence!

This is a great example of how life is complicated. Dating a boy much older than me when I was still young felt almost traumatic in a way, and yet many beautiful things came out of it also. I guess that’s what happens when your parents encourage dating when you’re too young.

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