Helping Others

My first boyfriend was a witch I met online. I had a dear friend that I shared a lot of my time and life with when I wasn’t working or in school, but we weren’t “official” (my very nuanced teenaged lexicon at work) and even though I was happy with him there was something that rang a bit hollow about what we were doing, probably because I knew he was doing a lot of other someones and I wasn’t ever going to be included in those adventures. We were in more of an open relationship, he didn’t particularly care whom I spent my time with so long as I still spent some of it with him, so I wanted something that I thought was real. And for me I internalized real to be the cultural norm of a single committed relationship even though that didn’t seem like something that had ever made anyone else in my life happy. I thought, why not give it a shot?

I was fifteen and desperately searching for anyone of a like mind. I lived in a conservative area where most people thought I was some sort of hippy, and I let them, so that put me out of the running for most of the local boys. Their parents would not appreciate them bringing home anyone but a sweet, fundie girl. I met my boyfriend, the first person to ever take an extended interest in me that wasn’t someone I’d known my entire life, on a site popular among people of the craft at that time. He was Wiccan, or claimed to be, though we never had a discussion about paganism or witch craft after we met up in real life. When we talked online exchanging e-mails and ever more deeper personal information he told me he was 17. Then we started exchanging lively and interesting phone calls. He had a great voice, a quick wit, and a dirty mind. I loved it. I was in love.

As an added bonus he lived nearby and he had a car.

I was insanely, nervously excited about him until I opened my front door and realized he wasn’t 17. The person on the other side of my door was a man, not a boy on the verge of manhood. Then I was just nervous, but he was the same quick witted smooth talker I’d had on the phone, and he told me he didn’t want to frighten me off with the age difference since he enjoyed talking to me so much. He said he was 21. That night I slept with him and it was fun and all right, but after the blankets cooled and he’d taken himself home something wasn’t right there either. I still wasn’t happy. This man said he wanted to be my boyfriend and I wasn’t happy with it even though that’s everything I thought I always wanted. I just wanted to be one of those normal girls with a boyfriend. I wanted to have one part of the crazy life I was living line up with the concept of teen girl hood. Topically, he was everything I wanted. He was a Wiccan. He was old enough that he had a car and money to spend on me. He was cute. But something didn’t feel right to me. Just. Didn’t. Feel. Right.

I’ve since learned my lesson when that happens. Warning bells are to be heeded.

I ignored the feeling. Ignored it completely even though it would niggle here and there. He would borrow money from me occasionally for gas, something I thought was reasonable since I didn’t have a car yet and he would drive us around. Then he just wanted to borrow money to borrow money, which really meant I was just giving him money. Then one night when we were in bed together, or maybe it was in the back seat of his car I don’t clearly recall, I started asking about his tattoos.

They were prison tattoos. Oh, yes, he’d forgotten to clue me into that part of his life.

Yeah, I found that out and didn’t run and hide. Everyone has had their bad days. By this point I’d actually had my own run ins with the law, had been on probation. I was willing to let it go.

Several months later while I was trying to convince my heart that I should love this man, this clever and entertaining man I was sharing myself with, I found out he was living with a woman. Now, when I found that out, by this time I was sixteen and considered myself more of a woman of the world, so I almost put the kibosh on the whole thing, but really, I thought, they must not be happy if he’s spending all of his free time with me, so I didn’t. I figured time would play out the end of the other relationship. I was still seeing my other guy, so what did it matter?

I found out almost nine months after I started dating him that he had a kid. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I didn’t tell anyone about my relationship at all really, other than my closest friends, and my not boyfriend was upset, but only mildly, so I kept on. I think I wanted someone to be upset on my behalf after everything started going belly up. I think I wanted my first shot at love to work out, be real, be what I wanted. Be something solid I could count on.

Eventually, I found out he was 30. He slipped up, gave me enough clues, and then couldn’t wiggle out of divulging his actual age. He didn’t look 30, and that wouldn’t even be that big a deal for me except he, in the end, did use my youth and stupidity against me for a great many things. At one point I went with him to a city over 100 miles away from my home after I did some fancy footwork with half truths to my father, and he wasn’t going to take me home again. I was gone for almost two weeks during the summer. He didn’t want to let me go. He wasn’t violent, but I could see everything going that direction. I finally threatened to call the police and left the apartment pleading with friends to come get me to bring me home. I never told my father about all of this because I didn’t want to be berated for being an idiot. I also never heard from my “boyfriend” again.

I carried this around with me. I’d started out with trust issues, but this first relationship shoved my baggage chock full of it making every other person who has tried to be with me deal with it at least a little, which isn’t fair, but is a fact. It effected me profoundly and for life.

So, why am I talking about it now? I’m less concerned about the statutory rape that went on, ’cause the gods know I was extremely willing on the sex front, but taking advantage of young people? You bet that pisses me off, especially in retrospect now that I’ve hit the same age that this man was. I would never in a million years think to do what he did to a young person. I wouldn’t want to. There’s a large potential for young people or people just new to the community (often one and the same) to be taken advantage of by other, often elders-well intentioned or ill intentioned. I would like to think of a way to create safe guards for young people in the community-the larger pagan community and the Heathen community-or even just the world at large.

It seems to me that one good way to do this would be to educate, tell stories like mine, not to frighten people, but simply to make them aware that there are bad people out there, even in the smaller enclave of life that constitutes the pagan community. I would like it if there were more physical touchstones, safe places people could go when they needed help in the pagan community. Maybe more public Covensteads? Places with trusted, vetted, community members manning posts so that when someone knocks on their door they can readily offer solid help. And of course, it would be helpful if our young people felt comfortable going to outsiders for help as well. As a young person in the ’90’s there is no way that I would have felt comfortable telling this story to the police. I would have immediately felt like I would have been judged for being a pagan, being different, brought the entire misadventure on myself for going outside the proscribed norms of society. Depending on where a person lived today I still think that might be the case. I am thinking very earnestly of setting up some sort of pagan help net, something to help catch people before they hit the real world head first, here in my local community, and I would ask that anyone who might find themselves in a similar position to be helpful in other communities to brainstorm and come up with one good goal or activity they could create to help youngsters, or anyone really, who might find themselves having these types of problems. How can we help young people negotiate the world more effectively without frightening them?

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2 thoughts on “Helping Others

    • True. Shame is never helpful. I’m sure there’s more than one therapist that has made a career on combating the life long results of what shame can do.

      How does that happen in “the community?” I can think of it in the “NOOB you don’t know what you’re doing, so don’t do anything” context where people don’t want to help someone and would rather just tell them to stay out of the pool, which never works.

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