In the beginning
When I was 15, I was a lonely, depressed teenager.
I didn’t know how to talk to girls and get them interested in me. It seemed like every girl I spoke to just wanted to be friends, which was great for them, but crappy for me. It also seemed like most of my friends had girlfriends, except for me.
I was bitter about not having someone, and self-conscious, and angry at everyone all the time. I constantly made fun of people, with a bit of an edge. It was meant to be humorous, yet came out most of the time as mean. However, when people made fun of me, as a joke, I took it personally.
It made me a very unpleasant teenager to be around, and was the perfect recipe to stay single forever. Yet somehow, one day, there was a girl that was into me.
Her name was Farrah. For some reason, she saw through my low confidence, my baggy clothing and my complete inability to communicate without being awkward, and she was wonderful enough to say “yes” when I asked her out. We used to chat on the phone all the time, and make out — whenever we had the chance.
But I was insecure, and unable to deal with my feelings for her. Here was this wonderful girl that wanted to be with me, and I was constantly trying to find a flaw with her. She was too ugly, or too clingy, or badly dressed, or whatever else inane excuse I came up with. It was an awful time, because I was convinced there was something wrong with her.
Something deeper within me
The truth was more stark: there was something going on with me. When I made fun of people, it was because I couldn’t stand for them to be better than me. I had to find a flaw, and make fun of it, to make myself feel better. This leaked into my relationship with Farrah as well. I didn’t make fun of her, I would never do that. But I saw her flaws, and amplified them in my mind, until I couldn’t see anything else.
A few months later, I broke up with her, and chased other fantasy perfect dream girls that didn’t exist. Of course, I remained unhappy.
Eventually I moved to another city, and dated other women. Farrah and I stayed in touch, and remained friends. We would hang out when I came home to visit, and it was nice. She was getting more attractive and confident every year, and I was still trying to figure out what the hell my problem was. I talked to a counsellor for about a year and a half, and although my issues were fading, I was still pretty messed up.
Seven years later, I was home for the summer. Farrah came over one day for tea. We sat in the garden, chatted and laughed. It was good to connect with an old friend. As she left, on impulse I leaned in and we kissed.
What followed was a wondrous summer of romance, passion, affection and happiness: I had finally fallen in love. Not with a model, or actress, or pornstar: just the girl next door. All of my expectations were blown out of the water.
Until that point, I thought that love was this mystical thing that fell out of a tree and smacked you in the head with incredible force. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was actually a much simpler feeling: it was just happiness when I was around her.
For the first time in my life, I wasn’t bitter about not having anyone to share my affection with. I no longer sneered at everyone derisively. I was able to laugh at myself. The terrible anger I had carried for so many years just seemed to fade away, a petty irrelevant thing. It was pure joy.
We had a great three months together, before I left to go back to university. But the lesson I had learned remained.
In my teens, I was unable to love another human being properly, because I didn’t love myself. When I looked in the mirror, I saw someone ugly and skinny. I saw someone that was weak, and stupid, and uncool. I didn’t like myself at all, let alone love myself.
And I never admitted it to anyone. I just acted with contempt, and hoped no one would notice. I wish that I had spoken to my friends about it, but it’s awkward when you’re a teen. What do you say to your buddies?
“Hey bro, I’m bitter a lot because I hate myself. Do you hate yourself too?”
I was so much in denial, that I don’t think I even could have managed that sentence. Luckily, when I got older, I went to see a counsellor to figure it out. It’s surprising how easy it is to reveal details about yourself to a complete stranger, rather than your friends.
I’m really glad I did. If my therapist and I hadn’t spoken, then I don’t think I ever would have kissed Farrah on that summer day. I wouldn’t have shared three beautiful months with her.
And I wouldn’t have learned to love myself.