Before the relationship began, we would talk every single night for hours, and with each new secret we would divulge to one another, we found ourselves falling deeper and deeper in love. The only issue at the time was that we were both headed off to college. With five weeks left before *Clay was to depart, we said, “I want you, you want me. We don’t want to be with other people, so lets do this.” In the following months I was high on the constant euphoria of what felt like a budding adolescent romance. I would repeatedly ask myself “how did I get so lucky?” I was hopelessly and completely in love. The love I felt for Clay was more intense than any movie could depict.
We did long distance for a few months and then luckily Clay moved back home. We would spend days, and even weeks, together side by side. He had seen me at my best, and he had seen me at my absolute worst. But none of that mattered much because we were so madly in love. Or so I thought.
Flash forward a year and a half later; the relationship is not even close to what it once was. The love we had was being corroded by snide comments and backhanded remarks about my weight and physical appearance. Yes, I did gain weight from senior year of high school to freshman year of college, but who doesn’t? Go ahead and sue me for not being able to magically make all of that weight disappear in a two-week ultimatum (yes, actually happened).
I will now begin to tell you about the worst week of my life, because I believe that it is important to set the scene of the phone call that changed everything. In a course of 75 hours, I found out my dad’s cancer had returned and that he would soon be starting a chemo treatment. Four of my peers, two of whom I was relatively close with, had passed away in a very abrupt and morbid accident. When I needed him the most, Clay was nowhere to be seen.
The night I received the phone call was the night before the wake of my dear friend, and it was raining. My two best friends, my sister and my friend Nicole, took me to the movies to cheer me up. After the movie we went to Steak and Shake, which has been a long-standing tradition of ours. That is when shit hit the fan. I was on the tail end of finishing a magnificent banana milkshake when I received a call from Clay. I knew it must have been important, because that was the first call I’d gotten from him in two days.
I answered the phone and I could tell by the tone of his voice that it was coming, but I never would have expected for it to go down in the manner that it did. The first thing I asked when I picked up the phone was, “Is everything okay?” Clay sighed and said, “No Anabel, it’s not.”
I immediately responded, “Are you breaking up with me?”
To which he answered, “Yes I am.”
Taken aback, I asked why. And the answer he gave was not something anyone should hear. Clay explained, “Anabel, I just got out of church and the pastor was telling us about Jesus and how he was an honest man, and I haven’t been honest with you.” I was completely confused and asked him to explain.
He responded by saying, “The reason I have been a bad boyfriend for the past six months is because I find you physically unattractive. And I can’t be with anyone that is physically unattractive to me.”
My jaw dropped. I could not believe what I was hearing. It was surreal. The guy I had spent the past year and a half dating, the one who had seen me with no makeup on, my hair in its natural crazy form, in sweatpants and in swimsuits, just told me that the reason he was breaking up with me was because I was physically unattractive.
I went through all the stages: denial, depression, shock, and finally all that was left – complete anger. You know what they say, hindsight is 20/20, and I should have been able to see this coming from miles away. I recall several incidences where Clay made comments about my appearance and would try to make me feel guilty whenever I ate food that he deemed unhealthy.
I will never forget the time that we woke up next to each other and my sister came in my room after she had gotten ready for the day. Clay looked at me and asked, “Anabel why don’t you look like that when you wake up?”
Or the time I would show him old photos of myself and he said in a condescending tone, “Wow I never realized how much you’ve changed.” He would go from one day telling me how cute I was, to completely tearing me down the next.
The biggest red flag of them all happened one night after we watched a movie together. Clay looked at me and said, “Anabel can I tell you something that bothers me?” I responded, “Sure babe what’s up?”
He went off on a tangent and said, verbatim, “I feel bad for husbands whose wives’ bodies don’t go back to the way they were after they give birth. Then the husbands are unhappy and stuck in the marriage.” I was absolutely horrified, but for some reason I brushed it off.
It took some time, but I realized that being told I was physically unattractive by the person I loved was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It has taught me how to completely love myself. It has taught me that I will never put up with being treated less than I deserve. That I will make sure the next person I’ll be with won’t be afraid to let me know how beautiful I am inside and out. It has taught me that I will never put up with being an emotional punching bag for someone who hates himself. In short, I have learned that I cannot seek validation through someone else. I need to look within myself to find love and happiness.