The guys who will ruin you:
The guy who calls you ugly: It will probably happen somewhere between 6th and 9th grade, and you’ll remember it for the rest of your life. The first time a guy teaches you that he has an opinion of you, and that it isn’t good, you will be devastated. There was some invisible test that you failed without even taking it, and your vision of yourself will never be the same. You will always see yourself through the prism of all the boys who might be finding you “fat” or “flat-chested” or “a butterface.” And the one offhanded comment of an adolescent boy — the one who decided you just weren’t hot enough for his fickle tastes, will alter your perception forever. The rumors he spread in his group of friends become the way you define yourself, and the time he almost kissed you (but decided not to, because your stomach was too big) will be the reason you do 100 crunches before bed every night.
The guy who just stops answering: Nothing you do will provide an adequate explanation. There will just come a day when he stops caring, stops looking at you the same way, and — for many of your increasingly-desperate messages — stops responding. It’s like a light switch went off in him somewhere, and even if just a few weeks ago you were delirious in love, he changed. There will be a coldness when you touch him, a distance, an undeniable feeling of discomfort in your presence. You’ll search his phone for evidence, scream at him to get a rise, and nothing will happen. The boyfriend he was just ceased to exist, and he doesn’t care about you. And that knowledge — that everything can be going perfectly until, on some random Tuesday, it ends — will haunt you for the rest of your life. Because how can you ever fully relax in love if it might end at any moment?
The guy who makes you feel unsafe: Maybe he will hit you. Maybe he will just threaten to. Maybe he will scream at you until you are crying and covering your ears. Maybe he will keep going when you say “stop, I don’t want to.” Maybe he will call you names until you hate yourself. Maybe he will talk to you like you’re crazy, make you feel like your own memories don’t exist, like everything is in your head and how could you be so stupid?? Whatever he does, you will feel profoundly unsafe around him, like he is a disease you can’t cure or a room you can’t unlock. And he will punctuate all of it with “I love you,” a Pavlovian way of getting you to feel indebted to the pain. You love hard, and you fight hard, right? That’s what love is supposed to be. And that’s the kind of love you’ll seek over and over, the kind that burns when it touches you, because it’s the only thing that feels real.
The one who will save it:
The one who lets you be yourself: You won’t trust him at first. You won’t know what to do around him, like he’s a newly-domesticated animal you’ve never seen in someone’s house before. You’ll fall in love slowly, bit by bit, because you’re expecting everything to hurt. But you will lay your head on his chest at night and listen to his heartbeat until you fall asleep. You will fall down and mess up and ugly-cry in front of him, and he will hand you a tissue. You will succeed, and he will be happy — never bitter or demeaning. He will get angry (he’s only human), but it will be in fairness and with empathy. And as you fall for him, every day will feel lighter. Your clothes will fit better. The boys who called you ugly or stupid or nothing at all will start to feel less like wounds, and more like scars. Because you will start to love yourself. You will love love, in realizing it’s possible, and that it doesn’t have to hurt. And when you’re perfectly yourself in love, when you get to show every weird facet of you and discover another person at the same time, you really like guys. Maybe they’re not so bad, after all.