Sometimes, the lesson comes 15 years later

Dear Lily & Anya,

When I was in high school I had this great boyfriend.  He was small and scrappy and would defend a friend to the bitter end.  Before we broke each others hearts, we had a hell of a lot of fun together.  He loved showing me self defense moves and wouldn't even get upset when I practiced on him and forgot to pull my punch.  Once he had me pinned and I remember reflexively jamming my fingers into his neck, sending him sprawling backward, coughing violently while simultaneously saying to me, "GOOD!  That was awesome!" 

Years later I met this other guy.  He was good looking, came from a famous family and a life time of wealth and when he turned his attentions onto me, it was hard to resist.  We started dating, mostly hanging out at his mom's fancy mansion and when he asked me to come up to Oregon with him to meet his dad, I got all girly and thought this could mean something.  His dad, who did not come from a life time of wealth, picked us up and drove us out to his beach house, an unfinished home that was stunningly simple and beautifully bare.  He was a kind, generous man and it was lovely to be with my new boyfriend in his home.

A couple days into the trip, rich-boy and I were wrestling around, which I came to understand was him trying to show off.  So I decided to show off a little and threw this kick-ass move high-school-boyfriend had taught me.  Basically, when someone is straddling you and has you pinned down, if you can get their weight off your hips you can swing your legs up, hook them around the chest and pull them off you backwards.  It's a highly effective move and has the added bonus of being highly entertaining to the person performing it.  He went flying backwards, I laughed and this is where everything went very wrong. 

I had never seen some become so angry while still smiling.  Within seconds he had me in a scissors hold, squeezing so hard that I felt myself gasping for breath.  I couldn't even speak, which was unfortunate, since he was demanding that I admit I was weaker than him. By the time he let go the beginning of a bruise had settled in, within days ripening to an angry slash of black and blue across my stomach. 

On a remote beach, with no car and too damn embarrassed to ask the guys father for help, I spent the next couple days stepping very carefully, keeping my distance and just trying to hold it together.  Things were mostly OK, but sometimes very not OK over those days.  We ended up on separate flights home and I never saw him again.  I did hear from his girlfriend later, who it turns out, he was living with while we dated and who he brought up to his dads just weeks later.  She called to let me know he was in jail after they'd had a fight that resulted in the neighbors calling the cops.  I don't know what happened to either of them after that.

The reason I'm telling you all of this is that my mom didn't want me to go on that trip; and I never told her what happened while I was on it.  I was embarrassed that I had been stupid enough to not see that this was a possibility, when she clearly did, and didn't want to see that "I told you so" look.  Hell, I still don't want to see it, though she is likely to read this.  I also didn't want her to feel as though she might have failed to protect me, though by then, I wasn't willing to accept that level of protection from her anymore. That part of it I better understand since becoming a parent to you both.   Rearing girls means fear.  I am terrified that you will meet your own rich-boy in the future and he'll break you a little.  The mere thought of someone hurting you like that... it sends me over the edge. 

But as your mom, there's going to come a time where I say, "This? This is not a good idea." And I'm going to mean it in a way that you cannot begin to understand.  I hope you never have to understand.  But I'm going to say it and you're going to have to decide what is more important: my history or your moment.  I admit that I might be wrong, but you'll have to figure out how important it is for you to be right.  You need to know that I'd always rather you be right.  I'd always rather that my fear is groundless and your judgment sound.  I will always be wishing kindness from those people you met, though I fear that one day you'll meet someone who will not show it when they should.

The reason I'm writing you about this now?  For some reason, it's been showing up in my dreams and in my thoughts, over and over again lately.  It's like an expiration on my silence has gone off and I need to work it though.  It could have to do with the confidence and beauty I see in you both.  I don't want you to have that taken away.  And honestly, what happened on that Oregon beach did not strip me of myself.  I learned a lot from that experience and just a year later met your father, a man who has always treated me with kindness.  I was ready and open to his love when it came and not full of fear or distrust.  Rich-boy didn't end me, he just broke my perception of the world a little.

Maybe I'm putting this to paper for you now, just in case I forget to tell you later.  I need you to know that there are times I really wished that I had listened to my mother, even though there's no way in hell I would have then.  I'm not telling you to always listen, rather, I'm telling you that I understand if you don't.  And if not listening ever breaks you a little, I hope you and I can talk about it.  I have some tips for healing these kinds of hurt.

Even more, I need you to know that I will try not to let fear rule my relationship with you and encroach on your relationships with others.  If I forget this promise, remind me.  Or tell Daddy, he can put it to me gently.

Mostly, know that I love you both and will sign you up for your own self defense class.  After all, I can't count on there being a small and scrappy boyfriend to teach you such things.  This may instead be woman's work.