Now I Know the Difference

Updated: Jun 26, 2020


| This is the 396th story of Our Life Logs |

I grew up in the extremely religious culture of Draper, Utah, in the 1990s. My parents had a loving marriage and raised me to believe that family was the core purpose of life. Girls married right out of high school at 18 in my neighborhood, like an unspoken tradition. I thought I’d follow the same path. It was the common one, after all.

Little me on horseback.
Little me on horseback.
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I had my first boyfriend in eighth grade, and our love was sweet. I remember staying up on school nights texting until three in the morning and smiling every time I saw him walk into school. Sadly, we broke up our freshman year of high school for a million immature reasons. We were only 14, too young to figure out how to communicate effectively in a relationship. I still saw him from time to time at school but avoided him at all cost. I was mortified.

When my senior year rolled around, I was still avoiding my ex-boyfriend in the halls. I couldn’t wait to graduate and get out. I hated all the popular boys at my school and was excited to go to college to meet somebody new, someone who didn’t think they were something special because their parents paid for them to be a starting player on our varsity football team.

Me in high school.
Me in high school.

My best friend had asked her boyfriend’s friend to be my date to prom. I’d met him before; he was quiet, tall, skinny, and different. His green eyes lit up when he talked to me. I never thought the date would go anywhere, besides a fun time at a dance. But as prom night played out, I changed my mind. I liked the way he placed his hand on my lower back when we walked through a crowd of people. I liked that he wasn’t a stupid jock. I liked that he was smart and grew up in a different state. He had interesting stories and made me feel like I was interesting.

A few weeks after prom, we made our relationship official. We spent a lot of time together going to sports events with his family, hanging out at his castle-like home filled with expensive furniture and fancy cars. His world was completely different from the one I grew up in. His parents spoke of fraternities and sororities a lot. They both were part of these social groups and highly encouraged them. I saw the excitement grow in my boyfriend’s green eyes as he talked with his dad about the fraternities he might join in the coming fall semester at the university.

He was excited to move downtown and I couldn’t blame him. In fact, I wanted to move downtown too. I wanted to discover life with him and our next destination was The University of Utah.

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I got a job right out of high school and started saving every dime I made so I could live downtown. My boyfriend was already at the university taking classes and living in the school dorms. We didn’t see each other often, even though the school was only 25 minutes away.

I figured if I moved closer, things would be better. We would be able to see each other all the time, so that’s what I did. I found a couple of roommates to rent a duplex with me that was just a few minutes away from campus. The strange thing is, we still didn’t see each other a lot. There was always a fraternity event or a social he had to go to. Knowing that he wanted this lifestyle, I stayed quiet.

While he attended his social events, I spent most of my time working, saving money to attend a nearby community college. On the weekends he started inviting me to parties that were held at his fraternity. I hated parties. I hated pretending to be interested in something a group of strangers were talking about, but to be honest, these parties were one of the only times I got to see my boyfriend, so I agreed. In fact, I did more than agree. I wanted to impress everyone. I know the logic in my mind was pathetic and sad, but I was desperate at this point.

I smiled when he introduced me to his friends and pretended like I didn’t mind when one of his drunk friends ran one of his hands across my ass in front of him. My boyfriend seemed to like that his friends found me attractive. He wore me like an expensive watch.

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I still cringe thinking back to how long I acted like an expensive accessory. Months passed with this same pattern. On the rare occasion that we would hang out just the two of us, I would bring things up casually, “How about we skip the party this week and just do something the two of us?”

He would roll his eyes as if I didn’t understand the ‘real world’ around me. “I’m still new to the fraternity. I want to be at as many events as possible.”

I felt guilty after bringing it up every time, knowing that this was what he had always wanted. He was climbing the social ladder in his fraternity and the best way to do that was of course to be more than present.

I continued to go to the parties and the trips, “liking” the attention I got from his friends. I brought one of my own friends to a bunch of these events, mostly to keep me company as my boyfriend “networked.”

Then summer came around, and of course, he had big, extravagant plans that didn’t involve me. However, he was going to the city I was named after—Paris.

I waited patiently in Salt Lake as he traveled with a group of school friends. I worked all summer and had finally saved enough money to transfer from the community college I was attending to The University of Utah.

When he came home from Paris, he told me he wanted to see me. I was excited of course, I had missed him all summer. He sat down on my bed with me, pushed a loose strand of hair out of my face, and said, “I have to tell you something.”

I felt my stomach crumple like a wrapper inside of me. I didn’t speak, just waited for him to continue.

“I made out with one of the girls on my trip,” his words crashed into me like a brick wall.

I felt the weight falling on me and stopping me from speaking.

“She asked me to come up to her room with her, but I said no,” he added, as if I should have been grateful to him for not having sex with her when he easily could have.

I stood up angrily and paced my room, trying to organize all my emotions that were wizzing around in my mind. “You made out with another girl in the city I’m named after?” My words came out colder than I thought, but I didn’t care. It was the first time I had ever been truly angry with him. The first time he had ever felt like he might actually lose me.

He started begging me to forgive him, promising that things would be different and we would spend more time together. I enjoyed the attention—it was the first time in our relationship that I felt like I had any power.