I was dating a boy I really liked, so when another classmate made a pass at me, I explained that I was going with someone else, and I turned him down. The next morning, my “friend” – let’s call him Rat – told classmates that I’d slept with him. Since I had declined to have sex with the boy I actually liked, the ugly rumor made me look like a lying hypocrite. Hurt and humiliated, my boyfriend promptly broke up with me, leaving me heartbroken and bewildered. I hadn’t even done what I was accused of doing – and yet that didn’t protect me from public scorn, let alone the loss of my first love.
But there was worse to come. When I started college, I was 16 years old. On my first day, I met a sophomore whose blue eyes were speckled with gold. Soon we were spending every free moment together. He knew I was a virgin, and he was respectful of my wishes – until his roommate went home to Boston for the weekend. In a diabolical coincidence, the roommate was invited to a party where he met Rat, who was attending college there. When he learned the name of Rat’s hometown in New York, he asked if Rat knew me – whereupon Rat gleefully regaled him with a sordid account of what a tramp I had been in high school.
The roommate was astonished, because he knew me as the clueless virgin who wouldn’t sleep with his friend. But of course he came back to our university in Philadelphia and told all his fraternity brothers I was a deceitful slut. Like my high school boyfriend, my college boyfriend responded by ending our relationship.
Not yet 17 and still a virgin, I had now been slandered up and down the eastern seaboard by a single false rumor spread by one boy who managed to wreck my reputation in high school and in college, which had in turn cost me both my high school boyfriend and my college boyfriend.
And? And what?
The losses left me reeling, but the emotional blows were greatly exacerbated by the fear they generated. The power of malicious gossip was terrifying; even when it wasn’t true, it could ruin your life.
The pain of being shamed that way has never left me. Fifty years later, I couldn’t bear the thought of going to my high school reunion. This month, when I was invited to the latest get-together, I stayed home once again.
It seems to be so easy for men to forget the damage they’ve wrought. Do they know that the women they hurt will never be able to forget, let alone heal?
Err, teenage dating? What are we supposed to do about this?
Oh, and when do we get to hear from the male side of this? Not the male side o this particular story, but all teenage girls have always ad everywhere been just perfect in their treatment of teenage boys, right?