As a teenager I was fairly rebellious (at least for a perfect little Christian girl). I prided myself on never smoking, getting into drugs, alcohol, sex, blah blah blah, you know the “carnal sins” of Christianity. While all the other girls at my school were being “whores” (getting on birth control so they could sleep with their boyfriends, holding hands with their boyfriends in the hallways, going to parties, drinking, smoking, and other such atrocities), I was abstaining from my carnal urges and being a good, virtuous, virgin, Christian woman. Well, except I wasn’t.
In those days the internet was this brand new shiny beautiful thing that few understood and everyone knew was dangerous. And I was immersed wholly in the luster and shininess of how new and exciting it was. I was meeting people from all over, every different walk of life, every different place on this planet. And every single one that I met I was flirting with, and sexting, and for the rare (not so rare) spectators I was taking off my clothes and leaving very little to the imagination. Now I was 15 at the time and hormones raging and this seemed like a good and safe outlet to express the feelings I was feeling without actually going as far as all those “slutty” girls and actually “doing the deed” with a real life actual guy!
Simultaneously, while engaging in extremely risky and dangerous behavior (I will write later on sex trafficking, which I feel I have a unique perspective on because that would be my life if not for God’s grace and protection), I was feeling the full gambit of teenage emotions including overwhelming depression, loneliness and isolation. I was convinced I was crazy, I came off as crazy to many people. I was a teenager! My parents were at a loss as to help me, and honestly most days they seemed too busy to even notice.
I started engaging in risky behaviors (no, I swear taking off my clothes for strangers online wasn’t risky enough). I would go out at night and walk around my parent’s property (we lived in a pretty large home on a piece of land about 5 acres in a forested area, residential but still remote when it comes to actual human contact). I would stay out in the trees late into the evening when the sun had been down for hours just talking to myself, pretending I could hear voices and hoping that someone would eventually notice that I was unwell and help me. No one noticed, and it didn’t help that I wasn’t actually crazy.
When I entered high school the teacher had encouraged my mother to “hold me back” into a mediocre algebra class, as opposed to allowing me to go into the main algebra class with the rest of my class. As a result I became very close to the 10 or 12 “simpletons” I had been lumped in with. Although I’m sure it was all in my head, I was certain my classmates saw me as a moron and it made me really want to cling to the “idiots” in my class. I became very close friends with one girl in particular. For privacy sake I’m going to call her Kristy. So Kristy and I would egg each other on. She was convinced her home life was the worst, I was convinced I was the winner of that award. Kristy was adopted (that figured), only child. Her dad was some real estate mogul (too busy for her). Her mother was a flight attendant (gone flying the world, never home). Everyone that went to my school was wealthy (or at least well off), but it seemed like they were a higher breed of wealthy. Most of the other kids who’s parents were as wealthy as hers were very popular, but not Kristy. She was a loser, like me. An outcast, reject, an idiot, like me.
Kristy noticed me, she noticed when my demeanor changed and I started wearing more black and listening to heavy metal and trying to fit in with the “loser rejects” that we had been lumped with. She noticed when I would come to school with cuts up and down my arms (which were put there for her to notice). She enjoyed listening and engaging in my made up fantasy stories about my current boyfriend going crazy and cutting me up or putting me through a wall. None of these things were true, mind you. But I wanted them to be true because they reflected how messed up I felt inside, but see I had no logical reason to feel these things. I was a Christian kid, from a good Christian home, two hard working parents, middle class, working hard to put me and my 2 siblings in Private Christian school. I had a good life, a blessed life. For me to feel so ugly and stupid and twisted and messed up inside…it just didn’t make any sense (to me at the time). And so I would come to my friend and lie about how horrible my life was. And she would lie to me about hers. Her abusive father, neglectful mother, and her 40 year old boyfriend. Later in life we both admitted to one another that most if not all of our stories were made up or exaggerated. As teenagers we needed that camaraderie and we needed to feel heard and understood. Neither of us had any kind of good explanation (at the time) for why we felt so utterly rejected and lonely and depressed and hurting, and we needed one another to feed those painful places so we could start to feel normal. Maybe I’m not alone in feeling this way. Maybe this is something that a lot of people feel and they don’t talk about it. Maybe I’m not so abnormal. Maybe this is part of growing up.
Beyond the real life emotional distress and turmoil, I had an entirely different persona online. I was sexy, confident, slutty in a “feminist gaining my independence” kind of way. I wasn’t broken or hurting, I was confident. I wasn’t bullied, I was the bully. I made other girls look at me and feel envious of my body, I made them angry when I stole their boyfriend right out from under them, just to dump him for the next girls boyfriend. I was the queen the internet, and I surrounded myself (online) with people who assured me of this. I had men that wanted me and wanted to be with me. To prove their loyalty to me they would send me presents in the mail. I can’t even tell you how many packages would come with gifts for me, teddy bears, candies, DVDs, home made art projects, hand written love letters expressing how beautiful I was and how much they loved me. Of course the dirtier items too, mostly lingerie, underwear and porno.
Now keep in mind, I am 15 years old, a virgin (obviously) and although I pretending to be this sexual goddess of the internet the truth is I have no idea what half of these things are. The guys I’m talking to are my age, or maybe just a little older. 14, 15, 18, 20. They are all within a reasonable age limit of me. Honestly the whole “virgin looking to become porn star” angle was working for me. I was getting the attention I wanted. I was getting noticed, by many MANY people. It just wasn’t enough. Before long I had guys asking me to come visit them. Offering to buy me a plane ticket. Offering to open their home for a weekend. “We don’t have to do anything, I just want to see you in real life!” I wanted that. I wanted to be wanted so badly.
My parents owned a motor home and in the summers we would literally travel the country visiting place after place. I swear I’d seen the whole country from the back of an RV before I was 18. To this day I cannot wrap my head around how my sister and I convinced our parents to make detours and stops in various cities around the country so we could meet in real life some of our online friends, but somehow we convinced them, and that is exactly what we did. We stopped in California to meet a boy my sister had been talking to, we stopped in Illinois to meet a guy I was into, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, they were all over the country and we stopped trip after trip we stopped to meet up with some internet “friend”. I suppose my parents felt this was the safest way to handle it. The internet was new to everyone, them included! It was a matter of trying to tow the line so that we felt satisfied without going off the deep end. It didn’t work.
We had stopped at one point in North Carolina to meet up with a boy I was “dating” online. He and I stole away for a few minutes and he wanted me to kiss him. I wanted to, but in real life I wasn’t the confident porn star I had made myself out to be online. In real life, I was shy, I was a virgin, and I had never even held a boys hand, much less kissed a boy (yeah, I know my moral compass was way out of wack, that’s another topic I will get to in the future). I didn’t kiss him, but this encounter sparked a fire in me that was detrimental.
I started having sexual dreams about my encounter with that boy. In these dreams I not only kissed him, we went all out and had hormone driven ravenous sex in front of God and country. These dreams made me feel regretful that I didn’t kiss him. Clearly I had wanted to. My body wanted to anyway. Clearly I had a need that I was suppressing. Clearly no one had talked to me (ever) about puberty and how my hormones would change the way I thought and felt and make me want to give reckless abandon to all morals and just jump head first into carnal lust. I didn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t know anything about hormones. I didn’t know that I was not alone in feeling this way. On one hand I had hormones raging, begging my body to just sleep with anything that moved, on the other hand I had my Christian upbringing, my morals, my values, my ethics, my God and Bible, the things I was taught to think and feel and the things I (thought I) knew everyone around me was thinking and feeling. I felt disgusting. I felt absolute shame. I remember feeling like the most disgusting creature on earth. I actually remember sitting in my room at one point and wondering if there was anyone on earth that was more disgusting than I was. After several minutes of rolling it over in my brain and weighing it against my 15 years worth of knowledge of this world I remember coming to the conclusion that no, there probably is no one on this planet more disgusting than me, or if there is, it is probably only 1 or 2 people. I could not fathom how I had come to this point in my life where I was, in my words and outward offerings to the people I knew I was virtuous and moral, but in my heart I was disgusting and defiled and whorish, and I could not fathom how anyone on this planet could be more disgusting than I was.
What I didn’t know at the time, was that was the last little bit of discouragement my poor teenage heart needed. I was so far gone in my own head that the decisions I made next were so frightening and heart breaking, I praise God I survived the teenage years. You can read about the rest the next time.