When I was sixteen, I had occasion to meet the twenty-four year old man who in a few short months would take my virginity. (On New Years Eve. With his socks on.) He wasn’t famous and he wasn’t Paul Walker, but he was an older male who showed me inappropriate sexual attention, and that was enough. He was only eight years older than me instead of the seventeen that Paul had on Jasmine, but I was really impressed with myself for being able to attract someone that much older and, in my mind, more mature.
I had very few friends at school and wasn’t a good enough communicator to express my interest to those I had a crush on, so it was almost a relief to me that someone outside my high school was being so transparent about their feelings for me. Finally, someone who really ‘got it’, who didn’t want to play games. Who would pursue me even if I wasn’t pursuing them. Who would lean down and kiss me in the foyer of a building even when I didn’t realize I’d been putting off those vibes. Finally someone who understood my true worth, someone who I could easily talk myself into being interested in, especially if he was so interested in me. Ours would be a love story for the ages, and damn society and its prudishness for trying to get in our way! He told me he loved me, and I told him the same thing back.
Because here’s the thing — I believed it. I believed that love was about secrets and being wanted, and more importantly, that the reason this guy wanted me was because I was so charming and witty and enchanting. Finally someone who thought I was magnetic! Who realized I was irresistible! I’d often thought those things about myself when I was sixteen, in between feeling worthless and out of control and utterly confused. Maybe you did too.
In fact, I suspect you did, because the teenaged brain is a marvelous thing. It’s still growing and maturing, with scientific studies showing that teens are lacking in a whole range of cognitive skills, but specifically judgement and self-preservation instincts. It’s why they aren’t allowed to do things like drive cars full of their friends around, or vote, or smoke, or drink, and why they struggle with things like waking up early, avoiding high-risk behaviors, and being polite to their parents. They want to fit in and please the people around them, and above all, they desperately desperately want to be wanted. It’s not an excuse, but it is a fact — teenage brains are different, and mine told me that it was okay (nay, wonderful! nay, fantastic!) that a twenty-four year old adult was pursuing me for sex. I was proud of it. If I recall correctly, I bragged about it.