The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Looking for Love

My boyfriend had always known about my past, but one day toward the beginning of our relationship, he asked me how many guys I’d had sex with. “A lot,” I said. But he wanted a specific number. I was shocked when I counted and realized the answer was 21. That even shocked him. So then I asked him the same question, and when he answered, I was speechless for the first time in my life. He said, “One.”

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad in my life. Not even when people called me names did I ever feel that bad. When I came out of shock, I burst into tears. He told me I shouldn’t be upset—I really am a nice girl who didn’t know what she wanted from a man, he said. Actually, I did know what I wanted from a man—the problem was, I didn’t know how to get it. I wanted someone who would give me all the love and support I didn’t get at home. What I got instead was just sex.

I guess I figured that if I could find a nice guy to treat me right, he would automatically take the place of my father, who left home when I was in the 6th grade. I was very hurt when my father left because we had such a good relationship. We would go to Florida by ourselves for the weekend and leave my mother home. We’d go out to dinner and to the movies. And it meant a lot to me that (and this may sound silly) we even had special names for each other. If we had such a good relationship, why was he leaving me? What had I done wrong?

After my father left, I was upset and depressed, and I began to rebel against my mother. I felt like I couldn’t depend on her for the love I needed because she’s not very open. She says I can talk to her, but I don’t think I can. I didn’t know any other way to vent my feelings, so I would keep all my anger inside and wait until she got me upset. Then I’d go off on her. I always wanted to tell her my problems and tell her what I was doing with my life, but it seemed like the older I got, the harder it was for me to tell her anything. I felt like my life was one big secret.

After my dad left, I also shrugged off all my girl friends. I felt like they couldn’t do anything for me except tell me where the cute guys were going to be. They couldn’t help me with my real problems. I felt like I had no one to talk to and I didn’t feel close to anyone. I started to feel empty inside.

I only knew one way to fill that empty space, and that was to depend on a guy emotionally the way that I used to depend on my father. I was 12 ½ years old when my father left, and by my 13th birthday, I had lost my virginity. Afterwards, I wasn’t proud of it, but how could I change it? It was already gone.

The first time I had sex was the biggest surprise of my life. At the time, I was mad at my boyfriend and wanted to get back at him. Another boy took me to a friend’s house and we had sex in his brother’s room. I had no intention of doing that. I went to our friend’s house as the most naive virgin in the world, honestly thinking that nothing would happen if we were alone. Later I found out we weren’t even alone: There was one guy watching from under the bed and another guy watching from the next room.

Once it was all over and the audience was gone, I didn’t even know how to feel. But I didn’t feel bad until I found out that the guy under the bed wanted to know if he was next.

When I got home, I went into my room and wrote in my diary. That’s when it really hit me. I thought to myself, “You just had sex with someone who doesn’t even love you!” I sat there and cried. To make things worse, the guy broke up with me two days later.

I didn’t have sex again for a while. I figured I wouldn’t want to do it again. But when the urge did arise, I didn’t fight it. I made out with all these guys who came my way, and my name was scattered all over my neighborhood.

I never really felt that I had to go all the way with them, but that’s the way it happened. I had this I-don’t-care attitude, but I did care even though I wouldn’t admit it. I would cry every night thinking about what I was doing and how I felt. Still, I couldn’t seem to change. I always wondered to myself, “What the hell is your problem? Don’t you know you could catch something and die?”

I never had an answer for any of the questions that I asked myself. I felt like a lost soul walking through a graveyard, trying to find someone to take care of me, but never picking the right one. I would always go into the bedroom thinking this guy might actually like me. Then when we finished and everyone knew about it the next day, I would realize I was wrong again.

image by Elizabeth Deegan

But again and again my feelings would get intertwined way too much. I’d get a big knot in my chest and think it was love. Then I would get upset with the guys when they didn’t return my feelings, even though I knew deep down inside that they hardly even knew me. And the truth is that I really didn’t know them either.

It’s not so much that I thought that sex would lead to love, but I guess that as a girl, I thought everyone felt close after they had sex. Ten times out of 10, though, I ended up being the only one who felt something at the end of the night. I guess I just had to learn the hard way that some guys will tell you anything to keep you in their houses a little while longer.

Most people who found out what I was doing labeled me a “ho” and a “slut.” They never tried to find out what was wrong, and just assumed I was doing this for the fun of it. But I never enjoyed myself. I mean, I enjoy having sex whether I like the sex or not, but mostly because I enjoy pleasing the person I’m with.

I don’t know why I feel I have to satisfy other people all the time. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and I’m afraid they might think less of me if I don’t do what they want me to do. I tend not to tell people what I truly feel. I usually just say what the person wants to hear.

For example, I was going out with a guy who made it clear he just wanted me for sex. One day I didn’t feel like being bothered, but I also didn’t feel like I could tell him I didn’t want to have sex. So while he was in the bathroom, I just took my stuff and left. The next day I saw him driving by as I was walking home from work. He stopped the car in the middle of the street and yelled at me and called me names.

My experience with that guy made me look at my other relationships. I said to myself, “You’re so stupid!” If I’d had two other hands, I would have beat myself up.

I never knew just how bad I felt about myself until a good male friend of mine wrote me a letter telling me it was high time I took a look in the mirror and saw that I was not the person I was acting like. When I read his letter, I started to cry. I had never really thought I was a ho or a slut, because I always wanted to stay in school and make something of myself. I thought that made me different. My friend’s letter made me see that I was acting like a slut, even though I knew I was worth more than that.

The person who really helped me calm down is my current boyfriend. He and I have been together for almost three years now, even though we’ve argued, cheated on each other, and even broken up during that time. He has helped me realize who I am and who I want to be.

I didn’t have sex with him for a whole year, as a kind of test to see if he’d wait—and he did. He wanted a serious, not just a sexual, relationship. That made me feel more confident in myself. Now I can proudly say that while I haven’t made a 180 degree turnaround in my life, I have made a 90. I’m really proud of myself for that. Some people can’t even make a 9 degree turn.

These days, I am still flirty and I still feel like having sex with some guys I meet (and sometimes I do). But I’m working on being monogamous. When I tell guys no, I feel proud of myself. To myself, I’m like, “You go, girl!”

I always tell younger girls that I wish I had never had sex in the first place. I know that if someone had told me that, I probably would have gone and tried it anyway. But I think it’s important for girls to know that having sex with every guy, or even a select few, isn’t cool. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with having responsible sex, but if you don’t want to have sex, or you don’t enjoy having sex, you shouldn’t do it.

Plus, sex is risky. Of course, you can get pregnant. And there are millions of people out there with AIDS and other diseases. We teenagers think that it’s never going to happen to us. But it does!

If you’re the type to call a girl names and make her feel bad—well, take it from someone who has been there, it hurts like hell. In the same time that it takes to call someone a slut or a whore, you could take some time out to talk to her. Ask her why she chooses to do the things that she does. She may be surprised at first by your asking, but I bet she will be happy that you cared enough to ask.

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