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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Lust + Respect = Real Love
When I changed, I left the golddiggers and wild girls behind
Marlo Scott

Names have been changed.

I grew up with the best of love and nurturing from my mother. She never graduated high school so she had trouble finding a stable job, but she always managed to feed and shelter her five children. She often told my four younger siblings and me that school would help us live the way we dreamed of living.

My mother’s love softened our reality. One harsh fact is that my parents did not live together after I was 7. Another is that they were both serious drug abusers, and sometimes got violent in front of me and my siblings. Their fighting scared my two younger sisters, Natasha and Shantelle, and made them cry. As the oldest, I would gather my siblings, take them into the bathroom, and close the door until I heard no more fighting. I comforted my siblings, telling them everything would be OK.

It was never OK, but the violence did start to seem normal. Seeing my father hurt my mother made me want to protect women and to treat my own future wife with respect and honor. However, it also made me want to inflict pain on others and not to be a victim.

When I was 11, my mother passed away from cancer, and I lost all focus. My mother’s death separated me from my sisters: Shantelle moved to Maryland; Natasha moved to Florida; and my baby sister Arianna moved to another part of Brooklyn. My three aunts felt they could care for my sisters better than my father could, so they took custody.

I was sad and angry about losing my mother and my sisters, but I remained devoted to my schoolwork and was valedictorian for my graduating middle school class. After that, all the 8th grade girls wanted to be my friend. I discovered I could impress girls with good grades.

Was It Me, or My Money?

I got more curious about girls after a four-week relationship with a 7th grader named Destiny. This was only a year after my mother died. At the beginning of our relationship, Destiny and I would hang out at the movies or the beach. However, my father could not afford to keep giving me money to dress nice and to buy her food and movie tickets. Gradually I began to suspect she was only interested in what I was buying her. To test this theory, I stopped treating her to the movies and dinner.

One phone call ended our entire “relationship.” She kept asking, “So where are we going Friday?” I replied, “I doubt we’re going anywhere for the next few Fridays, my money is running low.” She answered me, “My phone battery is running low as well! Do not call me back, ever!” I was hurt because I really liked her.

I started viewing females as spiteful, stupid, and greedy. I started noticing that females my age liked boys who dressed elegantly, and who had parents with strong finances. Unfortunately, I was out of that equation. I decided girls were unworthy of respect.

My mother and sisters did not count in this new theory. Regardless of how bad females treated me, I still believed my nuclear family was special. Admittedly, this was easier to do because they were not around and I could idealize them.

My new understanding of females left me feeling bad—angry and depressed. Without my mother, there was a hole in my life. I thought at first that Destiny would help me cope with this loss. When Destiny dismissed me, I felt hurt, and instead of sobbing, I grew rebellious.

My brother and I now lived in a shelter in Brooklyn with my father, who had lost his apartment. I was grateful that the three of us all lived together in the shelter, but no one seemed to care about my feelings. My father said hurtful things to my brother and me like, “You should be with your mother; I am sick and tired of looking at you,” or “You’ll turn out to be nothing, just like your mother.” It seemed he regretted having children.

Afraid to Talk to Girls I Respected

I lost all respect for everyone’s feelings. This coldness built up inside of me at the same time as my relationship with my father turned turbulent. I began to run the streets and break the law.

As I grew into a rebellious teen, I would seek females who were rebellious too—girls who cut school and had no respect for their parents. I liked females who would play hooky with me. I felt on top because these girls did not respect their parents, but they did respect me.

However, I did not think these girls were worthy of my true love and respect. I wanted to treat them badly, and punish them for being bad. I also wanted to teach them a lesson that no one profits from rebellion. Deep down I knew rebellion would not help me in the end. I was identifying with these girls, telling them what I wanted someone to tell me.

Though I did not realize it then, I think I wanted one of the rebellious girls to change and guide me down a better path. Deep down, I still dreamed of a wife who was studious, intelligent, well-behaved, and college bound. However, I was afraid girls like that would treat me as Destiny had. Therefore, I did not talk to girls who I really liked and respected.

My cold heart and bad behavior led me to the gates of a residential treatment center (RTC) for juvenile offenders and foster children. While I was there, I finally met my equal. She changed the way I looked at girls.

image by YC-Art Dept

Smart Girl Crush

On my first full day of school there, I was in the principal’s office for orientation. A short Spanish girl walked in the office, in trouble for fighting. She was pretty, too. I thought to myself, “Wow.” I found out her name was Towanda.

For my first five months at the RTC, we did not speak at all. I would see her making out with this boy Jacob by the ball court and figured out she was in a relationship. Therefore, I began to date another girl named Michelle.

When we finally spoke, I could tell Towanda wanted to get to know me because she asked me if Michelle was my girlfriend. I replied, “Yes, I really like Michelle. And you must be in love with Jacob because I see you two making out every other day.”

I found out that Towanda was strong-minded, smart, and confident. Our second encounter took place during history class. The teacher asked us to complete an assignment, and I was sure to be the first one done and get the highest score. To my surprise, Towanda handed her paper in before I did, and our scores were equivalent. I realized she was my equal in many ways—book-smart and street-smart.

It was spellbinding to meet a girl who was my match. She would tease me, “You thought you were smarter than me, right?” I still believed I was smarter, but I liked the competition. This escalated into a friendly debate. I liked her a lot, but she was already in a relationship.

We began to apply to college around the same time. Towanda was at every college fair and stayed late after school to keep her grades high. I loved how hard Towanda was working to pursue her college dreams. We became close friends. She called me her teddy bear and I called her my sweetheart.

A month before the end of classes, Towanda told me she had broken up with Jacob. I tried to console her, but I also told her I was happy, because I had a crush on her.

We hung out during and after school. We talked on the phone and sent text messages late at night. We shared the tough circumstances of our lives. Towanda and I both had been in gangs, and we both wanted to go straight and achieve academic success. Hearing her speak her personal feelings freely and trusting me to console and understand her gave me strength to do the same. We came to understand each other and our friendship went to a higher level.

Supporting Each Other

I realized Towanda was my dream of a rebellious girl who wants to change. She could help me lead a better life and be a positive role model for my younger siblings. Towanda and I often spoke about moving away to start over. In May, we enrolled in the same college upstate. As I grew closer to Towanda, I ended my relationship with Michelle.

By now, Towanda and I had both been discharged from the RTC, and our relationship grew stronger. We became romantically involved and went to the prom together. I often spoke to her about the ongoing issues with my father. She gave me good advice that helped me stay humble when I felt like fighting.

At our favorite spot by the river, she told me, “Teddy, you are so smart but you let your past interfere with your bright future, causing you to do foolish things. Just find a way to let go of that and focus on the main goal.” She reminded me I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree and then an MBA (Master of Business Administration).

I replied, “Sweetheart, thank you for helping me and giving me motivation to overcome my issues.”

She said, “Teddy, you help me do the same. I feel so alone with no one to relate to or words of comfort. With you there, I feel I have someone to communicate with.”

At that moment, we both realized we supported the best in each other. I had never felt this way about a girl. When I first got interested in girls, I only wanted the prettiest girl. However, Destiny showed me that not everything that glitters is gold. Then I drifted into liking rebellious girls. With some rebellious girls, including Michelle, I just wanted to punish them by treating them badly. I suppose that in some ways, my mom was a rebellious girl herself—doing drugs, yelling and cursing at my dad—and this may have figured in my attraction to the rebellious girls.

Chase Girls? Change Yourself!

However, when I met a bad girl I really liked, I realized I wanted her to help guide me down a good path in life. Being with Towanda changed my opinions of girls and women. I no longer believe all pretty girls are gold diggers—for one thing, all girls, like all people—are different. You cannot judge new relationships by your old ones.

Overall, women, like men, want a mate who can be supportive. Therefore, I would advise young men not to chase girls. Make your own life the best it can be by pursuing your dreams. If a girl appreciates your life, that means you share goals and values, and she will like you for that.

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