I have talked about a lot of the men I have dated before. I have given the impression that every single one of them was a jerk or a loser. This is not true. There was one. One that made my heart sing, one that could have been the one, one that if I have ever been in love in my entire life, it would have been with the one.

I guess, though, if you want to be technical about it, all of the men I have dated (and yes, in some cases this term is used loosely) have been jerks or losers or sometimes, ooh, how special of a man was he, both. The one I am talking about was not a man. No, he was a 17 year old boy I met when I was 24. The sad thing is, even though he was 17, he was so much more mature than any so-called man I have ever been involved with in a romantic manner (again, loosely using the word romantic).

His name was Dane (no, it wasn’t but that’s his fake name) and he was sweet and kind and wonderful in so many ways. He made me laugh and treated me with respect and cared about me. And I screwed it up. I not only lost him but I also lost my best friend.

This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write because it is difficult for me to realize I was so selfish, so consumed with myself, so damn needy that I would allow this to happen. But I did. And it took many years for me to realize what had happened was my fault. Not anyone else’s fault. My fault and mine alone.

It was 1991 (I know this because I figured out when a certain movie came out) and I was living in Madison with my friend Becky. This was long after our other two roommates ditched us (I can’t remember what their code names are right now so I’ll just ignore them. They were gone and it was Becky and I against the world). Becky and I were broke and trying to make ends meet so we took second jobs. I took one at a fast food restaurant called, oh, for fun we’ll call it Fasties. And that’s where I met Dane.

I did not start dating Dane immediately. In fact, when I first started at Fasties, I was involved with a musician who lived in Somerset (small Wisconsin town near the border of Minnesota). Then, when my relationship with the musician went bad, as my relationships are prone to do, I started dating a man named Andrew, who also worked at Fasties. I am saving the story of Andrew for another post. Really, all you need to know at this point is that I ended it for really good reasons, such as the fact that I did not want to die in a shootout.

I worked the counter with Dane’s younger brother, who was 15 (and, forgive me Lord for saying this, but gorgeous. Broad shoulders, chiseled nose, dark wavy hair, did not look 15, looked 25. But this is not important to the story) and another boy about 15. Very nice, lots of fun, we had a good time talking about anything. Add the fact that I was avoiding Andrew like the plague and you’ll see why I started having my breaks with Dane and his brother (who will now be known as Bo).

I’m not sure how Dane and I started flirting with each other. I do know that one of the girls that worked there, a little younger than myself, had said that she had gone out with him a couple times (but stopped because she was worried about that specter, statutory rape) and that he was a really nice guy. I had more than my share of not so nice guys in my past. I was intrigued.

I do know that there was a lot of laughter, there was some innuendo involving honey packets, there were exchanged glances through the window (the one that separated the counter from the food preparation place in the back). And one day, after hearing how both Bo and his friend both had dates that weekend, I had the following conversation with Dane at the fryer (oh, the romance of this moment!).

Me: Dane, I’m depressed.
D: Why?
Me: Both Bo and friend have dates this weekend and they are 15 and I am 24 and I do not have a date. It’s very sad.
D: Would you like to go to dinner tomorrow night?
Me: Uh (Quick pause while I think about this. He’s only 17. I am 7 years older than him. This is wrong. Wrong, I tell you. But he’s also the sweetest guy I’ve ever met. He’s really wonderful. What could possibly go wrong?). Okay.

Thus began the most idyllic period of my dating life. I am serious. How it is possible for a 17-year-old boy to be that wonderful still astounds me to this day and it is 13 years later. I have never met anyone who treated me as well as him. I probably never will.

If you were to ask me what the most romantic date I have ever been on was, I can honestly say that during the summer of 1991, I was escorted to a park where my boyfriend opened up the trunk of his car, pulled out a loaf of bread and we spent the afternoon feeding the ducks and talking. Just him and I and ducks (but they were not green. It is very sad). He laid his head in my lap and I have never felt so much tenderness or cared so much for any other man in my life.

The 2nd most romantic date I have ever been on was that same summer, we went to the zoo in Madison (for those of you in Minnesota, it is about the same size as the Como Zoo here). He bought me ice cream and a wax elephant (there was one of those machines that you put so much money in and it made a wax sculpture. I love those machines. Even more than the ones that make the souvenir pennies) and we walked through the park, holding hands.

So what happened? What went wrong? How did I screw up what I like to refer to as the Big Kiss?

Some of you have read the post I did on why I decided to start living Dew free and know that there are a lot of factors that contributed to my weight gain and self-esteem problems. I mentioned one part about how every time a guy showed any interest in me; I felt it was my responsibility to sleep with them. Dane was wonderful and sweet and caring and kind and liked me! Obviously it was my duty to put out. And this was during what I refer to as The Needy Years. Since I had no concept of what love was, since I thought that I had to reward someone for paying attention to me, since I could not express to Dane that I cared about him, all I knew was sex. With the way I felt for Dane, I was throwing myself at him all the time.

Imagine that you’re a 17-year-old guy and you’ve met an older woman who wants to have sex with you almost every waking minute. That would be most 17 year olds idea of the perfect woman. Now imagine that you are Dane who is sweeter and kinder and wiser beyond your years and you have met someone you really care about. And all she seems to want from you is your body.

I did to Dane what all the preceding (and post) men did to me. I used him for sex.

I can now look back at this and recognize my errors, of course. I now know that if I could do it all over again, I would still be a virgin and Dane and I would probably never have met since I moved to Madison to run away from my past. Funny thing about running away is that you might move but your past has a way of repeating itself. Funny that it took me so long to figure it out.

There are two reasons I’m writing this post. One is because I’m slowly learning to forgive myself for my past and this is, as Beth said, cleansing. I can literally feel weight lifting off of my shoulders and my heart as I write this. The other reason is, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, that I lost my best friend because of a stupid mistake I made and I never once told her I was sorry. Here’s what happened.

Becky and I decided to move back home to Minnesota. Madison was not working out for us. Her father and stepmother came up to help her pack. I was suffering from the flu or bronchitis or something like that and was not thinking clearly. I came home with Dane, saw that Becky and her parents weren’t there, and wrote a note saying I’d gone over to Dane’s and to call me if they needed help.

Here’s the thing. Yes, I was sick. Yes, I was not thinking. But hello, her parents came all the way to Madison to help us and I wrote them off that easily? It was a selfish act on my part and I never once admitted it. And when Becky called me on it, I tried to rationalize my behavior by saying to myself that she was overreacting.

I think things would have worked out a lot better if I could just have looked Becky straight in the eyes and said “You’re right. I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.” I didn’t do that. Now, it was 13 years ago and I don’t remember everything that I said to her but I think I tried to justify this by the fact that, when we went to the bars, she would leave me alone while she went and talked to other people. I was blaming my selfishness and laziness on the fact that she was popular.

I also did something I had sworn I would never do; I had chosen a boyfriend over my best friend. I wanted to spend time with Dane and moving would have cut into that.

I still see Becky now and then; she’s one of my sister’s closest friends. It’s been 13 years since this happened and I have to say, every time I see her, that I miss her so much. I know we will never have the connection we once did and I regret that more than anything. Even more than the fact that Dane and I didn’t work out. When I saw Becky last, I had mentioned that Beth reminded me a lot of her and that I usually gravitated towards people that remind me of her. It’s true. I find people that are vibrant and loyal and bright and dedicated. Keem also reminds me of Becky.

I think that there’s a reason why I let myself get into a so-called friendship with Jake after Becky because I didn’t believe I deserved any better. But I couldn’t admit it to myself and so I dragged myself down into the pits of despair even deeper. If I would admit that I didn’t deserve a good friend, that would mean that I hadn’t treated Becky right and that would mean I had screwed up. So, Becky, if you ever read this, I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry. You were a great friend and I will always remember the good times.

Over the past few years, I have discovered things about myself that I don’t like and am working on changing them and have also discovered things about myself that I do like. I have made stupid mistakes; I have had many a stop on the WWIT? Train but I am not a bad person. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and help me unburden my soul.

Oh, what happened with Dane and I? Well, as I said, Becky and I moved back to Minnesota. Dane and I lived 4 hours away from each other. He was still 17 years old. Our relationship did not last very long after I moved back because it is really hard to sustain a romance when your boyfriend’s mom won’t give him permission to come and visit you. Shortly after school started, Dane called and told me it was time we started seeing other people. I was devastated but now, looking back, I know it was the best thing for him.

I like to think that somewhere there is a guy for me that is as wonderful as Dane was. I also like to think that I’m ready for him now. That I’ve learned from my mistakes to realize that sex does not equal love. This has been a long journey on the WWIT? Train. I am really hoping we’re getting close to the station. Thanks for reading.