GUM Prompt: Do your parents know?

But I’ll Tell You

By Leonce Claridge


I like to think that I tell my mom everything, but I don’t. It’s not her fault; she is very supportive of me. She encouraged me to apply to Grinnell. She told me that it was okay to go into a field that none of my family members have gone into. I didn’t tell her because I thought she would be ashamed. She raised strong-minded, independent children. She wouldn’t want to hear what I’ve been through. She taught us better. But I’ll tell you.

I entered the dating scene early here in Grinnell. I didn’t know the guy well; I just thought that I would learn more as our relationship progressed.

I learned a helluva lot. I learned how to be quiet if my emotions were bothering him. I learned how to be interested only in his activities. I learned how to laugh at his humor. I learned how to shut off my opinions. I learned how to silently submit to sex. I learned how to give him what he wanted. I learned how to say, “I love you,” without meaning it. I learned how to be there when he needed me. I learned how to be away when he didn’t need me.

The relationship should’ve ended sooner. It shouldn’t have begun at all. I should’ve said, “No.” How did I miss the warning signs? He told me at the beginning that I wasn’t the most important thing to him. Not only did he put every hour and second of his studies before me, he also prioritized other girls. He would rather be with other girls than his own girlfriend!

So why did I tolerate it for so long? I needed the company. I was alone. Starting again in a new city, let alone a new state, is so scary. Where do you eat at every meal of the day? Are there cliques like there are in high school? Which groups do I join? Are there ‘cool’ groups that I should join? What about making new friends? Do I make friends with those on my floor or in the groups or in class or at meal times? I was anxious. Hell, I still am anxious. When you uproot your entire life and enter a four-year pressure cooker where you are “supposed” to plant roots with 1,500 strangers, there are a lot of unknowns. I had known my friends back home for years, so it was easy to confide in them. Here in Grinnell, you basically have to trust a stranger if you want to release inner emotions. You can either hold in your rant or tell someone you’ve only known for two months.

Or you could date someone, giving him a higher obligation to be loyal and trustworthy. That was an option. Albeit, it was a shitty option. But it was and I chose it. I stayed with him because I needed a shoulder to cry on. I needed someone to talk me out of my crazy, unsupported ideas. I needed a constant companion to avoid the loneliness. He may have caused me pain, but there was some good in the relationship. He listened sometimes. He held me sometimes. But he wasn’t a consistent lover. I shouldn’t have dated an inconsistent lover. No one should.

So my mom doesn’t know, and she doesn’t need to know. She doesn’t need any more worries or disappointments. I am out of the relationship, and that is what matters. I can now fully enjoy what Grinnell has to offer. I can finally have the ‘college experience’. Yes, I need to make new, healthier relationships, but I know that that will be a process. Trust has to be built. Thankfully I have some friends already; my SA, a student down the hall, and another student across campus. I can talk with them. I can tell them most of what’s going on. So three people is a good start. Three friends in a new place? I’ll take it.