I know what you’re all thinking. That is one of the most clickbait-y titles you’ve ever seen. It’s enough to rival the most melodramatic of YouTubers. But I can promise you this story is 100% true. And today, you get to hear about the shadiest thing I ever did. Names are changed to protect the innocent… and the guilty.
The year was 2010— my junior year of high school. I was so deep in the closet, I wouldn’t even tell myself I was gay. I was just emerging from my “emo” phase, though I was still proud to be the school’s notorious Harry Potter supergeek. That year, my then-best friend— who we’ll call Amelia— and I decided to take drama together. At first, I loved it. Unfortunately, over time things began to change.
Some of those changes was positive. We befriended another girl in our class, who we’ll call Regina. I rebuilt a friendship with a girl I’d had a falling out with the year before, who we’ll call Jean. I was suddenly on good terms with a girl who’d bullied me freshman year. We’ll call her Edith. I really felt like I was part of a community.
Of course, there were some negative changes that semester as well. Amelia and I began to grow apart, and by the end of the year weren’t even friends anymore. I went through a depressive episode that followed me through the summer. I ultimately dropped the class, even though I’d previously been eager to continue on my senior year.
But the change that rocked my class was my fourth-month relationship with a boy who we’ll call Julian. Julian wasn’t the sort of boy you imagine yourself dating in high school. He was scrawny with wild hair. He wore the same jacket everyday— fully zipped— no matter the weather. He was into all your stereotypical nerdy stuff, including anime. He was the exact guy you imagine when you think of the “loser.”
And yet, Julian wasn’t a loser. He’d cemented his place among the theater kids, many of whom considered him a friend. He was also nice and funny. He took the time to get to know me and liked Harry Potter. We got on well. Even if he wasn’t conventionally attractive, he still had that something that drew me to him.
I don’t want to minimize what I felt. Yes, I’m a lesbian but I didn’t know that then (or, at least, I buried it deep down and refused to acknowledge it). I felt something for him. I got butterflies when we started dating. Did I fall for him because we had a lot in common and I knew he liked me? I can’t say for sure. All I know is we dated and I felt something for him.
Still, there were some early signs our relationship wasn’t going to work out. When Julian finally confessed his feelings to me, he gave me a big rehearsed speech about how he’s like me since he’d been cast in a play I wrote the year before. I, on the other hand, was just like “I like you too, dude.”
Twenty four hours after we started dating, Julian asked me to rate how much I liked him on a scale of 1-10. I refused, saying you can’t quantify feelings like that. He asked if my feelings for him could ever turn into love. Inside, I was saying “What the fuck?????” Outside, I told him we’d take things one step at a time.
Another red flag was that our relationship was essentially just us going through the motions. I’d ask him to walk me to class because “that’s what boyfriends and girlfriends do.” He bought me a milkshake for no reason. We’d hold hands in the hallway.
After we’d been dating a couple months, I kissed him on the cheek. I felt like we were at a point where we should be kissing. But I knew he didn’t like PDA and I didn’t want to scare him off (plus I had all these romantic ideals about what a first kiss should be like), so I opted to kiss him on the cheek. He reciprocated once, about a week or two before we broke up. We never kissed on the lips.
When it came to physical attraction, he would often tell me I was cute or beautiful. I’d get all embarrassed and insecure, insisting I was not. He would assure me that I, in fact, was. This isn’t a humble-brag, I have a point. See, I don’t think I once, in the entire four months we dated, ever said I was attracted to him. But I liked when we’d hang out or do cutesy stuff like start dancing for no reason. So I was never overly concerned with my now apparent lack of physical attraction to Julian.
The biggest sign, however, was our communication issue. It’s not that we didn’t tell each other things. No, we had an issue with our literal means of communication. Julian didn’t have texting on his phone. Whenever we’d try to call each other, a connection issue would send us straight to voicemail. If we wanted to keep in touch outside school, we needed to get creative.
During one of our many conversations, Julian and I discovered we both had YouTube channels. Back then, YouTube had the option where you could send private messages to other users (no idea if this is still a feature). So, whenever we wanted to talk outside school, we’d PM each other on YouTube. Though inconvenient, it worked great.
Of course, as I said, our relationship was destined to fail. When Julian was cast as the lead in our spring production of Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare, he started to pull away. He said it was because he needed to focus on the play, but I was never sure. Maybe he could sense my disinterest in getting physical. Maybe he realized we weren’t quite on the same page on where we wanted our relationship to go. I’ll never know, as we haven’t spoken since high school.
During this same period, my friendship with Amelia was falling apart. In fact, we weren’t friends at all. Between my broken friendship and my failing relationship, I started to feel depressed. I didn’t feel like I was part of that community anymore. Eventually, I stopped going to after-school rehearsals.
One evening, I sat at home while my drama classmates worked on the production. Suddenly, I got a text from my friend Regina. She came bearing bad news.
“Ren,” she said. “I have to tell you something about Julian. Something you’re not going to like.”
“What?” I asked, nervous.
“He’s going to prom with Edith,” she said. My stomach hit the floor. “I guess they’re into each other now.”
“So he’s cheating on me?” I asked, my eyes burning with tears. I’d known we were growing apart, but I’d never imagined this.
“I guess,” Regina began. “He’s also going to dump you tomorrow in front of the whole class.”
Instantly, my tears vanished. I was enraged. Who was he to dump me?! To humiliate me?! No. If anyone was dumping anyone, I was dumping him.
“Whatever,” I said. “I don’t really like him anymore anyway.” I put down my phone and began to formulate my break up speech. The only problem was, if I was going to break up with him I needed to make sure it was before class. But we had no other classes together. How could I ensure that I got to him first?
You’ve read the title. You know what I did. I went to the computer and logged on to YouTube. I opened up a new PM, cold determination the only thing powering me now. I crafted what I thought was the perfect breakup message, even subtly hinting that I knew about him and Edith. I paused for only a second, remembering how tacky Julian and I found breakups over text. I hit send.
The next day passed like any other day of school. I still carried that wicked sense of triumph in me, knowing I’d beat that cheater Julian. That afternoon, I walked confidently into drama class.
As soon as I walked through the door, Regina came rushing over toward me. She had a frantic look in her eye. If you’ve already figured out the twist, you’re smarter than 17-year-old me was.
“Ren!” she said. “Last night, when you were texting me, that wasn’t me! That was Edith! She had my phone.”
“What?” I asked, now baffled.
“Yeah,” breathed Regina. “It was all some stupid game.”
“So none of it was true?” Regina shook her head. I was elated! My boyfriend hadn’t been cheating on me! Sure, I’d just found out I apparently wasn’t on very good terms with my old bully, but I wasn’t all that concerned.
But then I had my ‘Oh shit’ moment. I’d dumped my boyfriend over a lie. I needed to explain everything to him and try to win him back. Except… well, we had been growing apart. My feelings— whatever they’d been— had been waning for a while. Maybe Edith’s cruel trick had actually been the push I needed. Yes, this was good.
And then I had my second ‘Oh shit’ moment. Because now I wasn’t the wronged girlfriend determined to take control of the situation (however immature and petty). I was the asshole who’d broken up with her boyfriend over YouTube Messaging. As much as it sucked, I knew I had to do the right thing and break up with him in person. All I could do was hope against hope that he hadn’t read my message the night before.
So yeah, that’s the story of the time I broke up with my first (and only) boyfriend not once, but twice. And one of those times was on YouTube. Naturally, he had read my message the night before and had actually replied (I read his reply when I got home that day). But he agreed that our relationship wasn’t working and that instead we should try to be friends.
And we were friends. For like a week or so. And then that fell apart too. Honestly, that hurt me more than the romantic breakup. I’d already lost Amelia. Did I really have to lose Julian too?
We talked on and off senior year when we both took creative writing, but we never moved passed casual acquaintances again. For years, I wondered what our relationship was like from his perspective. I’ve considered many different angles. At one point I even wondered if he was gay, but I think I was just projecting. Ultimately, I just don’t think either of us were ready for a relationship and had different ideas of what our relationship should be. It simply wasn’t meant to be.
I’ve heard from him only once since graduating. While I was in college, my mom decided to go back and finish her Associate’s Degree. Guess who was in one of her classes. Julian never acknowledged my mom, so she decided not to approach him. After all, he was my ex. And maybe he didn’t even recognize her. I just shrugged and agreed.
It was happenstance that she was put into a group with him to revise each other’s papers. They were to email each member of their group a copy. One day, I was in my room when I heard my mom calling me from down the hall. I ran into her room and found her sitting in bed with her laptop out.
“Julian sent me his paper,” she said. “Look at what he named it.” Curious, I walked over and looked at the screen. There at the bottom was a newly downloaded document file simply titled “Ren.”
“Uuuuuhhhh,” I said, a bit disturbed.
“It’s weird, right?” joked my mom. Yes, Mom. It sure was weird.
That was the only acknowledgement he made that he knew her or me that entire semester.
I saw him once on campus and almost said hello. I don’t think he saw me. I decided I didn’t feel like talking so I kept on to my next class. I haven’t heard from him since.
Was that last part of the story necessary? No. But it does offer some sort of closure. I think. Actually, I don’t know what it offers. In fact, it’s the unnecessary epilogue we all hate. But like… I need you all to feel what my mom and I felt that day.
My Ex Tormented My Mom?!
Just kidding. But maybe, just maybe, I deserved a little uncouth online payback. I almost hope his clickbait YouTube video response to this post is coming soon.
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