Don’t Call Me Daughter.
I remember lying between cool sheets, fully dressed.
You, on your back, staring at the white ceiling of your dorm room.
Me, on my side. My left arm draped across your torso, my left leg draped over yours. My head rested on your chest. I smelled your cologne, your flesh.
I tried to convince myself this was attraction. This was the early stage of falling in love. I tried to make these noted details actually mean something, but instead just cataloged them in mindless data entry.
I tried to keep myself focused on you. I tried to rein in my mind as it drifted towards someone else I was hung up on.
I tried to not wish you were someone else in this moment.
I remember the vibrations of your baritone singing along to Daughter by Pearl Jam.
Don’t call me daughter, not fit to
The picture kept will remind me…
This meaningless mantra was hypnotic. I was lulled into a false sense of secure comfort by it, feeling the intimate rumble of your vibration. It enticed me enough to stay, longer than I should. After a few short hours of spending time in your presence, I struggled to find the strength to leave you.
Even though I never felt particularly stimulated in your presence.
I remember the way you turned your head to me between verses. I remember your bronze skin glowing in the afternoon sun cascading through your dorm room window. Your warm lips pressed my forehead in an insistent kiss while you inhaled the scent of my hair. I remember feeling so cherished and so invaded, all at once. I was an old-fashioned girl working through her upbringing; you were a mostly respectful gentleman, one who knew how to gently push what you wanted with that syrupy-sweet Southern charm.
I sighed a heavy and quiet sigh. With your lips still pressed to my forehead, I quickly moved my head up and met your lips with mine.
With the gentlest touch,
I was met with a multitude of… nothing.
You were overjoyed. Ecstatic. Delighted. Pleased. Aroused. Exuberant.
I smiled and tried to reflect a tenth of your joy back, but my smile never fully reached my eyes. You somehow didn’t notice.
I wanted to wait a while before having our first kiss. In my mind, that time period would be a few months, after getting to know one another better.
In your mind, it was about 5 days after becoming Facebook official. On the night of our fourth day together, a hint of frustration entered your voice when you said, “I just don’t know why we haven’t kissed yet.”
Fire coursed through my veins as alarm bells rang in my ear. I didn’t like this sense of expectation suddenly placed upon me, like the ball was in my court to keep things progressing in the way you thought they ought. Just because we were officially dating now, I had to do what you expected of me… what every other girl in my position would do to keep you happy. With this standard being set, where would I ever have an opportunity to draw a line?
I felt the tiniest flame of indignation and independence grow in me. I felt it become quickly snuffed out with the belief of ownership instilled in me from my parents’ fucked up beliefs, that the man was somehow superior… and the woman was to always and forever be subservient. I felt the familiar claustrophobia creep into my heart; this was why I never envisioned myself being married. I never wanted to compromise who I was to give someone else what they wanted or expected from me.
I remember feeling like something had been taken from me when I kissed you. A sense of equality in this relationship was now gone, a sense of free-will stolen entirely. I felt obligated to do what you wanted; I had agreed to be in this relationship and therefore surrendered my voice to you.
I didn’t expect to get so unfathomably angry after having my first real kiss.
You wrapped me in your arms as we lay together. You kissed my forehead, my cheek, my nose, my throat. Your teeth gently nibbled my ear, your hot breath winding its way through the tendrils of my hair. Your hands stayed folded respectfully at my shoulder, but I know they won’t stay there forever; things were going to escalate, and I didn’t know if I was strong enough to play with this kind of fire yet.
We developed a rhythm in the following months; I would set boundaries with myself and with us, and you would toe that line as much as possible. For every mile you begged, pleaded to receive, I would concede a millimeter. Whenever things felt too stifling or suffocating, I encouraged you to look elsewhere for solace, that I would be just fine if you wanted to move on. Those words always wounded you; being reminded that you cared significantly more for our relationship than I did was an ominous place to be.
The decisions I made became much more calculated, even manipulative; I didn’t like being made to feel obligated to do things with or for you that I wasn’t ready to do, so I began to bite back a little. I enjoyed passing the time with you, but I came to enjoy toying with you even more. You said you liked my feistiness, that it was impossible to grow tired of the unexpected… that you wanted to see what happened next, forever.
One rainy afternoon, about four months after we had officially been exclusive, you asked why we hadn’t exchanged i love you’s yet.
I dodged this question, saying I don’t like to rush into things.
You pressed me further. I withdrew into my book, avoiding your scrutiny and giving a direct answer. You paused from distractedly scrolling through your iPhone and leveled your dark eyes at me, your face showing the slightest light of sadness.
“Are you just biding your time with me, or are you here with me now?”
In that moment, I observed how the dynamics of our relationship had changed in just four short months; I had transformed from the innocent into the predator… and you had become the victim. Gone were the days of being intoxicated merely from the vibrations in your chest as you sang along to Pearl Jam. Gone were the days of innocence, of infatuation, of enjoyment without ulterior motive.
I was injuring you deeply. I knew I was, and would continue to do so even after I’d left town and moved on with my life. I didn’t relish the idea of what I had become in that short of time; I rationalized that it was out of self-preservation, but I knew I had the choice to leave along the way and chose to stay.
I have to end this, I thought. For both our sakes.