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How wonderful it felt to have an "adult" who valued our opinion; thought we were not just cute but interesting. I was wearing a Bundeswehr tank top I'd gotten at an Army supply store and faded jeans, a thrift shop crucifix around my neck. But as we sat there together in the sunshine, the wine buzzing my head, I suddenly felt … With real life, however, and memory especially, it is harder to keep things so neat and organized. In the first, I snuck out of the house with a guy friend who lived down the street. My friend came back, we went home and I slid back into my bed. The second incident I remember happened when he was giving me a ride home. I'd been quiet for so long, worried about hurting his feelings and the ripple effects of whatever actions I took. You don't need to offer an explanation, even if someone asks you for one. You can't just hang out with a guy and not expect him to get ideas, I told myself. Especially for girls, who are often taught that being polite and sweet should override all other instincts. That if something feels wrong, that's all the reason you need to get out of there. My best friend was 14 when she fell in love with a 21 year old. My friend's older boyfriend was close with a guy I'll call T. My mother, spying him from the front window, asked me how old he was."I don't know," I said. After awhile, my friend and her boyfriend disappeared, leaving T. Many memories remain fuzzy, but incidents such as that day in the forest remain in crisp detail. It was late and my parents were asleep as we drove over to the house where T. At some point, my friend left to go somewhere, and for whatever reason I didn't go with him. Maybe he only stepped out to go to the store down the block. This was after the night at his house, though how much later I cannot say. "That's your mom talking."I told him that this wasn't true: it was my choice. He stopped the car with a jerk, right past the top of my driveway, and I grabbed the door handle and got out. For many years afterward, I took total blame for everything that happened between me and T. It was with this in mind that I began my narrator Sydney's story in I'm 44 now, married with a daughter of my own. The teen years loom ahead and I've experienced too much to rest easily. Don't worry about being nice, or hurting someone's feelings: they'll get over it. You don't have to wait, I want to tell her, until you have no choice. “As a dude, I’m told that I’m supposed to date girls my own age and take care of them, pay for dinner, and so on.But for that period of time, the roles were reversed. And it felt great—who doesn’t want to be taken care of?And, unlike the 23-year-old who gets tanked and throws shade at your ex, she’s got class. I once went out with a young man from Queens who only dated older women because younger ladies, he found, couldn’t do a thing without checking in with 15 of their friends.

Now he’s in his mid 40s, and married with a kid, and remembers that relationship as critical to making him the man he is now.

Before long, we had our own inside jokes, a shared eye-roll at yet another lover's quarrel in a small space.

We talked about music, about high school, his experience then and mine now.

A slightly more mature lady has friends—but she sure as shit doesn’t need their permission to live her life.

Hard as it may be to imagine a world before Facebook, the fact is, there was one—and I, along with many of my lady cohorts, lived in it. I don’t need to be omnipresent, liking everything he says or does, and I don’t have to monitor what I say, worrying it’ll be taken a certain way.

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