When I was in ninth grade, I was forced to sit through a three-hour assembly on relationships.
'Sometimes, red flags are hard to see,' the woman said.
Oh, there were workshops and discussions and warning signs galore.
'You're all smart girls,' the woman said, 'And when that warning bell starts ringing in your head,
We dismissed this poor woman's fantasies right off hand.
We cited "red flag behavior" in the silly day-to-day banter that freshmen chose as their mother tongue.
'What could she possibly know?' we sneered.
We pushed the woman with her well-intentioned advice to the depths of our minds
With algebra and biology and other things
We'd never need to know.
My first relationship came at the end of my junior year.
I was seventeen and he was nineteen.
'How mature I must be,' I thought. 'He wants a girl like me.'
There wasn't a day that went by that he didn't want to spend in my company.
'How lucky I am,' I thought, 'To be considered such a large priority.'
He said my friends were nice, except for those three. They were bad, which was something, he said, that anyone could see.
'How sweet he is to be looking out for me.'
Small disputes became large battles for him.
'Well, at least he cares,' I thought.
My priorities, my commitments, my free time became luxuries of the past.
I began to pull away from the people, from the life I loved.
I became someone I'm not.
'You're a smart girl,' the woman said, 'But sometimes red flags are hard to see.'
She was right.
Red flags weren't always blatant.
Sometimes they bought you presents and thought they knew what's best for you.
Red flags even said 'I love you.'