For two years, my world revolved around a guy who wouldn't even look at me if his friends were around. I know that sounds really bad, but as a plus-sized girl—I've been between a size 16 and a size 18—I felt lucky to have somebody to fill that boyfriend role at all.
I saw Tim* the first day of freshman year and thought he was cute—and totally out of my league. Later that week, though, I got a Facebook message from him asking for our math assignment. I didn't have it, but he called me anyway. We talked about Call of Duty and movies we'd seen. It was easy talking to him—like we'd known each other forever. Soon we were on the phone for hours every night and hanging out at each other's houses—but we never talked at school. I figured he liked me and just didn't want everybody knowing his business. About three months went by, and then one night before we got off the phone, he sounded kind of nervous and then blurted out, "I love you." My heart was racing—it was like time had stopped. Saying it back felt like the most natural thing in the world. It didn't matter that we hung out only in private. We loved each other, and that felt bigger than anything.
Those hours after school, with Tim's arm around me and my head on his chest, were everything. On days when I'd feel self-conscious about my body, he'd hold me and say, "Anyone who can't see how beautiful you are is blind." He celebrated holidays at my house and even said he loved me in front of my parents.
Still, nobody at school knew about us. I'd mentioned Tim to a few friends, and people started to wonder if we were together. That's when I first heard he was saying mean things about me—that I was fat, and we weren't even friends. He denied it, and I wanted to believe him, but he still wouldn't even acknowledge me in public. It hurt, but the thing is, when no guy has ever shown you affection, it's easy to want to cling to what you have, even if it doesn't always make you feel good about yourself.
Whenever I'd ask him to be boyfriend-girlfriend official, he'd change the subject, and he started talking a lot about this other girl and how cool she was. Looking back, I'm sure he was interested in her, but at the time, I told myself, Tim says he loves me every single night. Whatever is going on with her can't be anything serious.
Sophomore year, he agreed to be my date for the school formal. Tim was finally ready to go public! I got a new dress and spent days thinking about how I'd wear my hair. Hours before the dance, though, his mom called and said Tim had an eye infection and couldn't make it. I was crushed but asked my cousin to go to the dance with me instead. (I couldn't waste that dress!) I hoped Tim was okay—until I saw pictures of him out with friends. I don't think there was an eye infection; he'd just chickened out. When I looked back at the rumors about what he was saying behind my back, it all made sense. He was embarrassed to be seen with me. Maybe he thought his friends would judge him for dating a girl my size. I didn't know what his thinking was—I just knew I deserved better.
Telling Tim I couldn't see him anymore was hard. He got angry and said he'd never loved me anyway. It was so weird and confusing, but it helped me see the truth: I'd wasted so much time caring about someone who didn't truly care about me. I'm hoping college will be different—that there are better, more confident guys out there who will feel lucky to be seen with me and know that pretty comes in sizes other than zero. To truly love someone, you have to embrace everything about them—both inside and out. Now that I know that, I'm never going to let anyone hide me away again.
This article was originally published as "My Boyfriend Was Ashamed of My Body" in the March 2015 issue of Seventeen.