Shawn: Just Friends (with Benefits) or Dating?–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–March 1992, Part 2

Part 1

Stefan was a lawyer, not a student, and he soon went back to Germany.  Travis rarely went to Swiss meetings, even though he stayed in the German suite all year.  Latosha did not attend Swiss meetings, so she eventually had to leave–and chose the African suite, which was just being established.

So when Candice left, it was just Heidi and me.

One day, Heidi and I decided to make some cheese.  You’d put the cheese in salt baths, let it sit, cut off bad parts, etc.  I don’t remember how the cheese itself was originally made; maybe it was milk in a mold or something.  Whatever the case, this was a fun project over the next few weeks.

When it was time to get salt for the salt bath, I went to dinner and sat with Shawn.  Shawn soon said goodbye and left me sitting there all alone.

Some guy I’d never met before got upset at Shawn, and invited me to sit with his group instead.

At some point, I began shaking salt from a salt shaker into a napkin for the salt bath.  He and his friends laughed and asked what I was doing that for.  I told them about the cheese, and they thought it was cool.  They also said the people in Food Service would probably give me whatever salt I needed.

I don’t remember if I got to try the cheese before it turned moldy and became something it wasn’t supposed to.

For Swiss meetings, Heidi would pick out German folk tales for me to read.  Or she read them to me, and I tried to understand.

I had a bit of trouble getting everything, though I seemed to get the gist of the story, and that frustrated her.  She said I shouldn’t try to translate every word in my head, because that affected my understanding.

She said that when she came here and had to understand native speakers, she wouldn’t try to understand every single word, and that helped her to grasp the main idea of what was being said.  Otherwise, she would have been lost.  Now, by the way, she spoke much more quickly and fluently.

The stories came from a big, old library book of German-language stories.  One was Undine by Friedrich de la Motte-Fouqué.  Heidi told me to read the chapters and then report on them.

I used her big, Langenscheidt German-English dictionary to translate it, but many of the words were obsolete.  I don’t remember if they were in the dictionary.  It took me quite a while to read the chapters because of this.

When the end of the year loomed close, Heidi decided to read the remaining chapters and report on them to me.  She wrote and read the report in (modern) German.

Undine was a water fairy who had to marry to acquire a soul.  When I heard the report, I thought it said that Undine was evil and turned on her adoptive parents and her husband Huldbrand.  When Huldbrand tried to escape to a girl named Bertalda, Undine killed him and, I believe, her parents.

When I wrote my story “Bedlam Castle” the following summer and mentioned Undine, my descriptions of her and what she did were based on this understanding.

In 1994, I found the big storybook in the Roanoke library, copied Undine, and began to translate it page-by-page.  Though I still could not translate many of the words, I understood what happened.

As it turned out, Undine was actually a good person, betrayed by her husband.  I had to change a few details in “Bedlam,” including the name of the water fairy who harassed Beth.

The story in English is here.  (I sure would’ve liked to have that translation back in 1994!)


Spring Break was a time to get away from school and be safe at home.  The four-and-a-half-hour drive home was usually enjoyable.  Of course, this time I was depressed on the way home because of Peter and possibly Shawn.

But usually, it was fun to sit there listening to my jam box with headphones, the radio tuned to whatever station was coming in: first WIXX from Green Bay, then Hot 102 in Milwaukee, then B96 in Chicago, and U93 on the way to South Bend.  B96, the dance and rap station, especially seemed to fit the big city of Chicago.  As I listened, I would stare out the window and daydream.

Often, the drive home would be at night, and I talked on and on to my dad (usually the person driving me) about happenings at school.  Then if we had to stop in Racine for the night and drive on the next morning, in the morning I listened to music and gazed out the window.  I guess I got all talked out.

I loved looking at the sights in Milwaukee and Chicago.  I was also quiet on the way back to school again.

In some ways, Milwaukee seemed cooler than Chicago, with its German spires and churches, and Laverne and Shirley feel.

In other ways, Chicago seemed cooler, with its clean-looking, futuristic architecture downtown, the Sears Tower, the triangular-shaped roof of that one building, culture, and the best radio stations.  It would take about an hour to drive through it, longer if the traffic was backed up.

My parents liked to take the quickest way around the city, but to humor me they would often drive through it so I could see the sights.  It didn’t take three hours to get through downtown back then, like it does now.

Whether or not my cat Hazel acted happy to see me depended on her mood, and how much she wanted to punish me for leaving her for so long.  But she usually warmed up to me eventually, and I had my kitty to pet and get my cat-fix from.

Now that Peter no longer wanted to even be friends with me, I couldn’t go to his house and pet all the cats.  I kept going through major kitty withdrawals.

I believe it was over Spring Break when Dad told me he had already installed a new Windows program on the computer.  It was probably Windows 3.1.

Peter had just put Windows on the computer over Christmas Break, but it was already obsolete.  Dad was always upgrading and putting more memory into our computer–and buying new computers.

Some people tried to tell me that I should be over Peter by a certain time.  You can’t tell a person when they “should” be over someone.  A heart takes however long it takes, and will not be rushed.  It’s an individual thing.  And, well, it had only been two months.

During Spring Break, I found my high school yearbook and flipped through it.  I especially wanted to see if S.G. signed it, and he did.  I was sure he had.  S.G. was a friend in my Economics/Government class.  We sat near each other all year, and chatted a lot before class started.

I always wondered why he didn’t ask me out, and figured he just saw me as a friend.  In 2010, I found out I was very wrong about this, because on Facebook he told me he’d been deeply in love with me.  He didn’t have the courage to ask me out, then after graduation, he didn’t know how to find me, then went into the Navy.

It’s sad because I would have gone out with him if he’d only asked, and it would have been wonderful to be with a guy I liked who liked me, because I had very little besides unrequited love and no dates in high school.  I have been told by many different people that I’m pretty, so it was probably because I was painfully shy, socially awkward, and dressed very modestly, hiding my curves.


On the 29th, when my parents brought me back to school, we brought my TV and VCR back with me, now that both were fixed.  After Dad hooked them up and my parents left, I watched a movie version of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, satisfied to do something I enjoyed which finally took me away from my troubles.

It was also good to watch this VCR because, for years, it had been good for nothing but changing channels on my TV, which was not cable-ready.  (The VCR became mine when it got old and my family got a new one.)

But Dad had finally figured out how to clean it, and it could not only change channels, but could also record, play back, rewind, and fast forward.  It was fixed so well that it still worked when I graduated from college!

Of course, it occasionally got hungry for tapes, so Dad would have to fix it again to keep my tapes (especially rented ones) from getting ruined.

During the deep winter, Candice and I wrapped up in blankets during the day, and shivered under the covers at night.  Now that Candice was gone, her pillows no longer blocked the heating vent–and that room would get hot, even on cold nights.

I believe the heater control was broken–or maybe we didn’t even have one–so I couldn’t turn it down or off.  Instead, I had to open a window.  This was weird, sleeping with the window open on cold nights, but it was also wonderful to smell the winter air and hear birds singing.

I mentioned to Tom once how strange it was to hear birds that time of year, and even at night.  I couldn’t remember hearing winter birds or even night birds back in South Bend.

One time that Shawn came over to visit, he said I was always so sad, that “It looks like you just lost your best friend and your dog–and your best friend shot your dog.”  He smiled when he said that.

He didn’t seem to realize that, with what I was going through, I had every right to be sad all the time.  I wasn’t the “negative” person he thought I was: I was just going through depression.

I had lost my best friend, Peter, and less than two months previous.  What did he expect me to do, dance, laugh and sing?  That would be unnatural!

Shawn didn’t help when he refused to say–to the world or to me–that we were seeing each other, despite acting like we were.

Now that I often went places alone after dark, such as to get dinner, I had to keep an eye out.  I’d watch the bushes and everywhere where someone might hide in wait.  Nothing ever happened to me, but at least I was watchful in case anything ever did.

I made several note cards and printouts to hang on the little bulletin board above my desk, with inspirational sentences and quotes.  They weren’t the typical “Hang in there, baby” clichéd phrases.  There were two note cards about God working, and one page full of quotes about the relationship between Catherine and Valancourt in Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe.

To some extent, this relationship mirrored the one between Peter and me, since it seemed perfect and then broke up.  Catherine broke up with Valancourt when she heard he was doing various immoral things, such as gambling and visiting a certain woman who I believe was married.  An old woman chastened Catherine and told her that since she and Valancourt wanted to be together, they should be.

Catherine went through so much pain after the breakup that you would’ve thought he broke up with her, not the other way around.  The ending gave me hope.  I also identified with Catherine, who was called “melancholy.”  However, for her “melancholy” was a compliment, not a criticism.

By the way, this book was about 600 pages long, roughly 300 pages per volume.  I read it because the heroine of Northanger Abbey filled her mind with it.  An old copy was in the Roanoke library.

I’m not sure if the song “Just Another Day” by Jon Secada came out in spring or summer of 1992, but I identified with it.  The persona wondered how he could make it through another day without his love.  And the music was lovely.

Every once in a while, all during this time, I heard the sound of a plane overhead.  Since I had been born in the 70s, I had heard and loved this sound all my life.  It connected me with the years of my past.  (This made 9/11 even more poignant, when the planes stopped.)


What were Shawn and I to each other?

On the one hand, much of our relationship was a horrible mistake.  Christian Girls, be careful of guys who keep trying to push you to do things you don’t want to do, physically or through persuasion, telling you it’s not sinful as long as you don’t do such-and-such–especially if they don’t even love you.  My next boyfriend, Phil, did not like Shawn at all because of what he did.

On the other hand, however, it was a perfectly ordinary rebound relationship spoiled by too much talking and analyzing.  We were both lonely and kept visiting each other alone, so it’s no wonder we kept making out.

The problem was, afterwards, he would go on and on for hours about how he didn’t want a relationship with me, and seemed to blame me for starting the make-out sessions–even though I never did.  He seemed to use me for a couple of hours and then treat me like a cheap whore.

He kept trying to change me: my hair, my clothes (which other people complimented), how I spent my time, my lack of makeup, how I acted.  I got sick of it.

We had no name for our weird, twisted relationship, having never heard of “just friends” making out.  Now, I hear, it happens all the time in the younger generations.  Many probably would see nothing wrong with it (except for the overanalyzing and criticisms).  There is even a trend of “just friends” having sex, or “friends with benefits.”

Were we officially “boyfriend/girlfriend”?  No.  But if Shawn had realized how much simpler it would be, that it would not require a commitment or passionate love, “seeing each other” would be a perfectly fine description.  There was never any doubt that we could see other people.

Sure, I had a huge crush on him, but at the same time I got crushes on other guys.  One was a young and single teacher; one, James, I didn’t know but he seemed to know everybody I knew; and one was part of a little group I had breakfast with each morning sophomore year.

I figured the teacher was off-limits, especially after another (single) teacher lost his job over a relationship with a senior girl.

As for James, since I didn’t know him, I didn’t get much chance to say anything.  We both worked in Food Service sophomore year, but not together, and just passed each other occasionally.

As for the third guy, we were always with two other girls, so the subject never came up.  (I should have spoken up when he asked if any of us wanted to go see Bram Stoker’s Dracula with him.)

Once, I even met a guy at a campus play; he asked me out, and I said yes.  He was Cindy’s friend, and went to a different school.  Unfortunately, he got back together with his ex-girlfriend, and never called me to set up a date.

But then, maybe it was “fortunately,” since I heard he was into the same things as Peter (drinking, smoking).

I saw him occasionally, since he knew Cindy; I’m sure he remembered what happened between us, because he would always look at me when I walked by.  I could tell he was still attracted to me.

But I had decided no, not again, so I didn’t talk to him much.  (He seems to know all my Roanoke friends, and now we’re Facebook friends.  LOL)

But back to Shawn.  Shawn once said he would love to go on a date with me, but when I asked him, said no.

If he had just stopped hedging and said, “We are seeing each other, we can go on dates like normal people, and we can see anybody else we want,” this would have been much simpler.

Instead, he strung me along for the next year, never putting a proper label on things.  I never said we had to get married; I just wanted our relationship to have a more respectable name, to let things go however they would go.

The whole campus seemed to know there was something going on.  People would ask if we were going out; guys would go to Shawn and say, “You should see Nyssa today.  She looks really pretty.”  It would’ve been nice to tell people, “Yeah, we’re seeing each other, and we can see other people, too.”

Do I regret kissing him?  No, though I do regret certain things that happened.  (Once again, be careful, girls: Guys, even Christian ones, can use all sorts of persuasive arguments to convince you that it’s not a sin to do what he’s asking for.)  Before things turned bad, we had a lot of fun, and he helped me get over Peter.  (The funny thing is, our twisted relationship lasted longer than my serious relationships with Peter or Phil.)

Neither of us drank, so we did this with all our faculties working.

I do regret the constant arguing and overanalyzing.  (Heidi knew Shawn, and told him he was too analytical.)

We never had vaginal intercourse, because that was “wrong”–but he lured me into doing plenty of other things.  Every weekend he would come over, or ask me over; he would start cuddling up with me as we watched a movie, or massaging me, then eventually turn it into doing other things, getting me to do the things he wanted.

His hand would go places that Peter’s never went, shocking me because Shawn was a Christian who should know better; then Shawn would tell me how it wasn’t wrong, that his ex-girlfriend told him breasts were just another part of her like her arm.

Through it all, and because the last time we had met he always told me it wasn’t going to happen anymore, I believed that now, at last, he was in love with me and this was proof of it.

Then finally he would stop and it would turn into a long session of blasting me for everything, blaming me for what happened, treating me like some cheap whore, telling me all the faults in my personality, telling me how he wasn’t attracted to me and didn’t want to date me because of these faults.

He was very manipulative, but kept turning it around on me, making me into the manipulative one.

Things got so dysfunctional between Shawn and me that I eventually had to see a counselor to find out what was “wrong with me.”

I think if he had stopped hedging and analyzing, there never would have been anything “wrong with me” (other than nonverbal learning disorder, which probably fueled everything from my failed relationship and horrible post-breakup with the liar Peter to my troubles with Shawn).

We probably would not have gotten married, since we were incompatible, but there wouldn’t be nearly so many regrets or hurt feelings.  There probably would still be some, since his attempts to change me made me feel like crap:

Why should I have started wearing makeup if I didn’t want to?  Catherine didn’t wear makeup, but she was popular with the guys.

What was wrong with how I dressed?  I dressed in attractive and modest clothes, which–from what I read in the Bible–is far more becoming to a Christian woman than dressing sexy, which Shawn said I should do.

His changes to my hair did not look so great day-to-day, because of my face shape and low hairline.

I was proud of myself for being more outgoing at college, but he said I was too shy and reserved, making me feel like the weird little girl in the corner all over again.

Shawn told me to stop watching the ground as I walked.  I had only heard this complaint once before in my life; I thought it normal to watch the ground.  It could be me compensating for NVLD by making sure I stepped properly, or it could be the state of the neighborhood sidewalks where I grew up, or it could be the threat of stepping in dead things and various forms of dung.

In any case, though I tried to fix this for Shawn’s case, I still do it.

As things dragged on, Shawn’s criticisms also showed a deep misunderstanding of the kind of person I was.  He accused me of things I would not dream of.  He told me things other people said, but I discovered these people didn’t know me well, either.

Yet he had a way of talking you down until you believed him.  I had to talk to friends and my roommate to remind myself of my true character.

One of the articles I referenced in my page on nonverbal learning disorder lists things that NVLD people are often accused of, things that are not true at all.  Others don’t understand the disorder, and the NVLD person does not understand where the accusations come from.  I found at least a few things in that list that Shawn accused me of, things which were not true.

One was a manipulation of time.  A reading of NVLD materials shows that he probably gave me nonverbal cues that he wanted to end a conversation and go to sleep, but I missed them completely–hence, I got labeled manipulative or rude.

This paragraph from Sue Thompson’s Nonverbal Learning Disorders sounds much like what I went through with Shawn:

Perceptual cues serve in the same capacity as traffic signals; they govern the flow, give-and-take, and fluctuations in our conversations.

The child who cannot ‘read’ these nonverbal cues is frequently determined to be ill-mannered, discourteous, curt, immature, lacking in respect for others, self-centered, and/or even defiant.

This child is none of the above. Like the color blind driver who cannot respond appropriately to traffic lights, this is a child who is utilizing all of the resources available to him in order to try and make sense of a world which is providing him with faulty cues and unreliable information.

Apparently, Shawn’s ultimate rejection of me was based on misperceptions–misperceptions he stubbornly held to even when I tried to set him straight.  NVLD strikes again, ruining another relationship.  After a particularly heinous criticism (which even plain-speaking Rachel vehemently disagreed with), I broke things off with him.

We did get back together, but not until after I told him how I felt.  Things finally just blew up, and were not resolved before he left school early.  (He was already going to be there for only two years before going to engineering school, but family issues forced him out several weeks early.)

For years, I saw this as a guy preying on my low self-esteem of the time.  But after watching Dr. Phil and getting older, I realize it wasn’t just that.  What was I getting out of it?  Why did I let him treat me that way?

Apparently, even though I wanted his love, it didn’t matter.  He helped me pass the time and stop thinking about Peter until I found a real boyfriend.  Good boyfriend prospects were not so easy to find.  So rather than low self-esteem, it may have been teenage hormones.

But Shawn found me an easy person to manipulate because of the NVLD.  As I look back over my life, and remember people like Shawn, Phil (my fiancé junior year, story to come), and my ex-best-friend Richard (who manipulated me with half-truths and persuasion, and whom I trusted because I thought he was a pious Orthodox Christian)–it’s horrifying to me just how easily I was manipulated by these men.

I wish I had been less susceptible.  I think it is my NVLD which makes me that way.  I’m trusting, especially if the person claims to be a Christian.  I thought this had all been behind me, until Richard’s deceptions became clear.  I must be more guarded in future.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: