By Kristine Rose
There’s no denying that actor Paul Walker’s untimely passing was a tragedy. Like many celebrities, he died as he had lived, under public scrutiny. After the barrage of twitter RIPs came the customary character assassination.
The media’s attempts to turn these things into a 3 ring circus is nothing new, but this particular attack was directed towards Walker’s relationship with girlfriend Jasmine Pilchard-Gosnell. Gosnell was supposedly only 16 when they had met.
As with Courtney Stodden and Doug Hutchinson before them, the press has had a field day pointing out in excruciating detail exactly what sort of a deranged creep Walker must have been to date a teenager. While there certainly can be truth to the narrative of a lecherous older man taking advantage of a young, naive girl, I have a problem with it being the only narrative presented.
These May-December romances can be infinitely more complex than they seem. I would know, I’ve been in one. When I was 15 my cousin was in a band. I began to hang around him and his friends, who were in their 20s and 30s.
One of the musicians, who was 30 and I became very close. It took 2 years for us to finally confess our feelings for each other, but the inconvenient truth was love. My ex tried for a long time to bury his feelings for me because of our age difference, but finally relented.
We had a 2 1/2 year relationship that started when I was 17. It was tumultuous, as were the events leading up to it and the events preceding it. Like a lot of relationships. Laugh if you want. but we did actually have a lot in common.
We loved the same bands, had the same sick sense of humor, and came from broken homes. I’m not gonna pretend that we weren’t both fucked up, I’m not even gonna pretend that wasn’t a factor that brought us together.
In the course of our relationship we both did some things that were morally questionable, but being together before I turned 18 was not, in my opinion one of those things. We also had some wonderful times.
He saw me as and adult at 16 because he was an adult at 16. Fucked up home life, growing up in clubs, parties, drugs, people who love you then leave you. He knew where I was then because he had been there before. The relationship ultimately didn’t end well. We’ve rebuilt our burnt bridges and are friends now, but there were certainly times I thought he was a dick.
Things ended when I was nearly 20 and I was completely heart broken. At the time I felt “used, lied to and betrayed”, just as the common rhetoric predicts, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone going through a break up who doesn’t feel those things. Even when I hated my ex’s guts I defended the age difference with a passion.
That was not the problem, I insisted, everything else was the problem. My ex was far from perfect, but he wasn’t a predator.
I’m 24 now. I’ve had time. I’ve had distance. And I maintain my stance that our relationship was ok. What was not ok was the people around me forcing a victimization narrative upon me. That happened when I was 17 and it happens to this day whenever
I mention the relationship,”you were taken advantage of and you just didn’t know it”. I’m sure a lot of girls and women are, but this strange fixation on him “using me for sex” was just ridiculous. You think a teenage boy also can’t use a girl for sex? Then there’s the whole maturity argument. I’ve seen people in their 50’s who aren’t mature enough to be in relationships.
The main injustice I see here was not my ex pursuing a relationship with me, but rather with the media and the world at large taking my agency away. That seems to be a thing people like to do with young girls. The monotonous condescension, that I could not have possibly known what I was doing, that I could not have possibly been mature for my age, that I would have never been a willing participant.
Ironically, if anything pushed me into my ex’s arms it was that. He treated me like a person. He listened to me. He taught me things about people, and myself. Some of it hurt like hell but I wouldn’t take it back.
When I think back on myself at those times, I see an adult. I was not an infallible superhuman adult who made only the best choices ever, but they were no better or worse than the adults I grew up with. Oh wait, no–they were much better on average.
I grew up too fast, I practically raised myself and I did a good job. I knew exactly what scrutiny I would be under making this choice and I did it anyway.
When I heard there were scandalous rumors going around about how my ex was dating “some young girl” I bought a pair of red plastic Lolita glasses on St. Mark’s, resigned to my fate, wanting one final “fuck you.” The mob had already spoken: it was disturbing and wrong and this poor young girl was ruined. No one bothered to ask her how she felt, it wasn’t important.
Dare I say the reaction to my relationship gave me more depression and anxiety than the relationship ever did?
Life is complicated. There are many roads that can lead a man to a younger girl, some of those roads may very well include him having issues, but all people have issues.
If I had to guess I would bet deep-seated psychological issues have a hand in most people’s romantic relationships, that does not necessarily make them sinister and exploitative.
Personal experiences can color your views, and that can be hard to let go of. I know some people on my side of the fence had horrific experiences and I’m truly sorry for them. Their stories are important and should be told.
But it’s important to remember their stories are not everyone’s stories. Their stories might not be Paul Walker’s story, they might not be Jasmine’s story. I have no idea what went on behind their closed doors, but I do see Jasmine being taken advantage of right now:by the media.
I cant even imagine the amount of arrogance it must take to tell a person that their interpretation of their own life is incorrect. If we as a society are so fascinated with these age gap relationships, we need to stand back actually and listen to the people involved.
Wouldn’t that be revolutionary?