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Odds are they won’t be super excited to learn that their 14- year-old daughter wants to date a 17-year-old boy (or their 17-year-old daughter going out with a 22-year-old guy, for that matter).

But if you keep them in the loop about your relationship—and don’t lie to them or sneak around behind their backs—they’ll feel better about the situation, which can translate into more freedom for you. Have you or any of your friends ever dated an older guy?

In tenth grade, we made friends with a group of older guys who hung out on the main street of town, which ran parallel to the local university — guys who'd once gone to our same high school and had never left the social scene. I remember how quiet it was, birds soaring overhead, no other sound. I grew to dread the moments we were alone, especially when I needed a ride home at the end of the night to make my curfew. In the initial years following, I never really talked about this with anyone other than my high school girlfriends and various therapists.

When they weren't doing BMX and skateboard tricks in front of the post office, they were spending what money they had at the nearby arcade, or spinning on stools and shooting straw wrappers in their favorite burger joint, just across the street. We had gotten in the habit of him driving me home, and my suddenly wanting to make different arrangements seemed to inconvenience everyone. As I got older, however, the more I realized that my experience was not an uncommon one.

We talked about music, about high school, his experience then and mine now. They can drive, so they want to take you out on real dates, they don’t have as much parental supervision because they’re older, and they may want to take things further sexually than you’re ready for.I don’t mean to say that a relationship with an older guy or can’t work.I was the oracle, remembering each detail from my supporting role. I was causing trouble, making things difficult for everyone."What happened to you back there? Just like that, you lose your footing, and you're in over your head. He noticed my sudden distance and pouted, unsettling to see in an adult.There was safety in the shadows, but also a kind of darkness. " my friend whispered as we walked back to the car with the guys a few steps ahead. "Like we were supposed to be boyfriend and girlfriend, or something.""Well," she said slowly. I'd completely accepted her romance with an older guy as normal, even destined. When he wasn't upset, he was in kindness overdrive, buying me things: a gold necklace with a floating heart, stuffed animals.

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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.

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