It’s a tough world out there… full of awkward first dates, bad sex and limited chances at orgasms. Women now associate the dating landscape with the same risks many face going into the arctic tundra. It’s cold, uncomfortable and it’s more than likely that you’ll die before getting that fire lit. After years of bad trips and valuable packing lessons, we go in a little more prepared each time. We’ve learned tips, tricks and lessons that could only be experienced firsthand, quickly learning the scams, the men who are just trying to swindle you and certain places we will just never go again.

We’ve changed our clothes, hair and grooming styles to fit the destination, yet there’s something we can’t seem to change that’s making the journey a treacherous hike. Something we can’t hide and something we refuse to keep at home. Something we won’t check at baggage claim or give up at customs.

Unfortunately, for women, intelligence many times hinders our travels and keeps us from the promise land. Because, for all you bright and educated.The popular saying “ignorance is bliss” doesn’t exactly cover the broad spectrum of woes women feel as they sit alone Friday nights with no one to discuss Nietzsche or read or talk with.

In the weeks leading up to high school graduation, senior superlatives were all anyone talked about. We’d half-assed our final homework assignments, we’d accepted admissions offers to the colleges of our parents’ dreams, we’d either gone to prom drunk or taken care of drunk people at prom. Most of them would say the last four years were the best of their short lives while a few of us would rather have forgotten the whole of it in one fell swoop.

As I read over the list of categories, I thought about nominating myself for something. What the hell’ If I didn’t, no one would. I tried to imagine what, if my classmates were feeling charitable, they might in a final act of mercy, nominate me for. Best Hair’ I’d lopped off my nearly waist-length mane weeks before, the way girls do to help kick-start an immediate attitude adjustment. Most Free-Spirited’ I smoked weed, but I didn’t smoke nearly enough to be a contender. Taking the occasional long lunch to hotbox a friend’s Acura did not a free-spirit make.

The perennially self-appointed of my class charged themselves with planning an Oscar Night themed bash so that we could all get together one last time to congratulate ourselves for being whatever we thought each other deserved to be remembered as.

In the end, I didn’t have the courage to nominate myself for anything, but it didn’t matter. The fix was in. A friend let me know before the ceremony. I’d won “Most Likely to Remain Single.” Uncontested.

You’d think it wouldn’t matter, but I doubt the girl voted “Best Hair” spent the next decade hating herself as a direct result of such a distinction.

I had high hopes for high school, but I was only two months in before my fate was sealed by a popular teenaged pervert. While cleaning up after the Homecoming dance, he cornered me in a bathroom while I completed one last sweep of the building before calling it a night.

I’d never seen a penis before, not outside of the encyclopedia anyway, and there his was: red and lopsided, it appeared chafed and almost lazy-eyed. I was disgusted. I couldn’t figure out who should’ve been more embarrassed. And yet, as I turned away, I knew I could toss my high hopes in the garbage along with the paper table clothes and half-eaten sugar cookies.

The next Monday came and of course, to hear him tell it, I’d offered to give him a blow job. He’d been the one to turn me down, he said. As if at fourteen I insatiable prowled high school dances in search of someone to fellate.

Sometimes I like to think that if this incident happened today I’d be backed up by a young feminist girl squad. We would’ve laughed at him, he would’ve been punished, I would’ve thrived. But it wasn’t the case.

I spent the next four years being told I was a slut and being called the ugliest girl in the world. I was deemed undateable and God have mercy on your soul if you had a crush on me.

I never had a high school boyfriend. I was never asked to a dance. The years that followed that one Homecoming weekend marked a countdown until the end, but the end of what’

As for the pervert’ I checked Facebook recently to see what became of him. He’s married, he has a kid and he still looks like a giant sperm.

Here’s what no one asks about when they ask about bullying: so what happened next’

Movies are always quick to show the nerdy or unpopular kid overcoming her bullies to achieve great success and overwhelming popularity despite the Hell she’s been through.

It’s not like that.

When you’re bullied, you spend your days in a custom-made prison created for you by people looking for purpose. Every day you try to shield yourself from their regularly scheduled abuse and every day you become weaker for it.People who say that bullying builds character have never been on the receiving end of it. They don’t understand that from the moment you wake until the moment you find yourself home again, anything can happen and more often than not, that anything is all bad.

Nobody knew how much time I spent at night rebuilding myself only to be emotionally dismantled the next day and every day after that. But what’s most insidious about it is that even though I’ve overcome the experience, at times I’m perpetually haunted by a chorus of teenaged voices that let me know that despite every milestone I achieve, I’ll never be enough. Not smart enough, pretty enough, or loveable enough to be desired or cared for.

I’m not the kind of girl who says she’s never spent time dreaming of her wedding day. I’m the girl who pretended she didn’t want one. I’ve been engaged to Jeff for less than a month and there’s no doubt in my mind that saying “Yes” was the rightest choice I’ve ever made. In spite of my confidence, there’s an abused girl that lives deep inside of me and her confusion is getting the better of what should be the best time of my life. She wonders how she got so lucky. She keeps waiting for someone to knock on the door and ask for the ring back. She stares at her partner wondering if he’ll disappear.

It’s time to quiet her concerns and stand up for myself. No matter how hard they try to make me believe otherwise, I believe him when he says he’s not going anywhere without me.