Late last year, Taylor Swift rocked the world with the re-release of her album, Red, which included a (previously) never heard ten-minute version of what many fans consider to be her best song, “all too well.”
As I viewed the short film and listened to the new lyrics, I realized that I had never realized how young Taylor was while dating Jake Gyllenhaal. There was almost a decade long age-gap between them, as she was twenty and he was nearly thirty.
To put it in perspective, Taylor couldn't even order alcohol when she was with Jake and his friends, a moment that she highlights for viewers.
Shortly after watching the short film, a memory popped into my mind, one that I hadn’t revisited in years.
A thirty-year-old that I had known since I was a young child expressed romantic interest two days after my eighteenth birthday, and ultimately, we were intimate.
I always assumed older men pursuing young girls was a small-town thing. That was a naive belief, as my experience was not only “a small-town thing.” It is ultimately a predatory move that is all too common.
When I was fourteen, I started taking local ballroom classes. Jacob, an older man I had known since I was ten through a family friend, was one of the teachers. Jacob was so talented at leading while practicing the dance moves with me that it felt like I was flying even though I had two left feet.
Almost four years later, shortly before my eighteenth birthday, I saw Jacob in a grocery store. We exchanged a hug and quick pleasantries. After leaving the store, I received a text from him that only contained two words.
To this day, I have no idea where he had gotten my number, although I will assume he kept it/took it from the dancing studio.
Jacob wasn’t going to touch me while I was underage. He kept his distance until two days after my eighteenth birthday when I received a text.
“Hey, let’s grab dinner if you’re in town. ”
Even though my stomach told me not to do it, I was flattered by the attention and convinced myself that it would be fine. I drove to Jacob’s, where he took me out to dinner, and then asked if I wanted to take a drive with him into the countryside to go star-gazing. Stupidly, I agreed.
Once we were alone, Jacob began making physical advances, over and over again. Initially, I asked for him to stop but eventually just let it happen because I had no idea how to say no and had no idea what I wanted at that moment. Following the act, I felt a deep sadness sinking in. Aside from my long-term high school sweetheart, I had never been with another man.
After that evening, Jacob went hot and cold. One moment he would talk about the possibility of us dating, and then he would get distant and short.
When I confronted him and asked why he was acting so odd, Jacob said I was too young and needed to stop communicating. It was funny. That had not seemed to be an issue for him before we slept together.
The first time Jacob and I met at a small town function, I was ten years old, and he was twenty. Jacob watched me grow up. Before my eighteenth birthday, he took on a role that felt like a protective big brother. I trusted him, and he took advantage of that trust.
Part of me feels strange to say that I was groomed because I wasn’t a child by our society's definition when he made a move.
As an eighteen-year-old girl, I told myself that it didn’t matter what had happened with Jacob, and I wasn’t going to let it affect me.
However, as a woman in her thirties, I can tell you that it did affect me. After, I subconsciously believed that my only worth was in my body, which was all men wanted. It was a long time before I realized that Jacob was manipulative and that what happened was not my fault.
I hope that young women will avoid the same mistake that I made by bringing awareness to these uneven power dynamics/differences in maturity. Educating the next generation of women is the only way to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge needed to protect themselves.