The Inside Story on Teen Girls: Chapter 3
My social life is a mess. Some of the girls in school are really mean to me, even though they hardly know me. Then there is this guy that I like a lot, but I have no idea if he even knows I exist. I'm not sure if I'm ready to have a boyfriend anyway. Some of my friends who have boyfriends don't seem so happy either-it seems like they are always fighting. Then there's my "friend" Lisa who is totally boy crazy. The last two times we were going to hang out she ditched me to be with him. I really don't know what to do about any of this stuff.
How can I make guy friends?
Ingrid, age 13
All people, particularly guys, like to talk about themselves. One of the easiest ways to get to know a guy is to ask him questions. They don't have to be complex questions. You could ask him, "What did you think of that test today?" or ask him about some sport he is interested in. Ask questions that are not answered by just "yes" or "no," because then the conversation stops. Through conversing, you can discover if he is the type of guy you would like to get to know better.
And, in case no one has told you, boys often don't like to make eye contact, so if he doesn't look at you directly, don't jump to the conclusion that you are being rejected. Some boys feel awkward with a girl and may not know how to go about talking with you. You can make it easier for them by trying to open up a conversation about something they know about or are familiar with. Asking about school activities is an easy way to start. Then you can move on to explore other areas, like TV shows, movies, or sports.
One of the best ways to make guy friends is to get involved in activities with them. Because most school sports teams are divided into guys and girls, you have to look in other places. Some of the activities that guys often get involved with are school radio and TV stations, debate clubs, ski clubs, and also playing pool, Ping-Pong, or video games. Meeting guy friends this way is almost always a lot easier than just trying to strike up a conversation in class or in the hall. Sharing activities and interests naturally leads to conversation, which then leads to friendship. And just think-meeting guys this way will get you to try some things you probably never would have tried.
Is it appropriate for a girl to ask a boy out?
Carol, age 12
While society still tends to see the male as the "leader" in pursuing the female, your question is a good one. You probably don't realize just how many other girls have the same question. And it is really great that you are thinking ahead about situations you might encounter when you are ready to date. Times have changed, and girls are increasingly more assertive in pursuing what they want. When you start dating, if you are thinking about asking a boy out, go for it! While your friends might tease you a little, they'll be happy that you did it because it will make it easier for them to do it when they want to.
It's important to remember that boys can be nervous, too. They often feel just as scared about asking a girl out. The boy might be interested in you but is too shy to ask. If you ask, he might say yes. If he says no, it'll hurt for a while. But you'll get over it. Everyone does. And nobody gets through life without being rejected sometimes.
When you are old enough to date, it is certainly OK to ask a boy out if you want to. Just like some girls, a boy can be shy or afraid of rejection. Think about how you might feel when you want to be asked out. Some boys will feel the same way. No matter how old you are, if there is a guy you are interested in, it's easier to start with a friendship. Many romances start as friendships, so later on your friendship can become something more. Instead of going out just the two of you, try getting together with him in a small group of friends. Hang out with him, and see if you really like him.
Some girls think they are being too forward or "aggressive" if they ask a boy out, but this is more a question of your style. More and more, it is common practice for anyone to ask anyone else out regardless of whether it is the boy or the girl asking. It can be a sign of maturity that you know what you like and are willing to ask for it. Some boys feel flattered when asked out. And then, of course, there are those old-fashioned guys who just won't like it. But those guys are probably not right for you anyway.
What makes a good boyfriend?
Yolanda, age 13
You've really asked a great question. I bet many women wished they knew to ask this question at your age. A good boyfriend respects you as an equal. He shows his respect by being interested in what you say. And he treats you the same when his friends are around as when he's with you alone.
You can trust him to do what he says, like call you if he says he'll call. He makes you feel good about yourself-all of you, how smart you are, what you look like, the things you like to do. He doesn't pressure you for sex or cheat on you. He never physically hurts you and, if he hurts your feelings, he says he's sorry and really works hard never to do it again.
A good boyfriend demonstrates the kind of values that are important to you, like genuineness, honesty, and loyalty (he doesn't go out with other girls behind your back). The way your boyfriend treats you is very important. Can you and your boyfriend communicate? Can you share feelings about important things with him? Do you trust him not to tell other people secrets you may have shared with him? Does he share his thoughts and feelings with you? A good boyfriend should be sensitive to your feelings and understanding of you.
Can you be yourself around your boyfriend, or do you feel that you are always putting on a show for him? Being able to be relaxed and natural with your boyfriend means that there is a lot of mutual acceptance between the two of you. Does your boyfriend show you affection in ways that you like, such as holding your hand or putting his arm around you? A good boyfriend will treat you as an equal and respect your wishes about important matters. He will understand the word "no," especially about sex. He will also be OK when you want to spend time with your family or friends. A good boyfriend won't smother you and demand all of your time.
Another "must" is a good sense of humor. Does your boyfriend make you laugh, and do you have fun with him? Boyfriends are more fun if they share similar interests and like to do some of the things you like to do. Remember, in choosing a boyfriend, there are a lot of great guys out there, so don't settle for less than you want and deserve.
Why are some girls "boy crazy"?
Margot, age 18
It's more than OK to like boys and to want to have a boyfriend—most girls do. "Boy crazy," though, means that a girl is overly concerned about meeting boys and getting a boyfriend. Having a boyfriend is more important to her than anything else. She is preoccupied with boy watching and boys' opinions to the exclusion of everything else.
Some girls are boy crazy because they need a lot of attention and aren't getting it from home, especially from their fathers. Others need boys to provide some of the qualities they need and want but think they can't get for themselves, like power (he will protect her all the time) or status (thinking people will admire her because of who her boyfriend is) or independence (he has a car and can give her a ride somewhere or an excuse to get out of her house for awhile). Girls who are boy crazy often have not developed their own identity and don't have a life of their own. Unfortunately, these girls don't invest their time in finding out who they are and don't develop their own abilities and interests. Instead, they give up their own development for the pursuit of boys. Sadly, girls who are boy crazy just don't think they are as important as having a boyfriend is.
If you have a friend who is boy crazy, try talking to her. Or even show her this book. It might get her thinking.
There's lots of pressure to hook up with a guy. There's a hidden message in our society that a girl is not OK if she is not interested in a relationship with a guy. In fact, for most teenage girls, having a boy friend really boosts their self-confidence. But having a boyfriend shouldn't be the only way to feel happy and secure. Girls who are boy crazy are driven to have a boyfriend as if their lives depended on it. They forget about finding other ways to make themselves feel important and valuable, and they often lose out on developing their interests, talents, and friendships with other girls. Being boy crazy means you're missing out on too many other things. It's like having a one-track mind. You can't see anything else, even yourself.
What should I do if my boyfriend tells me to pick between him and my friends?
Juanita, age 13
The first thing to do is to find out why he feels that way. Ask him-or ask his friends if he won't say. Maybe your boyfriend doesn't like your friends. His reason for not liking your friends might be something that seems obvious to him but that you never thought of. Maybe you'll be able to do something about it. For example, maybe your friends tease him, and you could ask them to stop. Maybe you'll find out that he's jealous of the time that you spend with your friends, and you could balance your time better. Maybe knowing his reason will make you decide that he's not for you-say, if what he really wants is to control your life by taking up all of your time.
The second thing to do is to find out how strongly he feels about this issue. Sometimes people feel strongly about something at one moment and say things that they don't really mean. For example, he might be mad about something that will pass, or he might just be tired and irritable. Some problems do just go away if you give them a little time.
Finally, if your boyfriend really pushes, think about what your life will be like without him. Compare that with what your life will be like without your friends. Do you want to give up all your friendships? Most girls don't. You need to ask yourself whether you want him to be your whole life. And think about what else you can do (like get another guy). It's your choice.
Dump him! Dump him! Dump him! He's foolish, immature, and selfish. Who needs him? And don't be surprised if he comes running back, willing to share you with your friends. And then think long and hard about whether or not you really want to share your time with him.
Why are guy friends always so two-faced? Why do they act different when they are with their guy friends than with their girl friends?
Eunice, age 17
It's not only teenage guys who seem to change their behavior when their friends are around. Guys say the same thing about girls. They want to know why you act differently when your friends are around, too! But let's focus on your question first. During their teen years, guys are trying to establish their identity as men. In our culture, becoming a man has many stereotypes associated with it, especially ones that say that a "real man" is physically and emotionally strong. Guys are not supposed to cry or look for emotional support or help. They are supposed to be able to solve their problems themselves.
Of course, just like girls, guys have lots of feelings and, during their teen years, have lots of the same struggles as girls do. The big difference is that in our culture girls are given the message that it is OK to be emotional and talk about their problems. So, when guys are with their girl friends they don't have to pretend as much. They can "let down" a little and not have to worry that other guys are thinking they are not real men. When they are back with their guy friends, they often feel a need to hide the emotional parts of themselves so they don't get laughed at.
If you really think about it, many girls also change their behavior when they are with their male friends. During the teen years, guys and girls both behave somewhat differently when they are with their same-sex friends compared with when they are with their opposite-sex friends. However, things are slowly changing for guys as the message gets out that it is OK and healthy for them to let down their guard and show their emotions, even when they are with their guy friends!
Most people will admit that they act differently to some degree with different people. I'll bet when you are with your parents you act differently than when you are with your friends! I'll bet, too, that you act differently with your close friends than with people you hardly know. So guys also could act one way with male friends and another way with girl friends. It's natural to change our behavior in different situations. The problem comes up when someone acts so differently that they come across as a totally different person. That's what makes them seem to be two-faced. What's going on underneath, however, is that he might actually feel differently when he is with his guy friends. Part of becoming more mature is learning more about who you are on the inside, so that you are not so easily influenced by different circumstances.
How do you help a friend get out of an unhealthy relationship when she doesn't believe she's in one?
Darya, age 17
The truth is, unless people can see that a relationship they are in is "unhealthy," it's almost impossible to get them to leave the relationship. The problem is that we all put on "blinders" when we don't want to face the truth about something, even though we often know, deep down, that something is wrong. In fact, when people have their blinders on they tend to be very, very defensive and "tune out" anything others tell them that they don't want to hear.
Don't stop talking to your friend about your concerns, but realize that it may take her a long time to see "the truth." And, when she finally does see the truth, or the relationship ends for some other reason, don't say "I told you so!" Instead, be supportive and help her see what her experience has taught her about relationships.
You can try to help, but you can't force your friend to do anything. Part of being a good friend is to be honest: Explain your feelings to your friend, and tell her why you feel the way you do. Tell her exactly what is upsetting to you, what you see in her relationship that is unhealthy. But, remember, you are not responsible for your friend's life, and you are not responsible for making her decisions. You are only responsible for expressing yourself honestly and openly, and then the rest of the responsibility is hers. You can suggest options to her, like giving her support in ending the relationship or seeking professional help from a counselor or psychologist if the relationship is really unhealthy for her. You can assure her that you know that ending the relationship will be really, really, hard but that you will stick by her if she decides to get out of the relationship so she won't feel so lonely. But bottom line is that the decision is hers.
How can you cheer up a friend when she is dumped by a boyfriend?
Claire, age 13
Much of how we think and feel about ourselves is a function of how others think and feel about us. When others think and feel positively about us, we feel accepted, and this increases our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth ("I am important!"). However, when a friend has been dumped by her boyfriend, the overwhelming feelings may be rejection and low self-worth ("I'm not important").
You can be helpful to your friend by assuring her that you are still her friend, encouraging other friends to show that they care about her, and providing positive words of inspiration to make her feel that she is important and worthwhile as a person. You can also do small things for her, such as making a card to show that you are thinking about her, planning a unique surprise event for her with other friends, and keeping in touch to just talk or listen. The key is to keep her occupied with positive people and positive things. Many broken hearts have been healed with time by the love and care generated by a true friend who gives of herself or himself willingly and unselfishly.
When people have been hurt, particularly when they have been rejected by someone, they feel terrible. Besides comfort and reassurance, one of the best things you can do for your friend is to get her up and going. Even if she says she's not in the mood, be insistent. Tell her you need her company, that you can't decide which shoes to buy without her, and you don't care if she doesn't even say anything, you just want her to be with you. Get her out to events, parties, or even a movie. Time is a great healer, and even though you may not realize it, keeping your friend active and involved so that time can do its healing is one of the best ways to help her.
Is there a person right for me—you know, love?
Angela, age 16
If you mean is there only one person in the world who has been created for you, the answer is no. A few years ago, there was a popular movie and song called Somewhere in Time, which suggested that somewhere in the universe, somewhere in time, either in a past life or in a future life, there would be the perfect match, the perfect love, and the perfect soul mate for each of us. This is simply not true. People change, and the person you may be in love with now and think you want to marry will not be exactly the same 20 years from now.
Look at your parents or your friends' parents; have you seen big changes in any of them? The fantasy that there is only one true love puts more importance on choosing the right mate than on being committed to working on a relationship. While finding someone you truly love is important, the success of any relationship requires that both people are constantly working on communicating and listening to each other. Finding the right guy does not necessarily mean you will have a great life just because you found him. "Mr. Right" also has to be committed to the idea that relationships require work, and he has to be willing to listen and change as the relationship changes.
So, there is both good news and bad news. The good news is that there are lots and lots of princes out there who are right for you. The bad news is that you have to go through a thousand frogs before you find a single prince. But, don't worry. You have many years to learn how to sort out the frogs from the princes.
There are probably lots of people who are right for you, but as you mature your definition of "Mr. Right" will change. This happens because between your teen years and adulthood, your needs will change. For example, right now your Mr. Right might be a guy who is good-looking, athletic, popular, and funny. You probably aren't thinking too much about what kind of career he will have, what kind of income he will earn, what kind of father he will be, or even what part of the country he'd want to live in. Right now, these things just don't matter very much, but they will matter later on. Sometimes, the guy who is Mr. Right now turns out to be "Mr. Wrong" later on. Your needs are going to change, and some of the kinds of things that make you happy and feel loved are going to change, too. Just think: Isn't it wonderful to realize that you will have lots of experiences of feeling "in love" before you settle down?
Why do females go against other females?
Roberta, age 14
During adolescence, girls usually want to spend more and more time with their peers forming friendships. Part of this process involves deciding who you want to be friends with and who you don't want to be friends with. During this time, your choices will often change dramatically and rapidly. As a result, at some point during your teen years, you will probably feel excluded or pushed out of a group or clique, or you will feel hurt, neglected, or disappointed by one of your friends. Even though this all happens to boys too, it is believed that because boys focus so much on activities, like sports or clubs, and measure their worth through their abilities, their competitiveness in friendships is not as great as it is for girls. While girls do care about their performance abilities, relationships are so important to them that exclusion and rejection among girls remains one of the most stressful parts of the teenage years.
Usually, as girls mature in their high school years, they have a keener perspective on how painful it can be to suffer betrayals and hurtful actions from friends. They have a stronger sense of who they are as individuals and don't rely as much on social standing alone to feel secure. They base their friendship choices less on "who is in, who is out, and how can I make sure that I am in?" and more on trust, loyalty, and shared interests. Probably, the same value that is responsible for some of the tension and conflict in young girls' friendships is responsible for some of the wonderful support older teens give each other—women tend to care intensely about their relationships!
One of the hardest times in a girl's life is the middle-school years, when cliques begin to form. This is a time when girls can be very mean to each other as they try desperately to "belong" to the right group. This meanness stems from an insecurity that many girls feel during their early teens. However, by the time they reach high school, girls increasingly become more open and friendly with each other. They find friends who share similar interests, like art, volunteering, drama, sports, languages, and so on, and are not as concerned about belonging to a specific group or clique. So, don't get too discouraged about female competition. Women are appreciating each other more and more. Even if it is not happening right now, it will change later on. You can start on that path and model this for your friends by supporting their strengths and abilities.
Why do other girls not like me when they don't even know me?
Janie, age 15
Any girl who concludes that she doesn't like you without knowing you is a person who does not feel good about herself. When people don't like themselves, their jealousy and envy are reflected in their thoughts and behavior. As human beings, we have a tendency to compare ourselves with others, particularly others who are similar to ourselves. Typically, teens will compare themselves with other teens (even those they don't know) and use what they see as a guide for things such as how they should think, act, and even look. Some adolescent girls are very unhappy with parts of themselves. Many of them are strongly influenced by the ideal image that society presents for how females should look and behave. One way for a girl to try to feel better about herself is to devalue (or "put down") another female ("I think, act, or look better than you!"). While at the time these put downs may make her feel better, they are only a temporary solution for a deeper problem of low self-esteem.
So, don't take it personally when a girl dislikes you when she doesn't even know you. It is not due to any inadequacies within you! Those who judge you without knowing you really need help with a larger problem: their poor self-esteem. When you feel good about yourself, you perceive others in a positive light as well.
Lots of people make snap judgments based on very little information. In some ways, this can be a useful skill because it can assist them in making quick decisions when they need to. But it can also be a mistake! When someone decides that they don't like you, based on little or no information, they not only hurt your feelings but, if they do this a lot, they will eventually be seen as a snob. So, their behavior will wind up backfiring on them. There's probably very little you can do to change people who are like this, but you can protect yourself better by not chasing them and leaving yourself vulnerable to being rejected. Sometimes, we convince ourselves that the person who seems to ignore us most is the person we "have to" have as a friend. So you need to let go of the "have to" and pursue friends who don't make snap judgments about others.
Teen girls can be really mean, but you can't control other people. How you treat people will eventually get you lasting and trusting friendships.
Have you been rejected by someone who doesn't even know you? She or he is probably very insecure and trying to feel "one up." Ignore her or him and move on. It's her or his loss.
Get up your courage and ask that "special" guy out! The worst that can happen is that he says no—everyone gets rejected sometimes.
A good boyfriend respects you, is fun to be with, and is someone you can really talk to. Don't settle on just any guy—you're worth too much!
You're most likely to meet "Mr. Right" by getting involved in activities you enjoy. That's where you'll find guys you have something in common with.
"Boy-crazy" girls don't have their own identity. They depend on having a guy to feel like a whole person.
Boyfriends can come and go, but girlfriends often last forever. Take care of your friendships.
Does your boyfriend insist that you choose between him and your girlfriends? Dump him! Don't let him control your life.