Dating and the Teenage Girl

For years, I have subscribed to the idea that young girls shouldn’t date. Most people disagree with me and see nothing wrong with 14, 15, or 16 year old girls having a boyfriend. I believe when a teenage girl dates, it changes who she is and who she could become.  I also believe the difference between how girls and boys view relationships, makes it difficult to have a lasting relationship as a teenager.

Young girls between the ages of 14 and 16 are in a period of their life I call the ‘information years’. These are the years when they are beginning to understand concepts of the world, figuring out what they like and don’t like and figuring out who they want to become. This gathering of information is happening, while their bodies are changing, their sexuality is being discovered (if it hasn’t been discovered already) and determining what it means to be a woman. When a teenage girl dates, the information years are interrupted. She is no longer gathering information about herself and trying to understand who she is. Her focus has shifted from herself to her boyfriend and that could mean anything from focusing a little less on her wants to dropping everyone in her life. No matter the depth, it is impossible for a young girl to figure out who she is supposed to be while half or more than half of her attention is focused on another person who wants her time, her mind and her body. Furthermore, the perspective a teenage girl has about herself and her view of the world, will be shaped by a boyfriend with his impressions and ideas; good or bad.

When considering to allow a teenage girl to date, how girls and a boys view relationships is important to think about.  I have made this argument in the past and again, people disagreed with me.  Then in 2009, I saw an episode of Oprah that has allowed me to demonstrate this argument.  Courtney and Pierce were on a show titled ‘They Say They’re Ready to Have Sex’. They were both 14. Dr. Laura Berman was also on the show and one of the first questions she asked both of them was ‘How long do you plan to stay together?’ Pierce’s answer: ‘I hope a long time.’ When pressed for specifics, Pierce said six months to a year. I wish you could’ve seen how fast Courtney’s head whipped around to look at him. Dr. Berman asked her, ‘You didn’t know that did you?’ Courtney said no. When asked if she still wanted Pierce to be her first, Courtney said no, ‘I thought a long time was not having an expiration date.’ It dawned on me after watching the show that people don’t understand teenage girls have long term plans in their minds when they are in love, feel close to someone and especially if sex is involved.  Also, teenage girls think teenage boys are thinking long term.  Teenage boys think in the short term even if they feel love, closeness and not especially if sex is involved.  Many times, sex is just sex and not a significant part of the relationship for a boy.  Most young girls do not have the aptitude to navigate through the complexities of these differences.  Courtney didn’t even know what questions she was supposed to ask and there’s no reason she should.  There are grown women and men who can’t understand all the complexities of how the opposite sex views relationships, so why would we allow teenagers to try.

During conversations I’ve had about this subject, people have regaled me with stories of family members or friends,who have been together since they were teenagers. My response to every one of them: your cousin or best friend’s mother, is not the norm. Most teenage girls do not stay with the person they begin dating when they are 14, 15 or 16. And even if they do, many of the couples have issues in their relationships because they realize, 10 or even 20 years later, they never understood what they needed and wanted.  There is nothing in the world anyone would give someone that was unfinished or partly done unless they just didn’t care.  But we freely give our daughters, who don’t fully understand who they are, to someone who may decide that for them.  We are doing a disservice to our young girls by not allowing them to continue their growth and development as young women.  A teenage girl who doesn’t date is not guaranteed to understand herself, her wants or who she could become, but she has a better chance of accomplishing all of it if she doesn’t date.

The Subtleties

This post was written by Cynt and Amanda Wall

 

When you’re a woman in the workplace, in a position of power, you always question what actions and words, from men, mean.  When the actions and words are obvious, you understand what someone wants and expects of you. When a woman asserts her authority and is called a bitch, we understand the thought process behind that word.  When a woman is sexually harassed, we know what the man wants and thinks about that woman.  But what about when the actions or words are subtle? When a woman is not allowed to make a decision, is that because the woman is a woman or because the man is a micro manager? What if a woman is told that her success will be encouraged but when she dissents from the status quo, her success is ignored? Is that because they are a woman or because the man has an ego problem? What if subtleties are happening to other women in the same workplace? Is it because they are women or because they are all having the same Goddamn nightmare?

A couple of weeks ago I tried to explain to a friend how a woman gets conditioned to ignore the subtleties.  I gave him the example of a  girl at the age of 14 or 15 who is talking to her father about one of his friends:

Girl: Jack looks at me funny.

Father: What do you mean ‘looks at you funny’?

Girl: I don’t know, he just looks at me funny.  I feel weird when he looks at me.

Father: No, Jack loves you.  He’s known you since you were a baby.

At that moment, the girl dismisses her discomfort because she doesn’t understand her instincts and she trusts her father.  Maybe she convinces herself she’s making a big deal out of nothing. This is not the fault of her father.  Why would he think his friend Jack was thinking of his daughter in any way but love?  But like I explained to the friend I was talking to, it sets up the beginnings of a woman not trusting her instincts, not believing things are inappropriate and believing when they tell her she is imagining things.  But she is not.  Those subtleties are real.  And I am sure many women, if they sat down and wrote out all the subtleties they’ve experienced or seen, would say, “holy shit!”.

We do not need to start a revolution in the workplace against men.  But we do need to be aware of the subtleties.  Women have to stop believing that the subtleties are not real.  We can’t keep allowing people to make us feel like we’re exaggerating; even other women.  That is a trigger word used to imply that a person didn’t just witness what they think they witnessed.  Other trigger words or phrases: ‘misunderstood’, ‘taking things too personally’, and ‘in your mind’.  When someone is disrespecting you by not including you in decisions that affect you, or if they treat you differently than they treat male counterparts, it is not you – it is them.

When I discussed the subtleties I experienced with the person involved, it was suggested that there was a need for a change and the change was mine to make. I’m not changing! I like who I am and who I’ve become in my career. I am a strong woman who knows her job, I will say if you’re wrong, and I admit my own faults. I will not be docile and I will not be accommodating; I will not conform to make others comfortable. I know who I am, I know what I am capable of, and I know how good I am.  I will not allow anyone to make me question myself, my abilities, or my knowledge.  The best option for all women in this position is to be as respectful as possible, but not to allow ‘them’ to sweep those subtleties under the rug.  They are real and no woman should permit subtleties to become the norm of their career life.

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