Dare to Ask: Teens have a dating obsession
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why are younger teenagers so obsessed with "who likes whom" and going out
with people, and call sensible people who don't care about anything like that
gay or geeky?
Brandon, 13, Jacksonville
Once hormones kick in, all you want to do is make out with people. Then it
comes down to reputation: Even if the person is a total moron, if he's a great
kisser, you've got to date him.
Claire, 15, Fernandina Beach
Teenagers in America go from being treated like little kids straight to being
"grown-ups," so dating is a way for them to feel more grown up. Or, it could be
there isn't anything on TV, and they're bored.
Stephanie S., Washington, D.C.
Kids your age are . . . trying to work out their status in the pack, and
trying to get a handle on urges and feelings none of you really had as recently
as a year or two prior. Labeling outsiders is a defense mechanism.
Ann, 40, Missouri
It all has to do with the beliefs subtly taught by American society: 1) In
order to be happy, you have to have a partner; 2) You're not "complete" until
you've found your "better half;" and 3) If you wait too long, you may never find
them and die a lonely old man or woman.
You're in for a lot worse in your latter teens, so enjoy this relatively
innocuous "who likes whom" stuff while you still can.
Craig, 21, Duncan, Canada
Of course teens are the only ones obsessed with who's dating whom. Adults
don't give a hoot - that's why you never see Web sites, magazines, TV tabloid
shows and Page 2 "Celebrity Watch" items in mid-size daily newspapers constantly
feature tryst gossip about Madonna, Diddy, Vanessa, Zac, Hayden, Milo, Halle,
George, Lindsay, Samantha and that guy from the fourth season of Supernanny
Pimps My Farm Machinery.
For younger teens (mainly girls), fixation on dating arises because sexual
attraction is growing at the same time they're looking for love and approval,
said teen expert Barbara McRae, founder of TeenFrontier.com and author of Coach
Your Teen to Success. Amid increasing social pressures juiced up on networking
sites such as MySpace, if Mom and Dad are being overly critical or detached,
dating - and talking about dating - can fill the void.
Name-calling and bullying to "fit in" may follow if no one monitors the
situation, she said.
Research shows that girls start thinking about dating earlier, McRae noted.
"They stare at boys, have crushes, daydream . . . they're looking at their
self-worth through the eyes of others."
So, is it all "sensible"?
"We don't know what stage of development this boy [Brandon] is at," she said.
"Everyone wakes up to the opposite sex at different times; maybe he doesn't
understand all the hoopla yet, so he's making it sound like he's the sensible
one. And as adults, sure, we know at 13 they don't have the interpersonal skills
yet for a dating situation . . . so we take it as sensible [not to date when
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
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