Youth's Follies

Youth's Follies

Youth's Follies

Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 30 2000 11:30 PM

Youth's Follies

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com.

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Note: For reasons that elude Prudie, seemingly half of our hemisphere wrote in response to the letter from "Not OK." Since all the letters said essentially the same thing, let the following one stand for them all. And, uh, thank you.

—Prudie, amazedly

Prudie,
I would suggest, "I appreciate your cooperation," or a simple, "Thank you." No need to imply that it's not a problem, just express gratitude for the person's willingness to address the problem. After all, it's not unlikely when one makes such a call that the answer will be, "Blow it out your ear." Sincere willingness to fix the problem by the offender merits the complainer's thanks.

—Best,
Ann P.

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Dear Pru,
I'm 12 years old and my mom believes in me, but my boyfriend is nudging me to do it with him. He says if I don't he'll dump me. He is the cutest guy in school. What should I do? I like him and am curious about sex, but I know I'm not old enough yet—but if I don't go along he'll dump me. What should I do? Bye.

—Afraid To Be Dumped

Dear Af,
Since you're asking Prudie, there's hope you will take her advice. You are completely right about not being old enough. A 12-year-old girl having sex would be like baking a cake for four minutes: not even close to being ready. You won't know what you're doing, it won't feel good, and he'll probably drop you anyway. That your selfish turkey of a boyfriend is saying do it or get dumped tells you a lot—but at least you know how he thinks. Prudie hopes you dump him and then, instead of looking for cute, look for smart and nice. It is never too early to get one's priorities in order. In your case right now, playing hard to get is way more cool than playing fast and loose. And the following letter may interest you.

—Prudie, protectively

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Dear Prudence,
My 16-year-old daughter just found out she's pregnant. The father is a 24-year-old loser. In the great land of the Mormons (we are from Utah), they enacted a law that allows this person to have sex with my daughter lawfully. (State law says that he would have to be 10 years older before it would be breaking the law.) This all started in July. I tried to forbid her to see him, but that was driving her to think of running away. I thought maybe if I permitted her to see him she would get bored and move on. I thought wrong. I have tried to reason with her, and even had an agreement with him before this happened that there would be no sex if I allowed her to date him. I guess what I am asking is: Do you have any suggestions that would help me to get her to see what a loser he is and that keeping this baby would be a bad mistake? I would love to get her to see that there are many wonderful couples out there who want a baby and cannot have one.

—Respectfully,
Loving Mother

Dear Lov,
Too bad your daughter was horizontally accessible, but you don't say whether she is excited to have the baby, regretful, or planning to marry. All you can do is calmly point out that if she keeps the baby she will be saying goodbye to the fun of her teen-age years and will be buried under terrific responsibility for a girl still in high school. Teen-agers with babies have a tough time of it. You should also make it plain you won't be the baby's nanny. You may not be able to change her mind about the bad boyfriend, but you can try to make a strong case for giving her—and her baby—the best chance to have a good and happy life. To shore up your position, you might find out if there's a home for unwed mothers in your town and take her there for a visit with these sadder but wiser girls, as well as with professionals who have seen it all before. As for the loopy law about the man having to be 10 years older for sex with a minor to be illegal, Prudie hopes the legislature wakes up and reconsiders that one.

—Prudie, hopefully

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Dear Prudence,
This seems awfully trivial compared to your usual fare of broken dreams and hearts and such, but I thought I'd ask anyway. I'm one of those people with the bad habit of bouncing my knee. I don't realize I'm doing it most of the time, and when I do notice, I try to stop immediately because I know it sometimes drives people crazy. I've also noticed when I stop I feel anxious and uncomfortable. My mental equilibrium improves when I resume the repetitive motion of jiggling my knee, or tapping my foot, or lightly kicking the table leg, etc. Sometimes I force myself to make do with wiggling my toes inside my shoes so that nobody will be bothered by my need to fidget. This bad habit is at its worst when I'm under stress and also when I'm feeling cold. What causes this? Is it just a bad habit, or is there a deeper explanation to my nervous tic?

—Jumpy but Otherwise Perfectly Normal

Dear Jump,
Prudie salutes you for your awareness, as she is in the group of bystanders who can't stand other people's fidgets. Bruno Bettleheim believed those nervous actions to be masturbatory ... but Prudie never cared for him, and so she's disinclined to go along with that. You might want to consult a physician. There may be psychotropic medication that would ameliorate your nervous habits. All your wiggling and jiggling could be tied to stress—as you suggest—in which case a touch of shrinking might be useful. Till you get a handle on this, try to stay with the wiggly toes in the shoe routine.

—Prudie, steadily

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Dear Prudence,
I'm having a bit of a dilemma. I've been asked to be the maid of honor at the wedding of two dear friends. Of course I immediately agreed and am very happy for them. The problem is, I just found out my ex-boyfriend from high school is to be the best man. We are both first-year college students, though the couple to be married is quite a bit older than we are. They chose us because 1) I was their baby-sitter; and 2) he is closely related. Anyway, he broke up with me and we both acted childishly about it. I still have very strong feelings for him. I am at an art school where I don't have many opportunities to date (the guys here are all dating each other). I miss my ex. Should I tell him?

—Honored

Dear On,
By all means. What do you have to lose? He may, in fact, have the same reconsidered feelings as you. This is clearly a case of "nothing ventured, nothing gained." If he is not looking for a reconciliation, at least you will have answered the question instead of having to wonder. Pity that all the guys are paired up at your school ... but school doesn't go on forever.

—Prudie, forwardly