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To Date or Not To Date? That Is the Question

Whether you’re allowed to date or not, the idea has probably crossed—and triple crossed—your mind. Perhaps you’ve watched your older sister get ready for a big night out and imagined what it’s like. Or you’ve been rehearing what to say in case your older brother’s cute friend asks you to the movies. Or maybe you feel light years from dating but still have questions you’d like cleared up for the future.


One of girls’ biggest worries is how to be sure they’re ready to date—even if they have their parents’ permission. To figure out this dilemma, think about why you want to date in the first place. If it’s for any reasons listed below, you may wanna hold off till you’re good and ready.


MY FRIEND IS DATING…

One of the most horrifying experiences on the planet is believing your best friend is about to abandon you for someone new. So girls sometimes freak when they discover their best friend is planning to date. Your first thoughts might be, “What am I going to do on the weekends without her?” “Will she still make time for me?” or “We made a pact to start dating at t he same exact time!” Even when girls are genuinely happy for their friends, many also feel resentful.


Jill, 14, can vouch for that. She and Tami, devoted friends since third grade, swore to each other they would begin dating at the same age. That way,  they could double date. They agreed to wait until they were sixteen and even pinkie-swore. Only, Tami’s feelings changed one day. More specifically, they changed when Tami decided Jake, the new guy at school, was simply too incredible to pass up.


When Jake finally asked Tami out and Tami accepted, Jill had conflicting feelings. She was psyched for Tami, but also confused. Tami broke her promise to wait. While Jill wanted to be supportive and encouraging—she knew that’s what best friends did for each other—she felt completely phony every time she confirmed to Tami how great it was about Jake.


Well, the date went great, and Tami became obsessed with Jake—telling Jill every little move, gesture and facial expression that was just the “cutest” or “sweetest” thing. More and more, Jill’s resentment grew, and she decided the only way to save the friendship would be to start dating too. That way, she wouldn’t feel so abandoned. The two could talk about their guys and share the experience.


So Jill asked out Scott, a boy from class she knew liked her—thanks to grapevine gossip. He eagerly said yes, and the two planned  to go out on Saturday night. The situation would have been perfect if it weren’t for one simple thing: Jill wasn’t emotionally ready to date. For three entire days, Jill felt sick to her stomach. As she put it, “All of a sudden, I was worrying how I was supposed to act, what I was supposed to say or not say, what to wear, what if he tried to kiss me. But I didn’t want to leave him hanging since I was the one who asked him out. The whole idea of it was making me sicker and sicker.”


Which is how Jill ended up getting out of the date. Saturday afternoon she called Scott at home, and told him she was throwing up and couldn’t go. She put off explaining until Monday, which she said, “was awful and humiliating, and I wished I’d never asked him out.”


Unfortunately, this type of situation happens a lot. One girl decides she wants to date, and her BFF suddenly feels she should start too. Sometimes, it’s a result of feeling competitive, but more often, it’s because, Like Jill, girls are willing to do almost anything to keep their friendships intact. But the truth is, you can’t force yourself to be ready for dating just because your friend is. Come up with alternative plans to keep you from feeling abandoned¬¬—hang out with other friends, find a new hobby. Do not let your happiness hinge on how your friend’s dating life is going.


I’D LOOK COOL…

Maybe no one in your grade is dating yet, and you think it’d be awesome to be first. You’d look sophisticated and everyone would ask questions because you were “in the know.” Or, maybe you want to show up your older sis, who’s always bragging about this date and that. Whatever the reason, you’re dating to impress.


Debbi, 14, admits she started dating Chad last year because she craved attention. “I was new to the school, and the girls pretty much ignored me—they already had their friends. I wanted to shake things up so they would talk to me, ore even talk about me. So I asked out Chad, this cute guy who was a year ahead of us. Well, suddenly, girls were coming up to me and asking all these questions: ‘What’s he like?’ ‘Did you really ask him out?’ I went from being a zero to Miss Popular.”


And then? “I realized I had to actually go out with Chad. I couldn’t just ask him out and not do it, or I’d look like a liar. So we went to this party. I was so nervous. I kept thinking he was going to try to kiss me, and I didn’t want him to. I just wanted everyone to think we were a couple.” Debbi says she was so uptight that she practically ignored Chad all night. “Finally, he asked me what was up,” she says. “I had to tell him that I just wanted to be friends, which confused him, and he got really mad. So he went off with his friends, and I looked and felt like a jerk!”


It’s not impressive to date a guy in hopes of looking like a hot-shot. Like Debbi, if you’re not ready, you’ll end up getting caught in your own lie. What’s really impressive is trusting yourself enough to wait to date until you are ready, and knowing you don’t need some guy to make you a cool person.


IT’D TICK OFF MY FOLKS…

“I wanted to start dating,” says Betsy, 14, “because I knew it would flip out my parents.” Along the same lines as skipping chores and blasting music, dating before you get the okay is a sure way to cause friction with the ‘rents—exactly what some girls want.


“I was so tired of my parents telling me what to do,” Betsy explains. “They’re always in my face about picking up my room, doing my homework, baby-sitting my little sister. I have to be this perfect little girls. So when John, a guy on my softball team, asked me out, I automatically said yes. It wasn’t because I liked him that way. I mean, he was nice and all, but I really just wanted to bug my parents like they bug me. I wanted to do something they had no control over.”


Big mistake. “They freaked out when I told them,” she says. “They said there was no way they were letting me go out with a guy, and we got into this huge fight. I told them I’d date whomever and whenever I wanted to and they couldn’t do anything about it.” Except they could. Betsy’s parents grounded her and told her she’d better respect their rules.


All girls get mad at their parents at some point. And you will definitely stir things up if you choose to date against their wishes. But nothing positive can come from this. You’ll end up losing your parent’s trust, hurting a guy who doesn’t deserve to be used, and sticking yourself in a tricky situation. If you’re angry at your folks, sit down and talk to them—don’t use dating as a weapon.


HE ASKED ME…

Girls often find it painfully difficult to say no to guys who ask them out. They feel flustered and lost for words, and it seems there’s no time to even think about what to say. The guy is nervous and waiting anxiously for an answer. What are you supposed to do? It’s awkward. Sometimes it seems the easiest thing to do is say yes.


This happened to Jennifer, 13: “Adam was this guy in drama club who I knew liked me. He complimented me and stuff. Still, when he called to ask me out, I was shocked. I sat there, not saying a word, wanting to hang up.” Instead, she told him she would go out with him. “I didn’t want to hurt his feelings,” she confesses. “I knew how hard it was for him to ask me, and it seemed rued to say no.”


That night, Jennifer couldn’t sleep. She knew she should have said she just wanted to be friends. Now, she’d have to explain why she said yes and tell him she didn’t want to go out with him. Uck.


So what could Jennifer have done? First, you never have to give immediate answers. You have every right to say you aren’t sure. Here’s a way to do it: “I’m flattered that you asked, but I’ll get back to you.” If he’s cool, he’ll accept that without pushing. If not, you don’t want to be with him anyway.


If you know right away the answer is no, that’s okay too. You might worry about hurting him, but you have to respect your own feelings. In other words, you take care of you; let him take care of him. Is there a way to decline and not hurt his feelings? Not really. It hurts to be rejected. The kindest way to say it is plain and simple: “I really appreciate your asking me, but I’d rather stay friends.” You’re done. If he tries to convince you or make you feel bad, just repeat yourself.


So what IS a good reason to date?

There is one, and only one, good reason to date. You like a certain guy, and you want to get to know him better by spending more time with him. When you’re ready and you’ve gotten the nod from your parents, dating can be lots of fun. Yes, nervousness is part of the package, but a good date also brings excitement and happiness. So stay cool about the whole deal, take your time, and prepare to enjoy dating for all that it has to offer.

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7/17/2009 12:00:00 AM
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