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Dear Gramps,
I like this guy at my school and I’m petty sure he likes me too. I don’t know if I’m too young for a boyfriend or not. I’m 13. He tickles me sometimes and I don’t know if that means he likes me or not. We talk a lot and are pretty good friends but is it ok to be something other than that. What should I do?
Laura, from Enola, Pennsylvania


Dear Laura,

You are now entering into the most risky and dangerous part of your life. Also, it will be the most exciting, interesting and rewarding–depending on the kind of choices you make. How you handle the next five years will set the course of your entire life. The problem is that during this period of excitement, fun, adventure and romance, little thought is normally given to the long range effects of your decisions, but they are mostly driven by the anticipated immediate results, without thought for the long-term considerations.

One extreme example: You are out with a group of boys and girls, and one of the boys pulls out a bit of marijuana, crack, methamphetamine, or some other of the latest drugs, and says, “Here, have a bit of this. It’s really cool!” So he passes it around and the various kids each take a bit, and start acting like it’s really great stuff. So what do you do when it’s offered to you? If you give in and take some, with the idea that it will be just this once, and only for the reason of going along with the crowd, the attraction of that stuff is so powerful that in all probability you will become a drug addict, and your entire life will be ruined!
Getting hooked up with some kid as boyfriend/girlfriend at age 13 has some of the same hazards as getting hooked on dope. Here’s what you should do to maximize your happiness through the teen years and at the same time protect yourself from the subtle terrible effects of inappropriate relationships before gaining the maturity of the years necessary to handle them properly.

1) Never be found alone with a boy until you are at least 16 years old.

2) Between now and then, enjoy the company of boys and other girls in groups. Chaperoned group activities are the order of the day. If you are invited to go somewhere alone with a boy, say “No thank you. I never do that.” If you are asked to go to some function where there are some young kids together without adult supervision, ask “Will any grown-ups be going along?” If they say no, reply, “Sorry, but I don’t think that I can make it.”

Now, you will miss out on some “good” times, and undoubtedly will feel left out. OK, but the thing is, you are planning for the most happiness, not just for some immediate happiness that will end up later in more sorrow than you would want to experience. Don‘t ever give up what you want most for what you want now!

3) After age 16 it may be OK to begin dating the boys. But remember to always keep in mind the  plural, BOYS not BOY. Here’s a clue of human nature. Boys are highly motivated to experiment sexually, and they will normally use any ploy they can to get what they want. They will profess that you are the only girl in the world for them, and lay on every other form of flattery that they can come up with, but with only one objective, and that is to satisfy their own desires. If a boy really likes you, he will respect you, and will look out for your welfare and happiness.

So when you begin to date it is terribly important to know what a date is and how it should be carried out. A date is an appointment to go somewhere or do some specific thing together for a specific period of time. A date is not hanging out! When you go on a date with someone you will determine beforehand where you will be going, what you will be doing and when you will be finished. If he cannot supply those three items you don’t go out with him.

4) Never get into an exclusive relationship with any boy before the age 18, and hopefully before the age 20. From somewhere around 18 on, you will begin thinking about getting married. Then is the time for exclusive relationships to begin–never before.

So the point is to enjoy these formative years with wholesome group relationships. When dating time comes, gain experience by going with lots of different boys. They will all want to try to go steady with you, and as long as you don’t let that happen, you will be very popular. But the minute you start going steady with one guy everyone else backs off, and your popularity drops to zero, except for one guy–and you don’t want that to happen until you are ready to think about getting married.

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