teen crush time
August 14, 2008 4:02 PM   Subscribe

What advice or words of wisdom would you offer my eighth-grade son on the subject of girls?

Diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when he was five, he has grown into himself just beautifully now and is beginning to receive a lot of attention from the girls. He's hanging on their every word and message with bated breath. How might you advise him on how to keep his cool?
posted by maloon to Human Relations (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The harder you try, the less attractive and more frustrated you'll be.

Corollary: The opposite of trying hard is not indifference.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:11 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Just be yourself, and you'll find the girl that likes you for who you are.
posted by gnutron at 4:16 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do not ever do something that feels false just to get a girl's attention. Find things that you have in common with a girl (or things that she likes that you'd like to try), rather than pretending to like something just because she likes it.

Also, while girls are indeed extremely awesome, the interest of any particular girl is not that important in the grand scheme of things, especially in the eighth grade. There are lots of girls you might like and who might like you, so don't get discouraged if it doesn't work out with the first (or second, or eighty-fifth) one you are interested in.

Don't value your worth as a person by how interested girls are in you.
posted by kindall at 4:18 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

He's hanging on their every word and message with bated breath.

He already knows how to listen? He's more than halfway there! If he can continue to develop an open spirit, and a kind and loving heart, he's gonna be just fine.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:22 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Girls are people too.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:26 PM on August 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

So that's a 13-14 year old? Well in a positive way tell him that most people have several girlfriends/boyfriends in their teens (the implication being that teen relationships rarely last for life -- because it can sometimes feel that way to a kid). That could take the pressure off a bit. Perhaps you could talk about yourself looking back at your teen years and how you were (presumably) experimenting with relationships in order to see what you like. Be careful not to express the idea in a way that downplays the value of relationships at that age though; it'll be a hard line to walk.

Depending on how mature he is you could let him loose on LoveLine. There's lots of good relationship advice on there.
posted by holloway at 4:27 PM on August 14, 2008

Be kind. Treat girls as your equals. Get to know people, don't listen to gossip. Treat others as you'd like to be treated.
posted by loiseau at 4:34 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm going to assume that you've covered the obvious things like safe sex and "no means no," right? I think we often wait until it's too late to bring up those kinds of sensitive subjects, but earlier and often is better than an "oops!"

I'd emphasize treating them with respect and kindness. The message in a lot of popular culture is the opposite, of course, but I think it is really important to get the small things right. Walking up to her front door and knocking instead of sitting in the car and honking the horn, things like that.

And that's how to keep your cool, really — you build a front of impenetrable good manners, so no matter how frantic you are inside, on the outside you are holding it together. I don't mean being stilted or (oh please god no) being that guy who puts on a fake English accent and acts all theatrical. I just mean getting the details right, which gives you the space to maintain your dignity.

Would he be willing and able to sign up for partner dance classes (ballroom, swing, salsa, etc)? For one thing, being able to dance later in life will serve him well (as I well know, since I never learned and have paid the price), and for another the scriptedness and formality of the partner dance class will give him a safe space to learn a certain kind of interaction with girls. Most places will have dance classes that don't require you to bring a partner of your own, and men are usually in short supply.

Also, do you have a cool friend (female or really fabulous gay guy) who would be willing to go out with him on a series of fake "dates"? I really, really wish someone had done that with me, so I could have learned how to do the little things like argue over the check, make small talk, order food, and so on early instead of years later on my own.
posted by Forktine at 4:37 PM on August 14, 2008

the scriptedness and formality of the partner dance class will give him a safe space to learn a certain kind of interaction with girls women

(Because every dance class I've seen has had a wide range of ages in it, which is I think perfect for him at this point.)
posted by Forktine at 4:40 PM on August 14, 2008

It takes until you're around 27 or 30 to really get your balance with all this. Until then, the highs are really high and the lows are really low. (Or as a high school teacher put it to me: "They say high school is the best time of your life. These are not the best years of your life." Most intense years, maybe. Some of the highs are the highest, but a lot of the time is really tough and confusing, and you do a lot of stupid things, too. Hang in there.)
posted by salvia at 4:41 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Slightly off-topic, but the kids in his class are going to be talking constantly about all the boobs they are seeing and the sex they are having, because kids that age are idiots. Just make sure he knows that his peers are full of crap, and that he doesn't have to show off or make things up about himself or the people he knows in order to fit in.

And then the whole wild animal bit--girls are just as scared of him as he is of them. They're neither graceful, majestic beauties nor are they blood-sucking harpies. They're just people.
posted by phunniemee at 4:43 PM on August 14, 2008

I'm not sure as a gay man I can answer this question, but since I was an equal opportunity employer at that age here goes...

- They're usually just as nervous about him as he is about them.
- They're not perfect.
- Take flattery graciously and with a grain of salt.
- Just because all your friends talk about it doesn't mean they're ACTUALLY doing it, and that doesn't mean you have to either. (he'll understand what you mean on whatever level applies to him at the time).
- No one can make you do anything you don't want to.
- Girls are great, but your guy friends are still important.
- If he gets a girl pregnant, you're kicking him out of the house. Ok not really, but maybe it's time for 'the talk'. (hey, at my school a guy had twins in the 7th grade - it happens)
posted by matty at 4:47 PM on August 14, 2008

Girls can be pretty awesome. Girls at that age can also be mean sometimes.
As others have said, being yourself is really the best bet.
Unfortunately, being yourself won't always win you the girl you want most. When that happens, it will tear you up. That's OK - it's sad, but it's a part of growing up and everyone experiences it. Be sad, but try not to let the sadness linger.

Sometimes, being yourself will win you the girl you want most - and that is totally awesome. Best thing in the world in my experience, which makes it all the sadder when it comes to an end.

Don't be afraid to talk to your parents (sounds like you might be already). They've spent a lot of time trying to help you grow up and most parents have felt all the things you have felt at some point (although they may not remember). I know it's hard to believe, but your mom and dad had to be like are now to get where they are now. Talk to your parents, and although it can be embarrassing or hard, it really is the best thing. You can also help by telling them what you want, like do you want to just be heard or do you want them to try to help you?
posted by plinth at 4:50 PM on August 14, 2008

A lot of good advice. Just a quick little thing from someone out on the ground. '"Nice tits" is actually not really nice to hear' - my 16 yo daughter.
posted by b33j at 4:56 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, n-thing that the girls aren't much different from him. They're just people, and will continue to be. That said, they receive different messages about romantic behavior from adults, but they don't really have a firm handle on any of this either. It's probably also worth pointing out that the image of relationships we present - love at first site followed by bliss ever after, is unrealistic. All relationships end eventually and you need to enjoy them for what they are, while they are. This isn't a bad comment.

If he likes science, he might enjoy the selfish gene. While you should caution him against extreme reductionism, I think it's important to understand (though not diminish) the likely origins of our irrational feelings towards the sex(es) to which we're attracted.

He should also be aware that in our culture (and most others) people are often viewed in terms of the mates they can attract. Don't buy in to that game.
posted by phrontist at 5:03 PM on August 14, 2008

Also, do you have a cool friend (female or really fabulous gay guy) who would be willing to go out with him on a series of fake "dates"?

Do. Not. Do. This.
posted by phrontist at 5:05 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

He should also read AskMeFi and XKCD (for the cynical and over the top romantic views). This is good too.
posted by phrontist at 5:07 PM on August 14, 2008

Don't be afraid to ask a girl out. In my experience, most girls wait for the guy to do the formal asking, at least at that age.

Tell him not to be afraid to break up with a girl if she isn't treating him well. I don't know what he and his female friends are like, but I've seen some of my good female friends (who are really nice people, truly) take advantage of the "OMG I have a girlfriend!!!!" excitement guys get when they're in their first relationship- the kind of feeling that makes them do whatever the girl wants. A girl feeling that power she has over a boy for the first time can, without really doing it knowingly or on purpose, be a dangerous thing. He doesn't need to put up with it.
posted by MadamM at 5:07 PM on August 14, 2008

Tell him, "They're just as excited and nervous as you are, they just play it off better."
posted by BillBishop at 5:11 PM on August 14, 2008

Remind him not to put the girl on a pedestal (perhaps not a problem if they're pursuing him rather than vice-versa, but always nice to think about and something so many people haven't learned.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:40 PM on August 14, 2008

Girls that are your friends are the best girlfriends. If you can be friends with a girl, without going ga-ga over her newly minted curves and pretty every little thing, and just enjoy her personality, then you'll be the coolest guy around.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:55 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

You can learn pretty much everything you need to know by listening to Leonard Cohen through one ear, and PJ Harvey through the other, though it might take a bit of time for it all to alchemise properly.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:12 PM on August 14, 2008

Tell him to watch out, because we only get smarter as time goes on.
posted by universal_qlc at 6:19 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Sorry, I just realized that doesn't really help the "keep his cool" part. You could remind him that even if things blow up spectacularly, in the long run the worst case scenario is rarely as bad as he thinks it could be. Things could go sour with a girl, but then he ends up with a great "Hey, when I was your age..." story. And if they go great, then....great! No matter what happens, it's not the end of the world.
posted by universal_qlc at 6:23 PM on August 14, 2008

Sorry, I just realised that probably doesn't work for somebody with Aspergers, at least as far as I can understand it.

Specifically for an Aspie, he's going to have a hard time deciphering the emotional motivations behind peoples' actions. For example, if his girlfriend is annoyed because he didn't return a call, it might seem to him like she hates him, when the truth is roughly the opposite. Similarly, it would be a good idea to turn a deaf ear to gossip altogether.

As a parent, you'd presumably be on top of this pecularity of people with Aspergers, so I think it would be a really really good idea if you could make it clear to him that you're all ears if he's confused by how people are behaving, and available to offer an explanation for whatever is going on.

I don't mean that to sound patronising or anything; I have a little first hand experience, having been a friend & neighbour of a woman with an Aspie son around the same age as yours, going through all the same things.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:48 PM on August 14, 2008

Something that I would have liked knowing is that girls aren't some other-worldly beings who, if we work hard enough to impress them, will lower themselves down to our level temporarily enough for us to go out with them or, *snigger*, kiss them.

It wasn't until I was 18 or so that I realised that they actively want relationships too, and it's more about finding someone you work well with than about convincing someone that you're worthy of their time.
posted by twirlypen at 6:57 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Be kind. Treat girls as your equals. Get to know people, don't listen to gossip. Treat others as you'd like to be treated."

Absolutely. Reinforce over and over that boys and girls aren't different- there's no game to be played, there are no secret steps, no hidden knowledge to be divined. People are people- listen, talk, share and you'll make friends.

And the flip side of that- people are people, and sometimes they don't make the decisions we'd want them to. And he needs to learn how to be cool with that. People are like snowflakes- individual, delicate and there are billions of them. He'll need to learn to live in the moment and enjoy people, and not get wrapped up worrying about anything more than "hey, this game of bowling is fun." And if someone doesn't like him as much as he likes her, that sucks. But that's life- everyone has to deal with it. Doesn't make it hurt any less, but he needs to know that that hurt is part of being a grown-up. It's the price you pay on the journey toward finding someone who likes you as much as you like her.
posted by gjc at 7:18 PM on August 14, 2008

If someone says they don't like you, believe them (but don't take it personally). I knew an Aspie guy who developed a crush on a girl who hated him, like in the sense of telling him "I hate you, get away from me" whenever he tried to speak to her. But he didn't understand that she was serious, and so instead of accepting that she didn't like him, he still tried to talk to her every day, only to get brutally beaten down (she was kind of mean). My friend might have been a more severe case than your kid, but if he has trouble interpreting emotions in other people, that might be something to consider.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:59 PM on August 14, 2008

Ooooooooooh I forgot about this. I can't imagine a anything more appropriate for him.
posted by phrontist at 11:25 AM on August 15, 2008

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