Remember that time in fourth grade when your teacher sent the boys out of the room so that she could show you a film strip on menstruation? Well, the Houston Chronicle pulled a similar stunt this morning.
Instead of publishing a list of healthy relationship ideas for young men and women heading back to school this fall, the paper instead decided to publish a Cosmo-esque list of tips for "Gals" and "Guys", giving the opposite sex the jump on the complicated high school dating game by providing the same damn stereotypes teenagers have been force fed for years. The first piece, "A Girl's Guide For Guys," was written by a recent college graduate, who decides to "drop some truth" on the young males of the Houston metropolitan area. I was already cringing at this point: even when you're just 4 years out of high school, you're painfully distant from the culture and the lingo. "Drop some truth" sounded as convincing, in terms of youth-speak, as a Bagel Bites commercial. Here are said dropped truths:
1. The read: There is one point on which the sexes are hopelessly crossed. It's a simple fact that girls read too much into everything. So if your girl doesn't believe you spent Saturday night hanging out with your BFL (bro for life) and she tells you through a steely jaw and narrowed eyes that she's fine, well, she's not. She's hacked off. Learn to read her body language.
2. Worst words: There is one thing you should never, ever say to a girl. Never - even if it's true - tell a girl that she's "being ridiculous." The No. 1 way to aggravate an already raging female is to illegitimize her feelings.
3. Date night: Even a low-maintenance girl likes to be taken to dinner once in a while - and I don't mean a fast-food, value-menu meal. I mean dinner at a restaurant with linens on the tables. Wear real pants. Pick her up at 7.
4. Care about her friends: The way to a girl's heart is through her friends. If they don't like you, you're sunk. Period. So make a concerted effort to get to know them and ask about their lives.
5. Ease into it: Don't apply too much pressure for a commitment, unless she's bleeding profusely and it's medically necessary. There's a difference between forcing a choice on someone and letting them know you're worth the effort. No one likes a stage-five clinger.
I'm a bit confused by this list, and a bit annoyed. It paints all high school girls as bitchy and slightly needy. Also, it includes the phrase "bro for life." Not good. Also, I have no idea what's happening in number 5. I think it's a joke on applying pressure, but....I can't be sure.
Now let's take a look at the dating tips for high school girls, written by a young man who graduated just last spring:
1. Keep it simple: Do not make guys more complicated than we really are. You don't have to guess; most guys will tell you what they are thinking and will act accordingly. Basically, just take guys at face value.
2. Chill out: If a guy doesn't reply instantly to your text message, don't consider it the end of the world - he's probably just busy. (If it happens a lot, it may be that he's just not into you.) Wait a reasonable time for a response; overreacting or jumping to conclusions can only lead to problems.
3. Who's the alpha dog?: Just because a guy isn't the smoothest creature on the planet doesn't mean he's not interested. So don't freak out if a guy waits until the last minute to ask you out. And don't see it as an invitation to pressure him about it. Most guys don't like bossy girls, and that's how he'll see you.
4. Just friends: Guys do like having girls who are just friends. But don't agree to "just be friends" if you really want something more. If he refers to you as a sister, buddy or good friend, there's a good chance you can hang that crush right up.
5. Don't stalk him: Facebook is wildly popular among teens and can be the center of a lot of high school drama. If he adds you as a friend, be that - a friend. This isn't your cue to become a detective or to confront him about photos or statuses.
Number 3 is pretty crappy, in that it basically requests that girls become doormats in order to be relationship-worthy. The boundary setting in numbers 5 and 2 is important—for both genders—and I wish those had popped up on the guy's list, as well. It's interesting to me that the 18 year old man had a more realistic list than the 22-year-old woman, whose dating advice seems peppered with ladymag bullshit and Sex and the City type ruminations—it's as if she's already forgotten high school and has transposed her college dating experiences on younger girls.
In the end, these lists aren't terrible, but they do overlook a major issue: there really shouldn't be gender-specific "rules" for dating in high school. It just perpetuates the idiotic setups of "The Rules" and "Game" that these kids will face as they get older. If we could only just provide teenagers with a basic set of rules on how to be decent people, how to show each other respect and kindness, instead of steering them toward these nonsense notions of how a guy or a girl "is supposed to" act in the dating realm, we'd all be better off.