I have not told anyone this, but I am in love. I am 17 years old and a senior in high school. I have never had a problem talking to girls, except when it comes to this one. When I first saw her in the eighth grade, the first thought that came to my mind was, “I would marry that girl.” I know that this just sounds like a crush, but the more I got to know her, the more I fell for her. Even though I have been out with plenty of other girls, I still can’t get her off my mind. I feel nervous, shy, and unsure of myself when I see her. Though we say “Hi” to each other just about every day, I can’t ever seem to get any further then that. I have lots of things going for me: I’m an athlete, do well in school, and have plenty of friends. I just can’t find the words when I am around her. I just don’t want to graduate this year, never see her again, move on with my life, and wonder “what if?”
—A Guy With a Girl Problem
Dear A Guy,
Every girl should be lucky enough to have a guy feel about her the way you do about this girl. And you’re right—you can’t let her get away without knowing whether she feels the same. It’s possible that all these years, every time you’ve said “Hi,” she senses the same spark but has had to conclude that you’re really not interested in her because she’s seen you go out with plenty of other girls. In my day, you actually had to screw up the courage to speak, either in person or on the phone, to the object of your desire. But your generation doesn’t even have to do that. This MacArthur Foundation study has good things to say about how online communication allows teenagers to make romantic overtures that are so casual that no one gets embarrassed if the interest is not returned. It cites this successful opening e-mail gambit: “hey…hm. wut to say? iono lol/well I left you a comment…u sud feel SPECIAL haha.” No, it’s not “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!” But it worked. And from your letter, it is clear you are capable of writing a message that’s actually in English. So compose an e-mail—try asking what she thinks about something that happened in school, for instance. Then, after she answers you, and before the exchange peters out, make your move and ask her on a date. And maybe someday you will say to her, “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”
When I was in the sixth grade and my sister in the eighth, my parents divorced. My sister took it particularly hard, so my mother sent her to the parish priest for counseling. At one (and the last) session, my sister was crying, and he was standing behind her with his hands on her shoulders. He then stuck his hand down her blouse. My sister yanked his hand out and ran all the way home. She never told my parents this and only shared it with me in the last few years. Now 40, my sister teaches at a Catholic high school. One of the things she does is take student volunteers to poor areas to do cleanup work, pick up trash, and paint houses. Another teacher at the school suggested that she contact a priest in that district who organizes students from other schools to do the same work. You guessed it: It is the same priest from our parish years ago. My sister is understandably disturbed that he is still working with kids. She doesn’t know if she should speak up after all these years, or how to go about it. My sister is a strong woman who has no problem with confrontation, but this scenario has her shaking.
—Protective Little Sister
I called the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and talked to Executive Director David Clohessy. He said even though your sister was molested decades ago, since this priest is still active—and possibly has been actively assaulting children ever since—your sister should contact the police sex-crimes unit and the district attorney. She should explain that she was sexually assaulted by this priest years ago and recently discovered he is still in close contact with children, and that he needs to be investigated. This will obviously be a difficult emotional step for your sister, made more complicated by the fact that she works for the archdiocese. But silence is what allows pedophiles to damage generations of children. Clohessy says that sometimes investigators have a file on a suspected abuser but simply don’t have enough evidence to do anything, and your sister’s information could be crucial. He also says it is highly unlikely your sister’s experience was a one-time event. The story fits the classic modus operandi of a serial predator: ingratiate himself with the family, counsel vulnerable kids, create opportunities to be alone with the child. Before your sister takes action, she might want to call SNAP herself—there could even be a chapter near her, and people there who could offer advice, encouragement, and support.
My husband and I moved to a new city three years ago. We hosted a party last year, and I clearly included a “please RSVP by” on the invitation so that I could plan to have enough food and drink for all attending. Less than half of the invitees responded, and I assumed those who didn’t weren’t coming. Then about two-thirds of the families who failed to RSVP showed up on the day of the party! We’re hosting a party again this year, and again I clearly included RSVP information in the invitation, but we’ve had a very low RSVP rate. It angers me that these folks can’t take one minute to call or send an e-mail just to let us know if they’re coming. I have two small children, so time and money are at a premium. I don’t want to buy too much food and drink or have hungry and thirsty party guests. Is it impolite to contact those who haven’t RSVP’d and ask for a response? Should I turn them away at the door if they show up without an RSVP? (I would never do that.) Should I try “regrets only” instead if we turn this into an annual event? Am I being unreasonable in expecting to hear from these people?
I’m afraid it’s now become the host’s obligation, after going through the time, trouble, and expense of offering to entertain your friends in your home with food and spirits, to hunt down your potential guests like antelope on the veldt to find out whether they actually intend to come. In the future, when you send out invitations, you could strike a more insistent note: “Please let us know if we will have the pleasure of your company!” Whatever you do, you will regret going to “regrets only” because then you will have no idea how to calculate the silent majority. If you’re willing to invest more time in your guests, sure you can send a cheery e-mail saying you hope they’ll be able to attend and to let you know so you can plan the evening. (E-mail invitations have, in a way, trained people to expect to be begged and reminded about their social obligations.) Then shop and cook for however many people have replied. And if you have a bunch of people who two years in a row won’t let you know they’re coming but then show up at the door, do you really want to invite them for a third?
I was recently helping my mom search for something in her room when I came across a little black bag. My curiosity was piqued, so I opened it up and looked inside. Big mistake! Inside I found a vibrator, lubricants, and other sex stuff. I know my parents have sex; I just don’t like thinking about it. I can usually talk to my mom about this kind of stuff, but when it has to do with her and my dad, I really don’t want to mention it to her (talk about embarrassing). The problem is, I don’t know how to get it out of my head. I’m afraid this will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Perhaps you had one of those books of Greek myths when you were a girl. Obviously you didn’t spend enough time reading the story of Pandora’s box before your opened your mother’s little black bag. You’re right—there’s not much point in telling your mother you now know her favorite brand of lubricant. But let me assure you this will not cripple your own sexuality for life. First of all, it’s simply confirmation of what you already knew—your parents have sex with each other, and that’s actually a good thing. Second, probably more people in human history have witnessed their parents having sex than not, so just consider how you’ve been spared that treat. After Pandora opened the box, she closed it in time to keep hope contained in it. I have complete hope that you will be able to push your discovery out of your mind and that someday, when you recall this incident, you will laugh about it.