Too many girls want to know how to make boys like them; boys should be wanting to know how to be worthy. Our girls are facing relationships standards that are rougher than we ever imagined, and it’s important for parents to help them believe how beautiful and valuable they really are.
I will never forget the day that boys declared I was unlikable.
I had spent much of my teen years as a very awkward fifth wheel who was politely tolerated in group dates. My friends and their boyfriends cuddled up together for movie nights, held hands in the bleachers as we watched school teams, walked each other to class, and engaged in other public displays of affection while I was generally close enough to hold conversations, but far enough back so that I didn’t infringe on the couple time.
I always wondered what was wrong with me. My friends were petite, beautiful and friendly, and had constant reports of boys who were interested in them. I was tall, awkward and quiet, and definitely off boys’ radar.
Until the day I was thrown into the radar.
We were at a school dance, and my friends must have had enough of my hovering because they encouraged me to talk to Matt, a cute boy who had been my partner in a school leadership program. Assuming we were on friendly terms, I made my way across the gym to ask him to dance.
The words came out of my mouth, and Matt immediately scoffed. He turned to his friends, laughed for a few seconds, and then returned his gaze to me with a loud,”No! I’m not going to dance with you. You’re an ugly dog and the thought of being near you grosses me out.”
I remember standing on the gym floor in absolute daze. My burning sensation in my nose and throat was growing stronger, and I wanted to run away before the tears began pouring from my eyes. But I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move, and I felt all eyes on me as the boys’ laughter grew louder with added taunts about my appearance.
Everything else was a blur. I think I spent the rest of the dance in a dark corner watching my friends and their boyfriends dance to REO Speedwagon ballads. I went home with bloodshot eyes, a red swollen nose, and hurtful questions that had no good answers.
Why don’t boys like me?
What was I doing wrong?
What could I change to make them see me in a different light?
A new generation of teen girls
Flash forward 30 years, and I am now watching my daughter and her friends deal with these same issues. Some have had their hearts broken by boys who change their affections every few weeks. Some have silently sobbed “Why don’t boys like me?” as they watched other girls’ Instagram selfies rack up dozens of “likes” and “you’re so hot” from boys at school.
They have it so much harder than I did. The teen magazines of my time focused on how to be “cute” rather than today’s “sexy.” The advice columns were filled with questions about how to kiss a guy versus today’s inquiries about oral sex. The fashions were baggy versus skin-tight and sheer. The feminist mantra of the time was “respect me for my mind” rather than today’s “respect me for my sexuality.”
As the girl who was humiliated all those years ago at a school dance, my heart breaks for the girls who have been used, ignored or brushed off by their male peers. So many of them have tried to get male attention based on today’s cultural standards and have been hurt or demeaned in the process.
Frankly, these boys don’t deserve these beautiful young women who are blessed with intelligence, character, and compassion. Sadly, too many of these girls believe that they must prove themselves to be worthy of the highly sought-after “girlfriend” title.
In reality, it’s the young men who should be proving their worthiness to them.
Pointing out their true beauty and value
When I hear the girls recite my old self-defeating comments, I have to redirect them with statements that point out their true beauty and value.
You are perfect the way you are. There is nothing to change.
Selfies can never capture how beautiful you really are.
A stupid 15-year-old boy cannot see everything you have to offer.
A stupid 15-year-old boy does not deserve everything you have to offer.
I never really talked to Matt after that night, but he and a few of the guys apologized to me many years later at a class reunion. Matt, who was still single at the time, asked for my phone number, but I politely declined – even though I was single as well.
Although I had forgiven him, he wasn’t worthy.
I wish I had believed that all those years ago.
I wish girls believed that today.