Dear Dr. Wes and Kendra: I'm a fifteen-year-old girl. My friends and I were trying to figure out this boy's texts to one of us, and we started talking about how texting means something different to girls than it does guys. Like, we all sit around and stare at our phones, waiting for a guy to text he’s like, "whatever." Do you agree with this and how do you clear up confusion, especially if it's someone you like?
Kendra: This sounds so familiar I’d swear one of my friends wrote it. Unfortunately, just as women in our parents’ generation sat by the phone waiting for a call, most female teens have, at one point, found themselves watching their phones for texts from the cutie they’re talking to.
I’ve yet to find a surefire way to decipher guy-texts that often read like Morse code, so I enlisted the help of my boyfriend. Except, even he had a tough time translating texts like “cool” and “k” into meaningful communication. Together we came to the realization that such texts don’t mean much at all. Though we ladies attempt to read a romance into every smiley-face and long text, even those may prove insignificant in the end. If you’re wondering what he’s thinking, what truly matters to both parties is spending time in person. Yet in the age where technology rules, quality time has become a rarity.
You can bet a boy isn’t counting the minutes between texts or scrolling back over your previous messages, trying to see what you really feel. He’s killing zombies on "Call of Duty" while you’re killing your phone battery waiting. So why not text the guy first or ask him on a date? Send a text, make your move, and then walk away and do something else. See a movie with your family or go downtown with friends, anything but sitting there waiting.
Wes: Kendra offers rich advice for a problem that I see exactly five days a week in my office, and which goes way beyond the texting revolution. Today, teenage girls and young adult women like to see themselves as unchained from a long history of sexual and gender repression. Then they hover over phones, anxiously awaiting a text from a guy that, when it arrives, amounts to one more version of, “what’s up?” It’s hard to see that as liberated.
Like Kendra, I advise girls to get the texting expectations on the table early, followed by intentions, sexual boundaries and other key relationship questions. Unfortunately, such direct communication sends many young men into a frightened tizzy, generating texts about “not putting a label on it,” “just having fun,” and “not really being into commitment,” squelching any notion a girl might have about an emotional connection. Boy-texts often increase late at night, which most girls accurately perceive as booty-calls. Yet they often respond, generating more of the same, with little fulfillment. If you’re hooking up with someone, or even heavily talking, you HAVE a relationship with that person and some rules should apply. Saying something isn’t something doesn’t make it nothing.
As but one of a hundred recent examples, a girl asked several times whether a guy’s text-absences meant he was not interested in her. “Just tell me,” she wrote. “It’s okay.” Several times he asked why she would ask such a crazy thing. “Of course I like you,” he texted. Then he’d go dark again. Two weeks after the third iteration of this peculiar exchange, she saw on Facebook that he’d moved to Texas.
I suggest you and your girls get together and make a pact. From now until you’re 30, set a few expectations for boys and lay those out clearly. In response, guys can learn to send cute texts (and do cute things in real life) to try and get you interested in them. Or they can give their true love to "Call of Duty," or maybe flee to Texas. Even if you lose a whole string of guys that way, have you really lost anything at all?
Try this and maybe you and your girls can become truly liberated. TTYL.
— Wes Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP, is author of “Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Teens” and “Real Life Advice for Parents of Teens.” Learn about his practice Family Psychological Services at dr-wes.com. Kendra Schwartz is a Lawrence High School senior. Send your confidential 200-word question on adolescence and parenting to firstname.lastname@example.org. Double Take opinions and advice are not a substitute for psychological services.