More advice to 15-year-old girls

I’m a 50-year-old bisexual woman who has had more than my share of interesting male lovers, and I’m currently happily monogamous with the guy of my dreams. This is my advice to 15-year-old girls:

1. Befriend members of the opposite sex. Guys are people too. They have feelings, ideas and interests. Know them as individuals. See them for who they are. Curb the fantasies. Cinderella is a fairy tale. Honest.

2. Have a life — a real life. Don’t revolve your life around looking for the Guy.

3. Cultivate interests in "guy" things. Consider becoming a carpenter, a mechanic, riding motorcycles, playing rock music, taking up martial arts. That’s where you will meet lots of het guys. You won’t meet them in ballet classes, or at fashion shows.

4. It’s good to take care of your health and your appearance — eat right, exercise, wear clothes that look good on you. But no guy wants to wait a half an hour while you apply makeup. Don’t obsess over insignificant details.

5. Be independent. Take care of yourself. Earn your own money. Own your feelings. Think your own thoughts.

6. Be trustworthy. An intimate relationship is sacred. Don’t tell your girlfriends everything that happens with you and the Guy.

7. Understand what makes you tick sexually. And go for it, ask for it, initiate it. Enjoy.

8. Understand that most relationships are not forever — they have a beginning and an end. The fact that something ends does not negate the time you spent together. Forgive, move on, and if appropriate, stay in touch. Ex-lovers can make wonderful friends.

9. Disregard all this advice if you are looking to be a trophy wife, or to marry for money. I’m only talking about Love, Sex and Happiness. —Lucky In Love

Fifteen-year-old girls think they have to advertise, wear silly clothes, giggle and flirt. They think that being single is the end of the world. I know: It wasn’t that long ago for me. Dating baffled me; I was scared and lonely and thought I’d never meet anyone who would like me without me sacrificing most of my personality to attract them. After a steady stream of "boyfriends," many mistakes and a gradual realization that the nice boys liked me BECAUSE of my personality, I finally stopped believing that not having a boyfriend at 15 was the end of the world. It’ll happen. Give it time. Do things that make you YOU before you get desperate to find someone else. Be YOU — whether YOU are a nerdy secret bondage pixie or a wholesome gal with a collection of designer dildos — and it’ll happen before you realize it. —Been In Those Shoes

I realize that you only invited adult female readers to write in response to GAL’s plea for advice, but I thought I’d take initiative and write to you anyway. I’m a 15-year-old guy and my advice is this: A lot of teenage guys have a lot of trouble reading subtle hints from girls, especially girls they like. The best way to get a guy’s attention is to be obvious. Let him know that you’ve got a thing for him, and give him a chance to respond. Another thing that would be good is to initiate conversations. Despite what guys may say, a lot of us are really shy around girls, and if a girl initiates a conversation with us, we’ll feel a lot more comfortable talking to them, and telling them we’re interested in them. —Some Helpful Hints

The 15 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Was 15

1. Confidence is sexier than big boobs, a tiny waist or long blond hair will ever be.

2. Medicated face wash will save your life.

3. 15-year-old guys are just as shy around girls as girls are around them. Beware the 15-year-old guys who can kick game.

4. Making the first move is no longer taboo.

5. Chances are, he is not picking up on the subtle "I like you" signals you’re sending out. A smile here and "Hi" there will not be enough for him to know you like him; you may have to tackle him in the hallway with a note that spells it all out, in no confusing terms.

6. At 15, three weeks constitutes a "long-term" relationship.

7. Rejection is not the end of the world, unless you make it that way.

8. You have the boobs; you make the rules.

9. That being said, having the power of the boobs is like having the force; be careful how and when you use it.

10. Not all guys are created equal.

11. Your mom is right; that outfit DOES make you look like a whore.

12. There WILL be rumors.

13. Being fun and funny will get you further than being catty and bitchy.

14. He’s not as great as you think he is.

15. The most popular, pretty girl in school is just as awkward and confused as you are. —Adrienne H.

I work as a teen librarian, which means that a variety of 12-to-18-year-olds attempt to attract each other within earshot every day (it’s often as ugly as it sounds). I have three pieces of advice for your 15-year-old female reader. First, don’t forget about hygiene! I see a lot of girls who are so busy trying to catch some guy (or girl’s) eye that they forget the basics like, uh, showering and wearing deodorant. Second, don’t try to be something you’re not. I see a lot of girls that go the opposite end of the hygiene thing, and coat themselves with a layer of makeup that’s an inch thick. Wearing whore makeup and pants that fall four inches under your ass crack might get you attention, but trust me, girls, it’s not the kind of attention you want. And lastly, get a damn hobby or something! If you want to attract quality guys who are actually going to be interesting, stop giggling when they walk by and think of something interesting to talk about. Hope this helps! —Acronyms Are Tricky

What do I wish I knew at age 15? That I should live my life as if I would never have a man. I wish I had known that I should be financially self-sufficient, that I should cultivate interests in things I enjoy, that I should grow friendships that will stand the test of time. I wish I’d known then that I should make a life for myself that I enjoy and find fulfilling. And then if a guy comes along who can complement, not substitute for, my life he is the gravy, not the whole damn meatloaf.

And I wish I had known, and this is important, that a good, emotionally healthy man will appreciate me for being a human being with a full life outside of any sexual or romantic relationship. Any man who expects less is not someone I want to waste a Saturday night on, let alone the rest of my life. —Joyful In Baltimore

It’s been 55 years since I was 15 and although I know many things have changed, I’m betting that getting a boy’s interest is much the same. Be friendly toward boys in an honest and open way. Practice a genuine smile and use it. Talk to boys that you know and show interest in what they have to say. Keep an open mind about which boys you might like to know better. Don’t set your heart on the cute football player and ignore the quiet guy who sits behind you in math class. Don’t go after a boy who is dating someone else. Remember that boys make great friends and that is just as important as having a "boyfriend." For now, stick with boys within a year or two of your own age. You can branch out later when you have more experience. Don’t walk, run from a boy who makes fun of you, doesn’t want you to have other friends, or hurts you physically in any way. If he won’t leave you alone, get help from an adult. If you do start "going out" with a boy, be sensitive to the cost of dating. Share expenses and look for activities that do not cost much. Don’t be in a hurry to become intimate. If you feel that things are moving in that direction, talk it over with someone you trust. Get your birth control information from someone older who you know has the facts and do those things you need to do to protect your health and your future.

Remember that not all your relationships will work out. There will be some heartache along the way, but this is a wonderful and exciting time in your life. If you develop honest and open relationships with boys now you will be setting a good standard for the rest of your life. —Jan

Two words: Skin care. It sucks to look 35 when you’re only 24. Just because you have acne now, girls, that doesn’t mean it won’t clear up later. Keep it clean, moisturized and use sunscreen! And not just when you go to the beach, but a mild SPF on even overcast days will keep your skin healthy. —Skin Care Nazi

I’m an adult female reader, and this is what I know now that I wish I knew when I was 15:

I wish I hadn’t rushed into having sex with a partner. The orgasms I was able to give myself at 15 were great fun, and I was incredibly creative in finding new ways to make myself come. When I started having sex it was with other teenagers, and the orgasms were few and far between. And the sex really wasn’t all that fun. —Wishing She Could Turn Back Time

It doesn’t matter if you are skinny, fat, braces, glasses, unpopular, or the most popular girl in school, because when you get out of school, none of this matters anymore. What men want is a woman that believes she is attractive. The more attractive you feel, the more attractive men will find you.

That said, I recommend…

1) Exercise. Men like healthy women. Please notice that I didn’t say skinny women, but healthy women. If you exercise and eat healthy, your skin will be bright and smooth, you will feel better about yourself, and you will be active, which all men find attractive.

2) Read. Real men like smart women.

3) Confidence. This is really the most important. If you think that you are a "good catch," men will too. —A Confident Woman In Boston

My insecurities at 15 centered on my physical appearance. I am not a "conventionally attractive" girl and when I was younger I always assumed boys would have to be forgiving of my physical self and let my personality and intellect win out. It wasn’t until college (college!) that I realized I was wrong. I met a guy to whom I represented the aesthetic ideal, and he made this abundantly clear to me while we were together. I wish I had been able to figure out that everyone is someone’s aesthetic ideal on my own and a hell of a lot sooner. It boosted my confidence and allowed me to give a big "fuck you" to the beauty myth. So my advice to the young ones is likewise to give a big "fuck you" to the beauty myth. If your column has taught us nothing else, Dan, it’s that preferences, be they preferences in physical appearance or sexual practice, are individual matters. —Sexy In Some Circles

Here is what I wished I knew when I was 15: Some guys will fuck mud. Just because a guy is willing to have sex with you, it’s not indicative that he likes your personality or finds you physically attractive. That being said, it’s really not that hard to get guys to sleep with you. Lots of guys probably already want to, they just aren’t saying so.

However, and herein lies my most important point… no matter how much porn or Our Bodies, Ourselves or Savage Love you read, it doesn’t mean you’re prepared to deal with the emotions that can come with having sex. I found that out the hard way and I’d rather that other girls don’t have to go through the same thing. —Rachel F

Guys don’t want to hear about shopping. They don’t enjoy incessant giggling. They don’t like clingy chicks. Have a life. Do things you like to do. Watch some football once in a while. When you’re around guys, be yourself, don’t turn into a giggling idiot. —LF

The best advice I ever got was when I was in my 20s, and I was able to pass it on to my 14-year-old sister (poor kid went to Catholic school, didn’t even know what a clitoris was!): A hard-on is not terminal.

Just because a boy is suffering from a bad case of wood poisoning doesn’t mean you have any obligation to go further than you are comfortable. Even if he whines. Even if he begs. And if he gets rough, get outta there! But, honestly, don’t feel guilty, his erection is not your responsibility; he’s got lots of experience taking care of himself. —Just Another Dame, Enjoying Dick

A few things I wish I knew at 15:

1. Any teenage male that says he "just wants to hold you," and doesn’t want to make out for fear of "ruining the friendship," isn’t extremely sensitive, he’s extremely gay. Or he finds you extremely unattractive. Either way, don’t waste your youthful energy spooning in his bed. You could be out there with some hot guy who really digs you.

2. You should get as much pleasure from making out/having sex as he does, and you shouldn’t force yourself to do anything that feels uncomfortable, gross, or poorly executed. When that guy is pushing your head down into his crotch, your instinct that it isn’t sexy is in fact correct.

3. There is no need to sit through a fumblefest pretending to sigh. "Sex" doesn’t constitute a dude rubbing against something until he blows his wad.

4. Enjoying sex doesn’t make you a slut. It makes you normal and healthy.

5. Sperm is not a supernatural substance capable of leaping buildings and burrowing through your pajamas and underwear to force its way into your fallopian tubes and make you a teen mother. A condom will do the trick, though the pill is excellent backup when dealing with clumsy boys. —Wishin’ Immature Girls Got Lovin’ Every Day

I was a bitter virgin till I was nearly 21. Then I left the country and found a lonely Canadian prone to drinking and D&D and fell in love. I was old enough to not sell myself short and mature enough that when he told me after a few months of living together that he likes to shove dildos up his butt, I could tell him honestly that there was nothing that he could do alone that we couldn’t do together. What’s more, since he knew how to stick things up butts so well (having practiced on his own ass for years), when he said, "Can I stick it up your butt?" I considered it, along with his expertise, and agreed.

In short, when you yourself mature to a certain level, you’ll have a better chance of finding a guy who’s also at that level. —Captivated Lover Of All Cavities Available

I wish I knew then that abusive boyfriends can be "nice" guys who seem to really love their girlfriends, but neither of those facts make their behavior any more acceptable. I’m sure my health-class curriculum included the obligatory, "If he hits/forces himself onto/shames you, he doesn’t love you and is abusive" lecture, but no one ever told me that nice, loving boys shouldn’t be tolerated either if they are abusive, even if it "only" happens occasionally.

When I was 15 and desperate to be loved, I didn’t walk away from a certain boyfriend because he wasn’t a monster like abusive boyfriends I’d been warned about. He was sweet, funny, smart and fucked-up. I thought that because he wasn’t mean he just needed saving and that it was my responsibility to stay with him and not abandon him because of his "illness." I should have stuck to taking care of myself instead, because no matter how much I loved him, the help he needed was far beyond me. I let him hold me back in the name of "love." Big mistake. —T.

I am a 14-year-old guy. In regard to the 15-year-old girl seeking advice about getting guys, I have one thing to say: JUST ASK US OUT. Many of us will say yes, especially the lonesome bookworm guys that are too shy to ask a girl out (like moi). I’ve secretly yearned for a girl since the hormones kicked in, and I’d love it if some girl came up to me and asked if I wanted to go to a movie. —Yearning For A Date

My advice: Sit in their laps. It worked for me. But choose the laps carefully. Sit in one or two laps at most. Any guy you date at 15 is an experiment, not your husband. So just choose someone nice, someone you feel won’t reject you, or abuse you. Then take it slow. Make out a lot in places where you can’t get fully naked. Get to know them, and get to know your self. Masturbate to orgasm. Then show Mr. Nice Guy how it’s done.

Remember, though, its just practice. You can make mistakes! —Nice And Easy

Something I wish I had known when I was 15: If a guy tells you he just wants sex and isn’t interested in a relationship, believe him. Also, don’t fuck guys who have girlfriends; it will end badly. And if you just want to meet hot guys, join the Army. Most of them are douchebags, but if all you want is sex, the 85-percent-hot-guys aspect of the Army still gives you pretty good odds. —Rose

My daughter — who is also 15 — has finally developed a social life. Nothing much is going on; she’s still wearing her retainers and she usually goes out with groups of kids instead of individual ones. But boys are looming on the horizon. Your question "What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were 15?" made me sit down and write my 10 Rules down for her and all the other girls out there. Here they are:

1) Sex is just like eating, breathing, peeing, or anything else your body does, except more fun.

2) If you’re not having fun, stop.

3) Porn isn’t reality, it’s show business.

4) Its okay to enjoy sex with someone you’re not in love with, but don’t count on sex to make someone like you more.

5) Love isn’t what you think.

6) Nobody’s perfect.

7) Relax.

8) Drunk/stoned/impaired/coerced/unprotected sex is stupid.

9) If you do it in my bed I will kill you.

10) If you do it without rubbers I might not have to kill you. Oh. And…

11) Keep your hair off your forehead — you have such pretty eyes. —Your Loving Mom Send comments to [email protected]

About The Author

Dan Savage

Dan Savage is a sex-advice columnist, podcaster, and author, and has appeared on numerous television shows. His sex advice column “Savage Love” first appeared in The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, in 1991. The column is now syndicated across the United States and Canada. He has published six books...
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