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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Looking for Love on All the Wrong Pages

If you work with tween and teenage girls (or if you ever WERE a tween/teenage girl), you might know that they can't get enough of those ubiquitous advice books written specifically for their age group. And why shouldn't they enjoy reading them? The books are entertaining and helpful. We could all use a little guidance in our lives, right?  (I certainly could, and probably more so now than when I was a teen.)

I recently found a page of one of these advice books on the floor of the library. Presumably, it was ripped out to be hung up on some girl's bulletin board next to a picture of Justin Bieber. (That's who the kids like these days, right? God, I'm old.) As you can see from the photo below, this particular section of the book was designed to help girls find their best love match by telling them specific places to "troll" for dates based on their interests. 

Wait, really? Helping young girls understand and explore their new and potentially confusing feelings is one thing, but do we really want to encourage them to go trolling for dates? Shouldn't they be studying, hanging out with their friends,  and doing anything possible to NOT get pregnant?

Yes, of course. But you know what? This is a library-related blog. I won't pontificate on the possibly sexist and outdated subtext that I see in telling teenage girls to go looking for love in the first place. Instead, let's take a quick look at the "advice" being given:

Whoever read this last apparently wants to date a "sexy slacker." Good luck with that.

Back in the stone age when I first started to really like boys and actually TALK to them, I had a tendency to gravitate toward the funny/nerdy/band-geek type of guy. Subsequently, I can't speak to the effectiveness of trolling for teenage "strapping hunks" or "dashing daredevils" or "six pack sultans." Frankly, I feel weird just typing out these phrases, so I'm going to move on. (But I do sincerely hope that geek-boys were properly represented at some point in the book.)

I can tell you one thing: if you are trolling for love at the library, you may find an intellectual. And you will most definitely find a loner. But you are not going to find a dateable "intellectual loner" hiding somewhere in the stacks, just waiting for you to discover him and his horn-rimmed glasses and his overdue fine-free library card and his masculine sensitivity. (He's not there. I've checked. Perhaps try Starbucks.)

Want to know my honest, idealistic, and toooootally square advice for tween & teenage girls? Put the advice books down for a while. Go read some Lois Lowry or Judy Blume or Paula Danziger. Have crushes. Cultivate your interests. Be silly. Stay naive for just a little bit longer. Trust me, you'll have plenty of time to meet slackers and loners and hunks and sweethearts when you're older and jaded...I mean, wiser. *cough*


  1. Based on where I hang out I am a... huh.

  2. Thanks, Jana!

    Sean, there's really no sufficient term for what you are. :P

  3. I am so grateful that my 13 year old daughter:

    A) Thinks this list is hilarious
    B) Has little interest in a boyfriend
    C) Has little interest in a boyfriend (So I listed this one twice. Sue me. I'm like, REALLY grateful!)

  4. The ice cream shop? Is this book from the set of Happy Days?

  5. The obvious moral here: don't read books for good love advice, watch formulaic Hollywood romantic comedies instead.

  6. Hey, I found my boyfriend in a library. Though, not a public one. Maybe that's the key.

  7. Love this. I agree with you, Rita. I hate it that having a boyfriend is the most important thing in some young girls' lives. I couldn't have cared less...wait. Maybe that's why I'm single now.

    Whatever. I'm still happy. And I didn't get knocked up. :)

  8. Interestingly enough, I discovered my 16YO son really, really wants a girlfriend but sadly (for him, not me), most girls look at him as 'just a friend' and show no interest in dating him. When I showed him this list, he said, "I'd better stop hanging out at the lifeguard stand."

    Did I mention he's 6'1" and about 130 lbs? If there's a six pack anywhere, you'd need a magnifying glass to find it.

    He's got a great sense of humor and a smile that lights up a room. One day, he'll find a girl who appreciates him. Probably at the ice cream shop, which he now plans to hit every day.

  9. Patty, he will find a girl who ADORES him. The "just a friend" guys in high school usually end up being the good ones later in life.

    Thanks for all your comments, guys! I love reading them. (And Dan, if it feels so right, it can't be wrong.)

  10. Yes, Lois Lowry.

    She doesn't get nearly enough recognition.

  11. Great article, really fun read :)

    Also, as one of those loner boys in the library in high school, I can attest that young girls should wait until we male library nerds mature a bit. Until we learn, we are nothing really but bad poetry, poorly written D&D campaigns and/or over-loaded web page coding.

    What? I am being serious.

    It's an over-compensation thing that takes a while to get over. But you just wait, around our mid to late 20s we sprout a sense of irony that has nothing to do with PBR and the D&D campaigns are simply breathtaking. Well, they're all right for up to 5th level characters but if you... Hey, did you catch that baseball match, eh? Yeah...

  12. The art flick movie house? Aren't all those films Rated R? I had to get my aunt to accompany me to "Trainspotting." (It was weird.)