A lot of times, teenagers think they have the world figured out. And occasionally, their less experienced eyes see the world a little more clearly than jaded adults a generation or two older than them. On the subject of teenage dating, though, I’d be willing to be that’s almost never the case.
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a crime. I was the same way when I was a teenager. I assumed the world worked one way and it didn’t. I had in my head how a guy goes about winning a girl’s heart, and my attitudes were often based on love stories I had encountered in the various media.
Romantic Movies and Teenagers
When teens begin to date, they naturally have fewer experiences to draw on that people who have been in the dating pool for 10-20 years. Some are going to learn quick, from their own trial-and-error and from seeing how their friends’ relationships go. But another major source of knowledge about dating do’s-and-don’ts come from what they see in the pop culture, which is usually dead wrong.
Teenagers who take what they see on television and in movies for the “love gospel” are going to have trouble on their teen dates and their teen relationships. That’s because Hollywood depictions of teen romance tend to be idealized versions of what the writers and directors would have liked their own teenage experiences to have gone. Writers and directors are artists and – truth be told – a huge percentage of them are what would have been considered geeks in high school. So the stories they write are often what they tried – and what failed – in high school.
A Story About Teenage Dating
What makes me write this?
Well, I was thinking about teen dating recently, because of the dating disasters a teenager I know. This kid makes all the mistakes that a teen shouldn’t make when trying to get a date in high school, and he simply refuses to listen to reason. Most of this is because he think he knows better than everyone around him how to win a girl’s heart. I would argue these attitudes are because he’s watched on too many teen romantic comedies.
Teen Sex Comedies
Let’s sketch the outline of an average teen sex comedy. There are a group of dorky high school guys. The plot of the movie revolves around the desire to get a date, or to have sex. At least one of these guys is moping around because he has a thing for some cute girl in his class, but she doesn’t know he exists. Another variation is that she’s a good friend, but she doesn’t know he’s got a thing for her.
In either case, this guy mopes around for 3/4ths of the movie, while his friends are trying to get him to either a) look at other girls, b) get him “laid” by another woman or c) forget about all that and party before high school or the weekend ends. Eventually, this guy ends up making himself look like a fool for most of the movie, but eventually summons up the nerve to either ask this girl out or tell her he’s “love her” for four years. Despite coming off as a real loser and having the girl blow him off for the cooler, better dressed, better looking guy, the woman falls for it.
That’s the Hollywood version of the teen romance. I’m sure it happens like that occasionally in real life, but for the most part, it’s a fool’s paradise. That’s the way the writer of the script would have liked it to have happened somewhere in his life, but the long, soulful speech just doesn’t always work the way it’s planned.
With that in mind, let’s get back to this teen I know.
Sean and Andy
Let’s call this teenager “Sean”. Let’s call his older friend or mentor “Andy”.
Sean is “in love” with this girl at his high school. She wants to party and see other guys, and Sean is torn up about it. Sean’s plan is to wear this girl down with long speeches about how he loves her, essentially appealing to a combination of pity and gratitude to get her to go out with him. As can be expected, this isn’t working out too well.
Meanwhile, Andy (and friends) have told Sean that’s he’s being an emo and that girls aren’t likely to respond to his guilt trips and long speeches full of pathos. Women like a challenge, and women like a mystery. Most women (like most men) have insecurities and they want to be around men who make them forget or feel better about those insecurities. They are attracted to men with confidence and men who might have other things going for them besides their “undying love”. Attraction is about having a quality that people want to be around, whether that’s good looks, lots of friends, status, money or simply being fun to be around.
Appeals to pity and guilt don’t fit into that picture.
I Love You, So You Have To Love Me
Sean’s having none of that, though. He says that he can’t understand why this girl he likes wants to be dating “some other guy” and “this jerk” when she should be in love with him. Sean says he tells her over and over that he loves her and he makes these amazing speeches about his feelings, and he refuses to listen when Andy tells him he is doing the absolute worst thing to win a girl’s heart (well, second worst actually – at least he’s talking to her, I guess). “She has to love me,” he says.
Obviously, you can see what’s probably going through the woman’s mind: obsessive loser.
Sean has nothing better to do than waste his time with heavy-handed speeches and hand-wringing, driving away the very person he’s trying to attract. As I wrote before, he has it all wrong.
Dating Advice For Teens
So if you’re a teen guy, just remember that life isn’t a movie. Hollywood is how we would like things to be, but it doesn’t always go that way. You don’t walk out of a movie and say, “Yeah, I could dodge machine gun fire from a dozen terrorists and drop them with 11 bullets and one snap of a neck.” So don’t come out of the next teen romance thinking that’s the way to win a girl’s heart.