You Asked It

Just Wondering

Advice about crushes, being called “sweetheart,” and ultra-negative friends.

jwfeat

I love my mother, and she is very accepting of me in most areas of my life, but she can’t seem to handle the idea of my becoming a sexual being. She doesn’t want me to read Reddit, Scarleteen, OR EVEN ROOKIE (and won’t buy me the Rookie Yearbooks) because they are, in her words, “inappropriate” for me. She regularly checks my internet history and acts as if I’m sick or perverted for wanting to learn about sex from healthy, positive sources. I’m not even remotely sexually active, and it’s not like I go around spouting sex-positive opinions in front of her, but my mother’s rejection of the very stuff that feeds the unique, artistic, creative parts of my brain makes me feel oppressed. I would like to have a reasonable discussion with her about all of this. Do you have any advice about what I can tell her? —Liberated & Humiliated, 15, St. Louis

First of all (and there’s a slim chance you don’t already know this, but just in case), L&H, I want to tell you about the wonderful world of private browsing. Most web browsers, including Safari, Firefox, and Chrome, have an option in the “File” menu that lets you look at websites without saving them to your browser history. In order not to arouse (hahaha) suspicion, use this feature only for forbidden sites and keep another, non-private window open in which you occasionally click around to more-innocuous sites. Then GO FORTH AND CHECK OUT ALL THE HOT ’N’ SEXY EDUCATION THE INTERNET HAS TO OFFER.

More important, though, I want to commend you for leaning more heavily on the “liberated” side of things than the “humiliated” part—it must be difficult to have a parent who is so profoundly dedicated to making a normal, healthy, and electrifyingly rad part of life feel shameful and wrong, and you seem to handle this with great thoughtfulness and maturity. Your mom should realize how lucky she is that you’re even trying to talk to her about this stuff to begin with! [In cartoon old-lady voice] When I was a teenager, my mom would kick my boyfriends out of the house if she caught us even cuddling under her roof. Instead of wanting to help her understand, I just started going to their houses instead. If I had been mature enough to actually talk to her instead of huffily slamming whatever bro’s car door in her face and otherwise pushing her out of my business, she and I both would probably have been much better off for it. Your mom, though misguided, is most likely coming from a place of love and concern for you, and although you disagree with her, it’s good to keep that in mind. #empathy #giveitupformoms #butseriouslyalsogiveitupforprivatebrowsingtho

I admire your patience and willingness to stay open with your mom, and am so glad that you have the presence of mind to understand that your interest in sex isn’t, like, “deviant” or anything—especially as you’re not even having it yet! If you think it’s possible to have an open discourse with her, next time she demeans your interest in a thing that most of us are literally programmed by our biology to be interested in, present her with the facts. Tell her that roughly 70% of people begin having sex during their teenage years, so your interest in it is far from abnormal. Tell her that knowing the safest methods for avoiding sexual risks like STIs and unwanted pregnancy—and how to have consensual, positive experiences—is important to you, even if you don’t plan on getting it on anytime soon, and that it should be to her too: According to this study, teenagers represent only a quarter of the sexually active population, but account for almost half of new STI cases each year, and one-fifth of all accidental pregnancies. Ask her in a non-accusatory way if she’d rather you not have the information you need to protect yourself while also letting her know that it’s unrealistic for her to expect you to stay a virgin forever. Say something like, “My health is important to me, and leaving my reproductive health out of that would be irresponsible. I don’t see anything wrong with my having the information I need to take care of myself.”

I also want to note that you aren’t required to have these conversations. In some (not all, but some) cases, it can be better to leave our parents out of the sex-loop, for everyone’s sanity. You say you’re not the one starting these conversations, either, and if your mom is constantly bringing up how sexuality is actually just perversion or whatever out of nowhere, that’s a little troubling to me. If she’s making you uncomfortable at any point, just firmly tell her you don’t want to talk about it anymore and/or leave the room, and if she continues to raise her disapproval with you after you tell her what your boundaries are, I would recommend mentioning her behavior to another trusted adult or two. (I know “trusted adult” is an oxymoron, especially when it comes to matters of ~the loins~, but just find someone who you think will listen to you without judgment.)

While you sound like you’ve already got this on lock, I worry that others in your situation might begin to internalize your mom’s brand of sex-negativity, and the LAST thing any girl needs is to hear from yet another source in the world that boning, or being interested in boning, makes you a morally bankrupt slut-witch. If trying to talk it out just isn’t working for you, drop it, and rely on the resources you’ve already found in addition to places like Planned Parenthood and discussions with responsible friends/adults to help answer your questions. And seriously, give that private browsing window the workout of its life. X ARS

It seems like men I don’t know always want to call me “sweetie” or other such pet names. For example, when I get on the bus, the driver always calls me “sweetie,” even though I have never introduced myself or made any indication that it is all right to call me this. This morning, I was leaving the dentist’s office and the nurse remarked that I had no cavities, which prompted a man sitting nearby to blurt out, “Good girl!” It happens other times as well, but the point is that it needs to stop. I feel demeaned and annoyed whenever strangers do this, but I don’t really know how I should respond. It always catches me off guard, and though I always try to ignore these people and/or look as annoyed as possible, I never feel like I’m making a difference. How do I respond to these comments in an effective way? —Mar, 15, Minneapolis

As a onetime 15-year-old living in Minneapolis, I extra-identify with you, Mar. People calling you “sweetheart” can be infuriating, and “good girl” is just condescending—you’re a young woman, not a toy poodle that just successfully pooped on command. These “pet names” get to me even more because they’re also a reminder that the world has taught the men who use them that their opinions on everything are of high value, while teaching you that these men’s praise (or even glancing regard) is supposed to be taken as a compliment. Like you, I’ve tried many different responses—on various occasions, I’ve said, “Go fuck yourself,” ignored the dude completely, and opted for a castigating “Really?” or “I’m not your sweetheart.” Just go with whatever feels right or honest to you in the moment, but unfortunately there’s no foolproof comeback in these situations.

If this is a problem with someone you see all the time, like your bus driver, would you feel comfortable just firmly saying once (which, hopefully, will be enough) that you don’t appreciate these nicknames? Try telling them your name is not “sweetie,” it’s Mar (if you’re OK with being familiar with them in that way—if not, just stick to the first part). Or just flip it back at them so they can see how ridiculous it is: “Since you feel comfortable calling me ‘sweetie,’ should I address you the same way?” Anything that can be done to make people understand how ridiculously they’re behaving is a good way to get them to stop. But in the end, it’s not your job to explain it nicely. You are entitled to let these folks receive the reaction they earned by showing them how irritated you are when they call you these things. —Jessica

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16 Comments

  • Lillypod December 25th, 2013 1:11 AM

    ugh yes my skin crawls when some dude calls me —-YOUNG LADY — that has to be the grossest one of all..

  • uuultraterrestrial December 25th, 2013 9:33 AM

    Ugh to the pet name thing- it bothers me too, depending. I work in a call center and older folks call me sweetie and honey all the time. When it’s a younger person, especially a man, it does become gross and unwanted, but I think older folks are just trying to be sweet and friendly most of the time.

    I really find it difficult to be rude to people who have no idea (probably) that what they’re doing could be construed as offensive , so I’d probably say “I prefer to be called___” and leave it at that.

  • flocha December 25th, 2013 10:32 AM

    Agh thank you for the thing about when people call you pet names it’s actually really creepy but apparently it’s ‘rude’ to get annoyed because they’re being ‘friendly’

    http://whimsicalprocrastination.blogspot.co.uk

  • Jtm315 December 25th, 2013 11:20 AM

    The worst is when you get those pet names from someone (a stranger) YOUR age…. Ugh. It feels so condescending.

  • Isil December 25th, 2013 12:37 PM

    Mariana, please don’t behave like a person you aren’t. Do not try to be “more girly” or “simple minded”. If you haven’t found the person who will love you as who you are, that does not mean that you have to change. I’m sure you are amazing as the way you are. A friend of mine hadn’t had any boyfriends or even dates until the age 20, just like you. And now she has a really healthy relationship and her boyfriend respects her in every way.

    http://isilmonika.tumblr.com
    http://isilnoir.wordpress.com

  • shaaash December 25th, 2013 1:07 PM

    PET !! NAMES !! ARE !! SO !! GROSS !!!!!
    http://gnarlyghost.blogspot.com/

  • lizabeth December 25th, 2013 2:26 PM

    I absolutely DESPISE being called sweetheart, sweetie, etc. by anyone. It’s always said in the most belittling and condescending ways. Bitchface works really well in these situations :p

  • loonylizzy December 25th, 2013 6:17 PM

    I have the same problem as SMF, except my friend’s family doesn’t believe in mental illness and won’t take her to get help, and she’s a minor without access to reliable transportation so she can’t go to a therapist without her family’s support. I’m doing all that I can to help her, but it’s getting to the point where I’m her friend, mother, and therapist all at the same time, and it’s really emotionally taxing. I just can’t bring myself to back down on our relationship because I’m afraid she’ll do something terrible to herself if I do, but she really needs professional help! Does anyone have advice for me or her?

    • Anaheed December 25th, 2013 6:43 PM

      Is there a counselor at her school?

  • michelley-elley-elley December 25th, 2013 8:29 PM

    I have personally always liked being called pet names/terms of endearment. I come from a household where the names I get called aren’t usually very nice ones, so being called “sweetheart” or “honey” or something like that is usually well received by me. I completely understand why it makes many girls uncomfortable and it can certainly be used in a demeaning way but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy it. I always feel a little guilty for liking it because as a feminist I should want to be called by my real name, and don’t get me wrong I prefer to be called by my real name, but it’s just never bothered me.

    • GigiGigi December 25th, 2013 10:06 PM

      I totally get you. Sometimes when no one takes the time to call you something appropriate you just become accustomed. Then someone calls you ” sweetie” and you feel like not everyone is as rude as the people you interact with on a daily basis at home. tbh, I don’t think it detracts from your feminism, it’s just your personal preference.

      • michelley-elley-elley December 25th, 2013 11:14 PM

        Exactly! Thanks for understanding and respecting my opinion, I really appreciate it :)

  • julalondon December 25th, 2013 10:44 PM

    I feel like the “Sweetheart”-thing is such an American/English thing..in Germany where i grew up no one ever calls you names like that, but when i was living in England and working as a Sales Assistant i got called “Lovely”/”Beautiful”/Darling” A LOT and it freaked me out sometimes, especially because i SO WASN’T used to it!

    As for the depressed-friend-thing; i feel you!! After my best friends mum died i suddenly became her therapist/mum which was ok, because, when something that terrible happens to you your friends have to be there for you. We just got to a point where we BOTH got very negative about everyone and everything around us and started to abuse alcohol so that MY OWN mum had to help us BOTH. So please, take care about YOURSELF as well and not only look after your friend!! <3

  • kelsey December 26th, 2013 2:29 AM

    GAH! “girly” and “simple minded”???? Yeesh!
    To the gal worried about not dating at 19: I found my first boyfriend at 21, and he LIKES girls who are more weird and androgynous. He says he finds them intriguing – “girly” types are not his cup of tea. Which CATEGORICALLY PROVES that changing yourself into something “guys like” (besides being a bummer) won’t work – because guys are just as complex and unique as ladies are, and they all want different things.

    Never settle for changing yourself to be with someone. It’s so much better when you hang in there and find someone who likes YOU.

  • Isabellla December 28th, 2013 6:30 AM

    I wish I had this article to read when i was trying to cut back on seeing my negative friend! Just a lil warning though, when I did, she didn’t react well at all and pretty much said I was really selfish and that i ‘deserted her’. So maybe I didn’t go about it in the right way. But sometimes, when you are talking every day it’s kind of like just cutting it back a little bit can feel v. drastic… so my advice 2 you is put yourself first. It’s not selfish in my eyes, because if you need to do that to protect your own happiness it’s probs. a signal that the friendship isn’t super healthy anyway. I guess if you decide to cut down communication just be aware that the friendship could become very different- but that’s most probably not a bad thing!

  • EmilyInWonderland February 20th, 2014 12:05 AM

    <3