TEENS: As another new school year begins, it’s time to point out to what extent peer pressure plays a major role in the lives of literally almost every single teen. Over the years, I’ve read dozens of surveys confirming that the responding teens surveyed felt pressured to join peers in activities such as smoking, taking drugs, consuming alcohol and having sex at very young ages. Sadly, many teens have difficulty resisting these types of activities, especially when directly exposed to peer pressure. And other surveys of young adults in their 20s and 30s really exposed the remorse these respondents still feel due to certain behavior they exhibited in their teen years, often as a direct result of caving in to peer pressure.
Teens: remember to control your own behavior and life. It’s a precious gift, and only you can truly look out for yourself and your body on a daily basis. Trust your own individual compass, and do not partake in activities you normally would never consider simply because others are doing so. Do not cave in to peer pressure. Your future adult self will truly value and appreciate this.
DR. WALLACE: I am a mother of four; I respect your advice and feel it will be most helpful as my children approach their teens. However, I don’t understand why you encouraged a young lady to attend her five-year high school reunion, even though she was unpopular and had a miserable four years in high school.
I, too, was fairly unpopular at a very large high school. The popular cliques weren’t mean; they basically ignored me. I simply didn’t exist to them, or if I was noticed, it was as if I was a pest to be swatted away. I was considered a minor annoyance. Because I was idealistic and thought things would be better because we’re all adults now, I attended my 10-year reunion and had a nice time socializing with the friends I kept in touch with.
But the majority of the class milled about, seeing who married better, who had the biggest house, made the most money, drove the fanciest car, has the cutest children or the biggest diamond.
I was still the same unpopular girl from high school. My “hellos” were either ignored or quickly dismissed. And people called me by the wrong name even though we only had about 90 students in our entire graduating class. The food was terrible, and the music was rotten, so to my little group of friends, it was an utter waste of time and money to attend. I could have spent the same money and simply dined out with my group of friends without seeing people I care nothing about.
My 20th reunion is approaching, and you can bet I won’t waste my money to go just to find out who has grandchildren, gained weight, lost their hair, filed for bankruptcy, gotten divorced or became a millionaire. I have no desire to see people I haven’t spoken to in years.
Why do you think it was so important for this young lady to attend her reunion? Do you really think any of those people who snubbed her in high school are going to suddenly say, “Gee, you look great right now and are so successful, so I want to be your friend now as an adult”?
I know I sound bitter, and I’m sure I’m somewhat resentful, but I didn’t have a happy high school career. But I don’t cry over not having these popular people as friends. It’s too late for me to try to relive high school by being buddies now. — Moving On, via mail
MOVING ON: I’m sorry your 10-year reunion provided virtually no departure from your unhappy high school days. Usually after a decade has passed, people have matured enough not to fall into juvenile patterns of exclusion. Either that didn’t happen with your classmates, or you attended the event expecting the worst and managed to find exactly that.
If you feel you have put your past unhappiness behind you, fine: don’t attend another high school reunion. But if the pain and resentment from those days are still active, the best way to transform those feelings may be to create a different relationship with some of your old classmates. For your 25th reunion, volunteer to work on the organizing committee; you might find yourself pleasantly surprised if you take a more active role the next time around.
DR. WALLACE: My family and I recently moved to a new city. I enjoy my new school — I even took a summer school class to get to know some new people — but I’m having a problem with my new best friend. It seems that with everything I do or say, she claims she has already done it or says what I’ve done is “no big deal.”
Let me give you an example. Before I moved here, I owned a horse. I loved her very much and was upset when we had to sell her. When I told my new friend that I had previously owned a horse, she said she wants to own two horses. If I say anything at all about any subject or topic, she has to top it.
Not only this, but anything and everything I do or accomplish, no matter how small, is met with her claims of doing the very same thing previously but better! Why is this girl always trying to outdo me on everything? Do you think I should look for another best friend? I do like her a lot apart from this one issue, but I’m very tired of listening to her constant exaggerations and one-ups. What should or can I do about this? — New Friend at a New School, via email
NEW FRIEND: It’s very possible that your new girlfriend suffers from a lack of self-esteem. She feels she can earn your respect if she can make you believe she has accomplished more than you.
Have a talk and discuss this with her. Tell her you care for her friendship, but you don’t enjoy her I-can-do-anything-better-than-you attitude. If she continues to “overstate” her accomplishments, find another best friend but continue to be friendly to this first girl from a bit of a greater distance. If that happens, it might just be a good learning experience for her.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.