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Try­ing to fit in with a crowd is the same as en­gag­ing in stupid/dan­ger­ous be­hav­ior. It is usu­ally the mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor. She is sus­cep­ti­ble to adopt­ing oth­ers’ judg­ment in the place of her own.

I think you have the right gen­eral idea in be­ing sup­port­ive, but I think specif­i­cally you missed a chance to tell her you read the email. If it was up on the screen, you weren’t snoop­ing. You didn’t re­al­ize it was private un­til you ac­tu­ally read it, right?

I also think — pure spec­u­la­tion — the abrupt trad­ing of one group for an­other, plus black clothes, equals a sub­tler trade: a re­jec­tion of the main­stream (blam­ing oth­ers) in place of the main­stream’s re­jec­tion of her (blam­ing her­self). This can in­spire her, fiz­zle out, or take her to a very dan­ger­ous place.

There’s no magic so­lu­tion to teenage doubt and anger, but she needs you: lim­it­ing her free­dom enough to in­hibit reck­less­ness, but not lim­it­ing her so much that she rebels; peg­ging new free­doms to good be­hav­ior and grades; sup­port­ing her healthy out­lets; lis­ten­ing, lis­ten­ing, lis­ten­ing.

You can use the e-mail to get it started: Ex­plain to her that you’re more afraid of lies than of bro­ken rules. More than any­thing, you want her talk­ing to you.

Adapted from a re­cent on­line dis­cus­sion: Carolyn:

I’m the mom of a 14-year-old who is try­ing to find her­self. She has started dress­ing all in black, has given up on try­ing to please the pop­u­lar set and is hang­ing with the theater-arts crowd. I’m rolling with it, try­ing to be sup­port­ive of her find­ing her own voice, etc. At home she seems like the same kid — lov­ing to fam­ily, pleas­ant to be around most of the time. I read an e-mail she left open on her screen that im­plied she had been ex­per­i­ment­ing with drugs. I brought up the sub­ject with­out ad­mit­ting I’d read the mail, and she de­nied it. I don’t know if she’s putting on a front to fit in with the cur­rent crowd, or re­ally en­gag­ing in stupid/dan­ger­ous be­hav­ior. How to pro­ceed?

Hous­ton Carolyn:

My usu­ally sweet beau of a few months is jeal­ous in ways that make no sense to me. He is wor­ried that I have enough straight male friends, but also jeal­ous of my gay friends, one in par­tic­u­lar. I’ve never en­coun­tered this be­fore, and am at a loss.

For an ar­tic­u­late guy, he’s re­mark­ably silent on the whys and where­fores on this topic. We’ve both talked about this re­la­tion­ship feel­ing re­ally spe­cial from the start, so what do you think might be go­ing on? He’s not ask­ing me to stop see­ing my gay friends, but I find my­self not men­tion­ing men in gen­eral be­cause we get stuck on th­ese jeal­ousy con­ver­sa­tions. That’s a flag I can’t ig­nore, but I don’t know what else to do.

Jeal­ousy Ques­tion

“Usu­ally sweet”? Three months haven’t earned a “usu­ally.”

Tell him you al­ready have found your­self with­hold­ing cer­tain things to avoid up­set­ting him, and this is un­ten­able and un­ac­cept­able. Ask him, plainly, to help you un­der­stand by ar­tic­u­lat­ing his con­cerns.

If you don’t re­spect what comes out — be it lame or, worse, an­other blank — then this “re­ally spe­cial” po­ten­tial was a false im­pres­sion. Jeal­ousy her­alds not only in­se­cu­rity, but also the kind of con­trol you’re al­ready see­ing. It’s a deal­breaker. Read the whole tran­script or join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days on www. wash­ing­ton­­cus­sions. Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Wash­ing­ton, D.C. 20071, or tellme@ wash­


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