Dear Readers: Every year I step away from my daily column to work on other creative projects. I’ve gathered some topical “Best Of” columns from 10 years ago. Today’s compilation deals with questions related to teenagers. I’ll be back in two weeks with fresh columns.
Dear Amy: I am a girl in my junior year of high school, and the volleyball coach won’t let me compete until I shave my underarms and legs (our uniforms are sleeveless tops and shorts).
I don’t want to be forced into something I feel is completely unnecessary. Is this discrimination? Is there anything I can do? I really want to play volleyball! — Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Dear Gone: If your coach also insisted that the male volleyball or basketball players must shave their underarms and legs, then perhaps this wouldn’t qualify as discrimination.
I shared your letter with Lenora Lapidus, director of the Women’s Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, who responded, “This is clearly gender discrimination, based on stereotypes of how girls and women should look.” Lapidus would like to remind your coach that Title IX prohibits discrimination in any institution receiving federal funds.
Lapidus suggests you start by talking to the coach. “Try to work it out at school. It seems like something they should come around about because this is fairly clear-cut.”
If your coach insists on this shaving rule, take it to the principal.
I hope you will stand up for your right not to be forced to shave.
Dear Amy: I have an older brother. He and I are close. I usually hang out with him and his friends. They’re all teens. His friends are really nice, but when we are in school, they sometimes ignore me when they see me. I feel confused about why they act like that.
Whenever we go out and do stuff together, they talk to me, but when we are in school, it’s like I’m invisible. What is wrong with me? Is something wrong with them? — Confused
Dear Confused: There is nothing wrong with you, and there is nothing wrong with them. They’re being unexceptionally normal. They have temporary teen-onset family blindness. They are going through a phase.
Their behavior isn’t personal. You probably notice that your brother also ignores your parents when you’re out in public together?
To sum up: Sometimes it’s no fun to be related to a teenager.
Dear Amy: I am a secretary at your average middle school. The other secretary and I have noticed an alarming trend: Children of the cellphone generation do not know how to use a landline phone!
Students are not allowed to use their cellphones during school hours, but they can use the office phones to call home. This is what concerns us: They do not listen for a dial tone. They do not know to dial one before the area code and number. They do not know their home number or the number of a parent’s cellphone, because they are used to scrolling through their cellphone to find it.
Parents need to review this with their children. — School Secretary
Dear Secretary: I appreciate your suggestion, and so, parents, take a break from the other challenging parenting issues: The “sex talk,” the “drug talk,” the “online predators” talk, and show your kids how to use a landline phone.
Most importantly, make sure the kids know and memorize all the family phone numbers, which means that they will need to memorize a series of cell numbers. This is vital.
After this lesson in “old school” technology, you can introduce these schoolchildren to the mysteries of the old Selectric typewriter: Kids! It’s a keyboard and a printer rolled into one!
Dear Amy: I agree that memorizing important phone numbers and knowing how to dial a landline are good skills. I would add one more: When my daughters flew as unaccompanied minors, I bought them a phone card and taught them how to use a pay phone and how to make a collect call. They are unique in their peer group to even know that there is something called a pay phone. — Fellow Luddite
Dear Luddite: Now that your kids know how to use a pay phone, I wish them luck in finding one to use, so you should also train your children on how to be discerning in finding an adult to help them, if they’re in a jam. To quote one of my heroes, Fred Rogers, “Look for the helpers.”