Should you date someone else while you wait for the right one?

Mandhie asks: I am 16 years old. I know this scientific thing that, as a teenager, you are supposed to feel the urge of having a boyfriend or girlfriend someday, but it is actually not love but lust. Shirelle, about this boy I always talk to you about – the one whose mum calls me daughter-in-law, and who I wish would hold my hand and all? Recently you remember I told you he was angry with me because I put our picture on Facebook; well, he later told me on my birthday that he was not angry and called me “dear!” That is the first sweet word he has ever said to me. He made my birthday by just that one word. We chatted and I was happy but then I sat down to think – why did he all of a sudden call me dear and act so nice? Shirelle, I have a feeling he is beginning to like me, and I never want to give up because I want him to be my boyfriend, and my husband someday. My friend told me, since I am not sure as to whether he likes me, I should get a date so that at least I will have some experience, but I told her no, because I hated the idea, and, as I already said, I want that guy to be the only boy in my life. So what can I do to make him like me more, and also stay closer to him? And meanwhile, is the scientific thing I talked about happening to me? Why do I feel like having a boyfriend now?

Hi Mandhie –



Okay, so this is good news! At last this boy is noticing you. The bad news is that I can’t exactly tell you what to do next, because it really depends on him. Some humans pull away a bit after being nice to someone, and then need to get some space. Others feel “Okay, I’ve let her know how I feel, so now I need her to respond in a way that shows me how she feels.” Probably the best answer is to do a mixture of the two – stay back, but if he looks at you, give him a smile back.


I’m not quite sure what your friend is after. Is she thinking that this boy might never ask you out, so you’d better have a date before you’re an old granny of 17? Or is she thinking that you’ll be more attractive to this boy if you’ve already gone out with other guys? Either way, I don’t see any big reason for you to go out with anyone you’re not interested in. Of course if a boy asks you to a dance, and you want to go to that dance, there’s really no reason not to go. But it’d surely be better if you could be asked to the dance by THAT boy.


So how to achieve that? Well, there are lots of ways. All seem odd to me (if a dog wants to play with another dog, we just run right into them; it works great!). But probably the most common is to deal in secrets – get a friend of yours to find out from a friend of his if he’s interested in you. And if he is, then try to let him know through others that you might be interested in him too. Of course, the bad side of this is that you then have a lot of people who know your business, which could be embarrassing if things don’t go as you hope. But I’m always on the side of the brave who dare, especially when it comes to romance!


Now about this “scientific thing;” there are two actual biological factors that get teenagers super-interested in each other. One is that some human hormones kick in around age 11, and run crazy for a few years. This is when boys and girls turn into young men and women; body shapes change, voices change, hair starts growing more places, and reproductive systems kick into gear. And, yes, for most humans, people of the opposite sex suddenly become a LOT more appealing, in ways you never conceived of before!


Meanwhile, starting around age 8, human brains also become more focused on relationships with their peers, rather than just their families. And by age 14 or so, this means humans are downright obsessed with what’s happening at school, who’s in what groups, who’s going out with whom, who’s more socially up and who’s more socially down… all that stuff. So it’s not just that those hormones kick in and make you wonder what those boys might look like in the locker rooms – it’s also that you want the social connection, the prestige, the security, that having a boyfriend provides.


All of this is totally normal. You’re doing great, Mandhie, and I have huge hopes that that boy will come around and ask you out. Then, whether you want to make it ‘official’ and become boyfriend and girlfriend, or not – all that matters to me is that you do what’s best for you, and what makes you happiest.


But for right now, in this moment, all I can say is… YIPPEEE!!!!


Good Luck!



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