Debbie Reynolds Answers Your Questions About
I’m no expert on teen-age problems; at least I never thought of myself as such, but MODERN SCREEN feels I might be able to help some of you. I’ve read the letters you sent me and although of course it’s impossible for me to answer them all individually, I think just about everything is covered by the letters I’ve chosen.
It might interest you to know that whatever your problem is, it is shared by many your age. I was worried by some of the same things myself—and some of them I was spared. I can thank my mother for that, for she always managed somehow to have time to talk things over with me. She used to say, “If you want to try something new, just promise me you’ll do it at home. I don’t want you to feel you have to deceive me.” And so when I wanted to take a fling at adventures in the adult world I tried them out with my mother’s knowledge. Like that first cigarette. I smoked it, I got sick as a dog, and I haven’t had one since. My mother is a very wise woman, I think.
But now to answer your questions.
DEAR DEBBIE: My problem is whether or not to go steady. I’m sixteen and want to go steady with Tommy, who’s seventeen, but my parents want me to date other boys too. My sister and I argue about it all the time. She’s fifteen and sort of old-fashioned because she doesn’t believe in going steady until eleventh or twelfth grade.
Maybe you can settle it for all of us. How old do you think teen-agers should be before they go steady? And how long should they know each other before they go steady? If you don’t go steady, how many times a week should you date?
My sister wants me to ask you a question for her. If a boy gets serious and you feel you’re too young to be tied down, what do you say? SUE.
DEAR SUE: I’m afraid I’m a little old-fashioned, like your sister. I don’t believe you should go steady just for the sake of saying you do. If you are attracted to a young man and he’s fun to be with, you don’t have to make a pact in blood or call it going steady, in order to know you are going with him. In that way, if and when you want to break it off, it won’t seem like a miniature divorce.
Personally, I never went steady, and I never had the feeling that a great tragedy had struck if I didn’t have a date every Friday and Saturday night. I always had a good time, whether it was with boys in school or some of my best girl friends. I don’t feel that going steady is at all necessary. You’ll have much more fun if you date a variety of boys and stay fancy free until you’re engaged to be married.
Concerning the frequency of dates, I don’t think it’s necessary to date, at sixteen, more than once or twice a week. What is a girl who dates more often trying to prove?
As for your sister’s question, a boy shouldn’t get serious unless you allow him to. All you have to do is tell him, “I like you very much, but let’s not get serious. Let’s just enjoy each other’s company.” If the boy is as fond of you as he says, he should understand. I’ve found a fellow will treat a girl the way she expects to be treated.
DEAR DEBBIE: What do you do about kissing? Boys always want to kiss me goodnight and I don’t think this is proper. I try my best to discourage them but unfortunately they can’t seem to take a hint. I hate to be rude but I think the only way they’ll leave me alone is for me to tell them off. I don’t want to do this but it’s the only way I can see.
How do you say ‘no’ without hurting the boy’s feelings so that he won’t ask you out again? Do you agree with me that a boy shouldn’t try, particularly on the first date? And if you think it’s all right after a while, how old should a girl be before she lets a boy kiss her? (I’m fifteen.)
Many of my girl friends go with boys about sixteen, and I don’t think much of the boys because they’re so fresh. Then I’m called a square because I don’t swoon for them. GINNY.
DEAR GINNY: If you don’t think kissing is proper, you shouldn’t do it. And it isn’t a matter of how long you’ve known a boy—it’s how much you think of him.
When I was in high school it was a very rare thing when I kissed a boy goodnight at the end of a date. I had to know a boy very well before I felt it was something that was right for me to do. Because of that, I had no feeling of shame; only a feeling of growing up a little bit.
Kissing, I think, is a matter of individual conscience. If you don’t want a boy to kiss you but allow him to because you think it’s the thing to do, I think this is wrong. The boy will then think you do this with all your dates and will have no respect for you. If you refuse a nice boy he’ll like you all the better for it. If he isn’t so nice, you’re well rid of him. Next time that type calls, tell him you’re busy.
And if it will help, I was called a square hen I was your age, and I lived through it.
Should I try my heart?
DEAR DEBBIE: I’m seventeen and a junior in high school. For a year I’ve liked a college freshman. We’ve dated only a couple of times but he writes me every week and tells me he’d like to see me more often but can’t get home from college. I know this isn’t so because my friends see him in town often, sometimes with another girl.
Since I met him I haven’t dated any other boys, but at a birthday party I met Johnny, who says things that let me know he likes me. Johnny is very popular in school and I’m not, so I’m afraid to like him. The other girls just roll when they hear his name. What should I do? Try to stay with the college boy or try my heart on Johnny? DODO
DEAR DODO: I think my letter to Sue should answer your question. Your college friend is obviously not inclined to tie himself down, so why should you? There’s little sense in sitting home mooning over one boy when you might be having fun going out with others. You don’t have to work up a romance with every date you have—being friends is just as much fun. And who knows? You might meet someone you like even better.
If Johnny asks you for a date, go out with him. Don’t be afraid to like a boy just because you aren’t yet popular. Maybe this will start you off and you’ll need an engagement book to keep track of your dates.
How do you talk to boys?
DEAR DEBBIE: I’m sure lots of teenagers have the same problem as I do. When you go out with a boy, how do yow act and what do you talk about? I know that a good listener is popular with boys, but I can’t go around being a quiet mouse all my life. I love to talk, and with girls I go a mile a minute, but words seem to fail me and I get panicky when I’m out with a boy. How do you stop worrying whether you’ve made a good impression? ELLEN
DEAR ELLEN: You’re quite right about others having your troubles. I received more letters about this problem than any other, and I know it’s because every girl has the same fear, at first.
I did too, but it didn’t last long because lack of conversation has never bothered me. However, you should keep in mind one very important thing. Chances are that your date is just as scared as you are, and probably more so. I remember on my first date when I was fifteen, I almost died of fright. And then about three years ago I saw this boy again. He’d been in and out of the Navy in the interim, and he reminded me of our first date. “Debbie,” he said, “I was so’ scared that night I could hardly talk. But you were so calm and unconcerned. I thought you were wonderful.”
“Calm!” I said. “I was petrified.”
So you see, it’s a common difficulty.
The best advice I can give you and all the others is to be yourself. If you talk a mile a minute with girls, you probably have a good personality, so try to relax with a boy. And stop thinking about the impression you’re making. If you keep worrying, it’s going to show.
Before you go out with him find out what he’s interested in—and whether it’s football, baseball or birds, bone up on the subject and bring it up yourself. This will relax him, and in turn make you more comfortable, too.
Just remember that you’re going through a stage that few escape, and that it won’t last forever.
Our parents won’t let us date
DEAR DEBBIE: Both my girl friend and I have trouble with our parents. We are fifteen and all our friends date, but our parents won’t let us. Margie’s mother isn’t so bad, but her father hits the roof if she so much as mentions a boy has asked her for a date. He disapproves whether or not he has met the boy, and Margie feels he wants her to stay locked up in the house and never look at a boy. She loves her father, of course, but he’s so possessive and Margie says she thinks he’s afraid to let her grow up. What should she do?
My own problem is that both my mother and dad refuse to let me date. They don’t seem to trust me. They wont let me go to the corner to mail a letter at night; they say it can wait until morning. I keep turning down invitations to dances, even when they know an older person is driving the car. I always sit home every evening and never have any fun. Debbie, could you help me find a way to convince my parents to let me go out once in a while, like the other girls?
Also, what time should a fifteen or sixteen-year-old get home from a date? NANCY
DEAR NANCY: I never had this problem with my parents, so what I know is a result of what I feel, not from experience. However, I do feel your parents are wrong in preventing you from dating a respectable boy, particularly on weekends. I see nothing wrong in going to a matinee or Saturday evening movie with a boy who has been introduced to your parents and approved by them.
A fifteen-year-old girl knows right from wrong. At least she should, and if her parents know this I think she should be allowed an occasional date.
I wish that parents would remember how important these things were to them when they were young and take time, as my own mother and father did, to talk things over with teen-agers. Would it be possible to discuss this thing with your parents as an adult, which you are just short of becoming?
As for the time allowed for a date, this is up to the parents. I should think you might be allowed time for a movie or dance or whatever is the occasion, plus about an hour for a coke or snack before you come home. I say this because this is the way my own mother worked it.
And I should add that she never had to worry that I might spend that social hour in any other way. I never approved of girls who sat in parked cars and necked. To be quite blunt about it, I was afraid of necking and tried to hide the fact by putting on a show of disliking it intensely. I was always like that, and it worked for me—maybe it might work for all of you.
Must I blind-date?
DEAR DEBBIE: I’d like to know what you think of the blind date problem. Does a teen-ager have to accept dates with boys of whom she knows nothing, and run the risk of getting into situations beyond her control?
If you think it’s necessary to accept a blind date in order to pacify friends, what would you say is the best kind? PAM
DEAR PAM: I went on one blind date, when I was nineteen. That was my first and my last. I don’t think I have to go any further into the subject.
If you feel you must accept a blind date suggested by friends, by all means make it a double date, or a triple date, with those same friends. I can’t emphasize too strongly that a girl should never go out alone with a boy she hasn’t met.
This boy won’t leave me alone
DEAR DEBBIE: What do you do about a boy who won’t leave you alone? I went with Chuck for a while and then we broke up. Now I’m going with another boy, and Chuck is trying to break us up. He bothers me by phoning the house all the time, and last week he came to the house, but my mother saw him first and told him I wasn’t home.
Last year I had a similar problem—with a boy I didn’t date at all. He hung around in front of the house at all hours, and sometimes followed me on the streets. His family moved to another town finally.
Can you give me any suggestions as how I might handle this, without hurting a boy’s feelings too much? SUSAN
DEAR SUSAN: You can’t handle it without hurting his feelings, and that’s that. I’ve always been blunt and have often been criticized for it, but I can’t help it—that’s the way I am. It came in particularly handy for pests. I used to say, “Please don’t bother me. I don’t want to see your face around here any more.”
I know that’s rude, but the pest is being rude, too. If you want to get rid of him you have to be perfectly honest and forget his feelings.
If by any chance such a blast from you doesn’t work, try conspiring with your dad. The next time the pest calls you, put your father on the phone. If your dad will bellow something to the effect that he doesn’t want Chuck bothering his daughter any more, that should frighten the boy into submission.
We’re worried about our looks
DEAR DEBBIE: I told my girl friends I was going to write you about my weight problem, and some of them asked me to include their own problems. First of all, I’m sort of fat—not too fat, but I know that boys like trim girls and I’d like to control my weight. I don’t have a glandular problem, but I just can’t stop eating sweets.
Bunny wants me to ask you about her freckles. She’d be very pretty if she didn’t have freckles (she has red hair), and she thinks boys don’t ask her for dates because of them.
Carol and Beth are both very tall. Carol has a boyfriend an inch shorter than she is and wants to know if you think she should go with him. Beth says she’s a wallflower at dances. She’s 5′ 10” and has to pretend she’s having a good time even though she’s really miserable.
Doris has crooked teeth and her father doesn’t have enough money to have them fixed. Could you tell her anything to help her? ALICE AND THE GANG
DEAR ALICE: If you have no glandular problem it’s obviously a matter of self-control. There is no magic formula; the awful truth is that no one can help you but yourself. You must be adult about this thing, and stick to a diet. Many people do it—movie stars diet—and while no one enjoys refusing food they like, a good figure is something to be proud of.
Tell Bunny I feel she’s worrying without cause. I think freckles are charming. Doris Day has lots of freckles. What do .you think of her?
Tell Beth and Carol that three of my best girl friends are more than 5‘ 8”, are happily married and have done very well for themselves. Remember, the boys get their height later, so don’t worry about it now. I hope the girls won’t stoop. They should carry their height proudly—they might even become Conover’s most popular models. And if they’ll just think about it they’ll realize that many women marry men shorter than themselves and never consider it a problem, other than staying away from high heels.
As for Doris, I’m sorry about her teeth, but there is always the future. If her family hasn’t the money for orthodontia, Doris should consider the possibility of working after graduation and saving her money for the project.
Can I break dates?
DEAR DEBBIE: I am sixteen years old, and wonder what you think of breaking dates. If you accept a date, should you ever break it in favor of another one? I’ve been having a great deal of trouble with this. NORMA
DEAR NORMA: Here I go being blunt again, but breaking dates is in very poor taste. I’ve never done it, and I think anybody who does deserves trouble.
When should I start wearing make-up?
DEAR DEBBIE: I’ve discussed this with my mother but don’t feel she has answered me well enough. At what age do you think it is proper for a girl to wear makeup—lipstick, rouge, etc. I am fifteen now and a short time ago was allowed to shape my eyebrows. I’d like to wear pencil but am afraid to ask my mother. I want to be a model when I’m older and would like to start off on the right track.
Also, would you advise me about what to wear on a date? Not only how much makeup, but what about clothes? And should I wear perfume? BARBARA
DEAR BARBARA: I didn’t wear any makeup or lipstick until I was eighteen. However, I realize this is a matter of personal taste. It just happened that I didn’t want to. I think for a girl of fifteen it’s all right to wear a light pink lipstick if her mother feels it’s proper. It’s a thing that must be worked out between young people and their parents. The only definite suggestion I can make is that heavy makeup is in bad taste regardless of age. The younger a girl is, the better she looks without it. There’s a charm about a teen-ager that is ruined when she tries to look like a grown woman.
The same goes for clothes. Simplicity is always better than being overdressed in any way, including jewelry. If your mother approves of perfume, keep it very sparse and at your age choose a fragrance that is extremely light.
How important are a boy’s looks?
DEAR DEBBIE: I am a senior in high school and very shy, and don’t have many dates. The president of our class did ask me to two dances but he isn’t good looking and doesn’t appeal to me and I naturally refused him. How can I get the more popular boys to ask me for dates?
I do like one boy, but he is even shyer than I am. How can I make him notice me? How can I tell him I like him without appearing foolish?
My sister is twenty and has never had even one date, and wants me to ask you what she can do to attract boys. I guess we both have the same problem. A. J.
DEAR A. J.: Personally, I never choose my friends by looks, but rather for the kind of person they are. Perhaps if you would realize that looks are not important, you would be a nicer person. Certainly, if a boy is president of his class he is well-liked, and by refusing him you may have lost an opportunity to make the other boys sit up and take notice. I think your attitude is wrong, and that it is your own lack that keeps away the boys who are more popular with the girls.
You ask how you can tell one particular boy that you like him. The answer is, Don’t. There is something inborn in the male that makes him run like a rabbit if he thinks a girl is interested in him. If there is any chance at all for you with this boy, it will come when you make yourself popular with all girls and boys.
As for your sister, if she shares your opinion that looks are important, it may be the reason she has never had a date. I must give her the same advice I gave you. If you can become popular with other girls, eventually the boys will waken to the fact that you two might be interesting people.
How do I know if he loves me?
DEAR DEBBIE: I am nineteen and have been going with Don for a year. He has never asked me to go steady or given any indication that he is in love with me. He is very understanding, kind and thoughtful—everything I would want in a husband.
I’m very much in love with him, but of course he doesn’t know this. I’m asked for dates by other fellows but refuse them because I’d rather go out with Don. I know he is not seeing any other girl and that he likes me, but I guess that’s as far as it goes.
Should I continue seeing Don the way I have been, or tell him how I feel, or forget about him completely? I doubt if I could do the latter. DOT
DEAR DOR: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s true you are of marriageable age, but it’s possible that Don is not yet ready, financially or mentally, to tie himself down. If you really love him, you are of course uninterested in other men, but I would advise you that you will lose nothing by occasionally dating another boy or two. In fact, it may nudge Don into declaring his intentions.
In the event he still keeps his silence, I give you a comforting quote from a book called Facts Of Life And Love For Teenagers (published by the Associated Press at 291 Broadway, New York 7, New York): “One of the most unfortunate illusions is that love comes only once in a lifetime. Nothing is more false. Any person capable of loving another has the capacity to love not once but many times; not one individual but many persons. For any normal man or woman there are many possible partners with whom a fine marriage could be worked out.”
I’m only fourteen
DEAR DEBBIE: Last summer I met Kenny on vacation and fell in love with him. In September he joined the Navy and is now on the west coast. He won’t be home for more than a year a since I am only fourteen, my mother wants me to go out with other boys. So I have dated others a few times but don’t know how to tell him this or to explain that none of them mean anything to me. The last thing in yhe world I want to do is hurt him. Yet I know if he wrote me he went out with a girl I’d be glad he was enjoying himself while he was away. After all, you can’t expect a nineteen-year-old boy not to go out on his liberties.
Can you give me any idea how I can be honest and tell him I’m dating others, without hurting him or making him or making him angry? DOROTHEA
DEAR DOROTHEA: Since you are only fourteen, I must agree with your mother that you should date other boys. You are old enough to think you are in love—and old enough I suppose to really be in love, when we remember Romeo and Juliet. But because of your age I think your situation is too confining.
And I think you should tell Kenny the truth. Going out with others doesn’t necessarily mean you will forget him only that you will fill the years ahead of you before marriage. It won’t be easy to write hm to a degree, but as you say, Kenny, too, deserves under the circumstances to be let off the leash. If he really loves you, he will appreciate your honesty.
Here are some short ones
DEAR DEBBIE: I’m fifteen and more interested in sports than boys. I want to be a boys pal and thats all! The girls call me a square. Am I wrong? P.K.
DEAR P.K.: You don’t have to go to an extreme either way. I was called a square and never minded it because I had fun doing what I liked to do.
DEAR DEBBIE: What is your opinion of how long we should talk on the telephone? HELEN
DEAR HELEN: It depends on how many there are in your family. You should have a family counsel about it, and abide by the rules set down.
DEAR DEBBIE: I am eighteen, and he is thirty-two and wants to marry me now. I love him, but I wonder if the age difference is too great. ELAINE
DEAR ELAINE: If you love him but still think about the age difference, I think you should be a little worried.
DEAR DEBBIE: I know it sounds odd, even stupid, but I like a priest and can’t get him off my mind. My parents think I’m silly. What shall I do? N.C.
DEAR N.C.: You must know the laws of the Catholic Church, so it follows you must forget about this infatuation.
DEAR DEBBIE: Is it possible to experience true love at thirteen? C.H.
DEAR C.H.: Anything is possible; however, I’ve never known of a true love at thirteen that is still a true love at eighteen.
DEAR DEBBIE: When a girl is invited to a birthday party and asked to bring a date, should the boy bring a gift, too? JEAN
DEAR JEAN: The girl should purchase the gift and present it with a card bearing both her name and the boy’s name.
DEAR DEBBIE: Do you think it’s okay for teen-agers to waltz? MARIAN
DEAR MARIAN: I think it’s okay to do any kind of dancing you enjoy, regardless of the current fad.
DEAR DEBBIE: A boy likes me and I like him, but years ago our fathers had a business quarrel and won’t allow us to speak to each other. Can you help me? MARTHA
DEAR MARTHA: If each of you could have a family counsel, your mothers included, and try to make your parents understand how much you and this boy want to see each other, perhaps your prospective fathers will realize the smallness of their reactions.
DEAR DEBBIE: If a boy orders something to eat, should the girl order more food than the boy? DONNA
DEAR DONNA: It’s all right if you mow the boy can afford it. If not, stick to his price range.
DEAR DEBBIE: Do you think a girl eleven years old should go to a movie with a boy the same age, if someone takes them there and back? DIANNE
DEAR DIANNE: I think so, if she has the permission of her parents.
DEAR DEBBIE: When a girl invites a boy to a dance, does she ask him to dance or does he ask her? And does the girl buy her own corsage? JOANNE
DEAR JOANNE: The boy always asks the girl to dance, regardless of which is the guest. And the girl should not wear a corsage unless it is given to her by the boy.
DEAR DEBBIE: I like a boy who has a bad reputation, although he’s always been very nice with me. I don’t want to misjudge him on other peoples’ word. Should I listen to them or use my own judgment and keep on liking him? L.Y.M.
DEAR L.Y.M.: Never listen to idle gossip. Don’t believe it unless and until you find out yourself it is true.
DEAR DEBBIE: I am Jewish and like a boy who is Irish. Should I go out with him? LYNN
DEAR LYNN: Race and nationality should have no bearing on having fun together. My husband is Jewish and I am Irish.
DEAR DEBBIE: I’m going steady with a boy who is very jealous Of a boy I went with last year. How can I convince him I’m not interested in this other boy? KAY
DEAR KAY: This can only be done by talking it over frankly with him, and if he still doesn’t believe or trust you, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it to go with a jealous boy.
DEAR DEBBIE: If it is true that boys prefer feminine girls, does an athletically inclined girl have to wait around until she finds a boy with the same interests? If a girl should “be herself” on a date, how can she strike a happy medium? SANDRA
DEAR SANDRA: I think a girl should always be herself and should never pretend she anything else. I was a very athletic girl and always had a good time. If you feel you are unfeminine, make an effort in that direction, particularly through your choice of clothes.
as told to JANE WILKIE
Debbie Reynolds can next be seen in U-I’s Tammy.
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE AUGUST 1956