Q: I'm a 14-year-old female and I've never had a boyfriend or a date. Is there something wrong with me? All my other friends have had a boyfriend.
A: You'll only make yourself feel insecure if you start thinking something is wrong with you. There may be all sorts of reasons you haven't dated yet. For instance, if you are shy, it may be hard for you to talk to boys. You might want to ask your friends what they do and then push yourself to try. Or, there may be ways you could improve your appearance, or perhaps you are maturing more slowly than your friends. This may be frustrating for you. But it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you.
It's also possible that you're scared boys won't like you, so you hope someone will approach you. If this is the case, it might help for you to work on being more comfortable with boys -- perhaps by working on friendships with them and waiting for dating and boyfriends later. Also, remember that not everyone dates at the same age. Even though it's hard to be different now, you'll probably catch up with your friends soon.
Q: I have so many questions to ask about growing up. First of all, what do stretch marks look like? What age do you usually start wearing a bra? My Mom says that she always wondered if she would ever need a bra. Do you think I will be like that?
Also, say, if your Mom got her period at 13, do you usually get your period the same age as your Mom? I don't want to talk to my Mom about it, so please answer me.
A: It must be pretty hard to imagine that your body will be changing soon. Maybe you wish you could predict how you'll turn out and how different or similar to your Mom you'll be. Usually, you do inherit similar growth patterns from your parents, but since your genes are a unique combination of theirs, you will not be exactly the same as your Mom.
Also, there are other factors influencing your development. They are whether you eat well, whether you are ill and your racial origin. In general, girls are getting their periods sooner than before. So, it's hard to predict for sure when you'll need a bra or when you'll get your period.
Most girls start developing breasts from ages 9 to 14 and start their periods some time after their breasts are forming. However, it's not abnormal to start earlier or later, and you can ask your pediatrician if you're worried. Each girl needs to decide for herself when to wear a bra. Some feel self-conscious if their dTC friends are wearing them so wear them even if they're still not fully developed. Other girls prefer not wearing them right away. It's really up to you.
Hopefully, you and your Mom will feel more comfortable talking ++ about growing up as it can be both scary and exciting at times. Reading books on growing up, together with your Mom, might help. One that I like is called "The What's Happening to My Body Book for Girls" by Lynda Madaras. Even if you don't want to share it with your Mom, it will answer many of your questions.
Finally, stretch marks can form after a woman is pregnant and her skin stretches over her womb as the baby grows. Not everyone develops them, they can occur in different areas of the skin, and differ from one person to the other. Perhaps your Mom has been complaining about them and you wonder if you'll get them. Since there's no way to predict how your body will respond to being pregnant, you might as well put your thoughts or worries aside for now.
Women and girls often worry about having the perfect body especially since our society promotes the idea of the perfect woman as well. It's much better for girls to work on accepting their bodies as unique and wonderful rather than perfect.
Dr. Sokal is a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist practicing in Baltimore. If you have a question, send it to Kids Ask, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.