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Monday, September 28, 2015

Standing for Your Standards

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm sure you've gotten lots of letters like this one, but I'm turning to you anyways.

I am 13 and have had some awkward situations related to dating arise recently.

I have a guy friend that I've known for a few years and we have a couple classes together in school, we play the same instrument in band class, and we actually look kind of similar. He's like a brother to me, or a best friend.

But... Apparently my other friends, who are non-LDS, have been secretly trying to get us to go out.

One friend said she "shipped" us, and said that I was "perfect for shipping." (In the Internet and fandom world, that means imagining, pairing up, and liking a certain couple that may not be real in the book or TV show, or wanting it to happen. Sorry, it's confusing. Fandoms are the "kingdoms" of fans from certain shows or book series. They do some pretty crazy stuff, I know because I'm part of a few.)

I guess I'm a target for gossip and "shipping" since I'm not dating anyone and I'm kind of cute and innocent. Another friend is always turning around in his seat and saying, "Why don't you and ___ go out?"

Even classmates I barely know say that me and ___ would look good together!

They tease us about it and it's really getting to me. I think it's ridiculous and stupid, and an invasion of my privacy and lack of respect for me.

I don't like him that way, but I know for a fact that he likes me.

I don't want to date anyone (and I know I can't) and I don't think I will until college or late high school.

The hardest part is that I don't know how to explain to everybody that I won't date anyone until I'm at least sixteen because I'm LDS.

They probably wouldn't understand what that meant and just try harder or tease me about it. I haven't gone to my parents for advice, because they would tease me about it too (they try to embarrass me out of thinking about dating and boys) and I'm too shy and embarrassed to talk about it,

I guess. I don't know what I would do if he asked me out... I mean, I'm not interested, even if I was sixteen or older I wouldn't be. But I enjoy his company and would like to hang out with him in a group and go do something fun.

On Fridays, the school lets students walk downtown to the shops and restaurants after school. Would that be okay to do?

So the bottom line is, what should I do about this and how do I get my friends to leave me alone?

And if I would like to hang out with my guy friend and other friends outside of school, what's the best way to do that without it being a date?

Thanks in advance.

- Trying to Be Strong

Dear Strong,

You're old enough now that it's time you start standing up for your beliefs.

That isn't license to be obnoxious or self-righteous (not that you would be), but you do need to answer the questions your friends and classmates are asking.

When someone asks you out, or why you won't be some guy's girlfriend (which is what people, confused though they may be, seem to be saying when they say "go out"), the correct response, just like you said, is: "I believe in not going on group dates until I'm 16, and not going on single dates or having a boyfriend until after I'm out of high school."

Which is true.

When they ask you why, you can say "because teenage life is too hard and too filled with drama to begin with without mixing in 'relationships' too young; plus that's what we're taught at Church and I believe in it."

And if they give you a tough time about being Mormon, or saying you're "uptight", or whatever, you can reply "I am grateful for the standards I've been taught; it's how I choose to live my life; I don't judge anyone else by their standards and beliefs, and I hope no one else judges me for mine".

And smile.

Hard as it may be, your true friends - and other good people - will respect you for standing up for what you believe.

All of the Jo Kids that are older than you (which is most of them, actually) have had to go through the same thing.

They would all tell you that being straight with people in a kind way was a wonderful choice, and they're all respected for standing up for their beliefs.

The most difficulty they've had has been because not all LDS kids follow what we're taught or take a stand.  (Don't get caught saying anything negative about those kids.)

When people say "but so-and-so is a member of your Church and she ___________" - and they will - just shrug and say "this is what we're taught, this is what I believe; each of us has agency and can choose for themselves what to do; I love her regardless of whatever she chooses to do; I just choose to do this".

Those other kids, the LDS ones that aren't doing the right thing, may make some difficulties for you. You'll always be best off being kind and loving to everyone.

Jesus taught that, you know.

As for the boy . . . smile, be nice and, if he asks, let him know your standards (in a non-judgmental way, of course).

And don't burn any bridges.

Today's creepy 8th-grader could turn out to be junior year's fun prom group date.

True story.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you so much for your advice.

I feel more confident about telling my friends about my standards now that I know what to say.

If they do react in a negative way, it will probably confirm that these people are not the best friends.

Before this started happening, I was starting to think they were not very good friends or people to be around, and it's been hard to think about. I have had a lot of friends that left me because I was not doing or saying the things they thought were "cool".

I'm starting to think these friends are drifting away too, and that's hard to think about.

I just know that my friends who are LDS will never leave me.

Again, thank you.

- Strong

Dear Strong,

I hope your LDS friends don't drop their standards.

But they may.

LDS or not, treat everyone as if you want to be their friend . . . even if they should be living better standards than they are right now.

- Bro Jo

PS:  Talk to your parents about walking places with your friends.  The more you include them in the things that are going on in your life the easier it will be to talk to them about stuff like this.

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