Finding Yourself When You’re Single

I saw this post on College Candy. It was written by Katie.  Feel free to click on the link to read more from Katie.

My name is Katie. I’m a twenty-something. I am single. I mean like, painfully single. This means no guys to kiss, to flirt with, to text, to complain to your girlfriends about, etc. Nada. Nothing. Zip. I’m in the healing process from a pretty brutal breakup, and now that ex-Manfriend and I are dunzo, it’s time for me to be single—painfully single.

This is usually the moment when I panic and scramble to find someone, anyone to fill the void that comes with being alone. I will reel in past loves that didn’t work the first ten times. I’ll text a “thinking of you” message to The One That Got Away. I’ll even contemplate online dating for a hot minute. I feel the need to do all this because I’d rather grasp at straws than let the loneliness step in and take control.

I think this is the time in our lives when we’re just plain confused about everything, including love. Am I supposed to be single? Am I supposed to be looking for a hubby? I never know what’s “right” or “normal” in the dating world of a twenty-something. Maybe it’s because a few of my friends are getting hitched and having babies (Please stop doing this by the way, people. I’m not emotionally ready to handle it. Think about ME.), or maybe it’s because I’m afraid of being alone. It could just be the anxiety that drives me to feel like if I don’t pair up soon, I never will. It could be because I’m not exactly the best at being single.

And that doesn’t mean that I’m always in a relationship—quite the contrary actually. I’ve said the “L” word a couple times and been in “serious relationships” (Whatever the hell that means anymore. #bitter), but for the majority of my life, I’ve been a single woman. I think I’m okay with being single, just not painfully single. I guess I should explain the difference.

If you ask any of my girlfriends, they will tell you that I always have “someone.” This basically means that I always have a guy to like or “talk to” or text. I go on dates and all that fun stuff, but there is never any pressure of commitment. When I’m not committed, I’m probably semi-committed by my own doing because I can’t deal with the pain of being single. Sidenote: If I don’t make sense right now, that’s normal because I never make sense to myself when it comes to any of this stuff either. It’s just that when I don’t have anyone to “talk to”, that is when the pain of being single seeps in. It feels like nothing else will ever come along. No new catches, no old flames—just me, myself and I.

When I become painfully single, the panic sets in. I switch into desperation mode. I start looking at my best guy friend differently, consider online dating, and go out more than usual just in case the man of my dreams sits down at the barstool next to me.

I have to ask myself why I’m suddenly entertaining the thought of dating my Boy BFF. Is it because I’m actually interested and have feelings for him or could it be that I can’t deal with being 100% alone? I’m beginning to think the latter. Can you blame me though? Who doesn’t like having someone to text the mundane details of your life to? Someone to snuggle and watch Netflix with? Someone to call yours? Being part of a pair is a wonderful feeling of fulfillment. Though for the first time as a twenty-something, I’m starting to recognize that having a guy be interested in me is not the “be all, end all” for my personal fulfillment.

I’m learning that I can be happy and content without a guy in my life. I can believe that I’m worthy without needing a guy to reassure me of that. I can find out who I am on my own. Male attention should not dictate my happiness and quality of life. I can be alone.

There is nothing wrong with being single. In your twenties, it might actually be one of the best things for you. I think that being single is something you have to do for a little while in order to understand who you are as an individual. A friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend about a year ago, and of course, she was bummed. But instead of crying and moping around, she took up running. Whenever she was feeling upset, she just went out for a jog. She soon found herself running almost everyday of the week. About a month ago, she crossed the finish line of her first half marathon.

She told me that she would never have known how much she enjoyed running if her and her ex had never called it quits. She’d be too busy traveling to go visit him a few states away or working extra hours at her job to save up for a plane ticket to go see him on the weekends.

Being single allows us ladies to find out who we are and what we’re passionate about without having a guy influence us. Because let’s be honest, do you really like to golf? Or watching Monday Night Football? Or playing Tony Hawk on his old Playstaion? Or watching Dumb and Dumber whenever it’s on cable? Maybe you do if you’re the perfect woman, but I’m guessing you probably don’t love all those things, you just adopted them because he loves them.

When you’re on your own, you have the opportunity to discover your own passions. You have the time to go out and figure out what you enjoy and what you want to do with your life. You get to cross the finish line of your own half marathon. There is no one to answer to. There is just your mind, your passions, your ideas—yourself. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely, and I think for the first time, I’m understanding that difference.

Katie is finishing up her undergrad at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She enjoys wasting hours on Facebook and tweeting things no one cares about. When asked the question, “Do you do marathons?” She promptly responds, “Of course! Which show?” Follow her @KatieGarrity! Or read her personal blog where she talks incessantly about Ryan Gosling and hummus here!

Acquaintance Rape

September is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  I wrote this post last year, but feel it is worth repeating.  Date rape happens more often than people think and the beginning of the school year is when most rapes occur.  You think you would know if you’d been raped right?  Not necessarily.  I’ve had women come in for counseling because they felt a friend or acquaintance took advantage of them, either while they were drinking or while they were feeling vulnerable.  They either felt they couldn’t say no or felt pressured by the person they thought they could trust.

Acquaintance Rape happens a lot more often then being assaulted by a stranger.  Over 77% of women report being sexually assaulted by someone they know.  Of those 77% only 2% will actually report the assault.  Why do you think so many women refuse to come forward?  Sometimes it is out of fear.  Sometimes it’s because the woman blames herself for getting into the situation.  Sometimes the woman feels she didn’t say no forcefully enough.   A lot of the time, women will minimize their feelings and try to tell themselves to just forget what happened.

The following situation is an example of why sexual assault isn’t always so black and white:   One night a woman runs into one of her male friends.  She is upset, and he offers to listen and give her some advice.  She starts crying and opening up about what happened with another guy.  She tells him she feels rejected and unlovable.   Her male friend offers comfort and support.  He may start to hug her and rub her back.  It starts to get late and he asks her to stay a little longer so she won’t feel lonely.  They hang out and talk some more.  He starts to cuddle with her and before she realizes it they are kissing.  She says she should leave, but he convinces her that the other guy is stupid for rejecting her.  He tells he thinks she is beautiful, and he would never do that to her.  He continues to touch her and she gives in.  Soon most of their clothing is removed.  She starts to push him away again, but he resists and continues to hold and touch her.  He tells her not to worry, he’ll treat her right.  She feels guilty for letting things go this far.  She also feels she owes him for listening to her.  They have sex.

The best outcome of this scenario is the next day she feels bad about giving in and having sex.  She feels she consented in the end because she didn’t say no.  She may confront her friend and tell him she regrets her decision and doesn’t want to have sex with him again.  She may or may not ever choose to open up to him again when she feels upset or vulnerable.  She may also have lost some respect or trust for him, but doesn’t feel traumatized by the event.

The next best scenario is the next day she feels bad about giving in and having sex.  She regrets it, but doesn’t feel strong enough to say anything to him.  She may act like it never happened.  She most likely will avoid talking to him when she feels so upset and vulnerable.  She has lost trust and respect for her friend.  A distance grows between them.  She may feel a little upset about the event, but tells herself she has lived and learned.  Next time she will open up to a girlfriend or talk to her guy friends during the daytime when she feels a little safer.

The worst scenario is the next day she feels sick to her stomach when she thinks about what happened.  She feels violated.  She regrets not saying no more forcefully, but feels he should have known she wasn’t there for sex.  She wishes he would have listened when she tried to stop him earlier and pushed him away.  She not only has lost trust and respect for this male friend, she now feels like he is a predator who only listened to her so he could get sex.  She feels traumatized by the event and can’t stop thinking about it.  She is very emotional and doesn’t know what she should do now.  She is very afraid of seeing him again.  Will anyone believe her?  She may start to blame herself and tell herself all the things she should have done.  She most likely won’t report it.  She will go on to blame herself even though somewhere inside she knows she was sexually assaulted by her friend.

Research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that  1 out of 5 college women will be sexually assaulted.  September happens to be the month when most sexual assaults are reported.  School has just begun and many college students are experiencing their freedom for the first time.  Students go out with their friends and blow off stress from the week.  Some may drink and end up in situations similar to the one above.  The next day they may feel they were assaulted, but don’t report it because they blame themselves for drinking too much.

Unfortunately, sexual assault can happen in all different types of situations.  However, they all leave the person assaulted feeling very vulnerable, scared and alone.  A lot of guilt is also embedded into these situations.  I used the above example to show that rape isn’t always black and white.  Different people are going to feel differently after experiencing similar situations.  However, your feelings are not wrong, whether you feel just slightly uncomfortable or horribly traumatized.  Everyone is different, and your feelings are more true than the details of how it happened.  No one can tell you that you shouldn’t feel something.

If you do feel traumatized, it does help to talk about it.  Processing your feelings can help you move through them.  This will make them less powerful in your mind and help you learn to not blame yourself.  You won’t “get over it”, but it may help you not think about it all the time or have nightmares about it.   I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I do know that women have worked through this and felt they were able to take their power back.  If you are continuing to struggle, please see a counselor or someone non-judgmental who won’t tell you how to feel, but help you process your feelings no matter what they are.

Should You Confess to Cheating?

I read a post on Sexy Tofu’s blog about whether confessing to cheating is always right thing to do.  I thought she had some good insights and made some good points.  I decided to copy her post and share with you her thoughts on this topic:

I’ve written before on infidelity; It’s a big “no no” in my book—which, in case you were wondering, probably closer resembles a dog-eared trashy paperback than a manual on ethics.  But I’m going to get into ethics now.  Bear with me.

Most of us already know that when it comes to emotions, not everything is in black and white.  We all have feelings, and these feelings can make a bigger mess than a two year old with a white wall and a box of crayons.

However, if we want to get ethical, are there shades of grey when it comes to right and wrong?  Are moral standards based on the eye of the beholder?  Does right and wrong change situationally?  Is a hero still a hero if he only saved that little boy from the well because he knew he would be showered in praise?

Oh man, that was some rapid fire questioning.  Back on track.  I think that cheating is always the wrong thing to do.  If you’re unhappy or unfulfilled in your relationship, get out of it.  Don’t cheat.  But no one can be right all the time, and so let’s consider what happens after you have cheated.  Most would consider that the “right” thing to do would be to tell your partner.  Come clean.  You’ve already been unfaithful, let’s not double the offense with dishonesty.  Right?

I think it depends on both the situation and motive behind your confession.

As for situation: How big is your offense?  If you meet with an old flame or a stranger and share a fleeting kiss, a one time mistake completely regretted, is that something worth uprooting your partners’ self esteem and your relationship?  Some would say no, and others would say yes.  You made your bed, now lie in it—crumbled relationship and all.

What if you’ve cheated but plan on leaving anyway?  Is it better to just leave and save your partner a bit of dignity (being left is bad enough, being betrayed and left is even worse), or should you tell them before you go?
What if you’re a habitual cheater?  That sort of dishonesty is often a personality trait; someone who tends to veer toward the hedonistic side of things.  Should Sir Tryst A Lot come clean while someone who kissed a stranger at the bar should keep their lips sealed?  Does it matter the level of offense, or is a cheater a cheater a cheater?

And as for motives, what if in your confession you lift your own burden of guilt only to place it on the shoulders of your partner?  You may feel better, but they all of a sudden feel betrayed and hurt. And anyone who has ever been cheated on knows that even if you KNOW the offense had nothing to do with you or your actions, you cannot help but take it personally.  It will make you insecure, even if only momentarily.  It’s insanely difficult, even for the most logical and mature of us, not to turn betrayal inward.  And on top of the pain you put on your partner, the relationship will suffer, trust will have to be rebuilt, if possible.  So in this light, is it always right to be honest?

I think the righteousness of a confession can also depend greatly on the motive behind the confession.  A friend of mine recently brought up the concept of acting out of love vs. out of fear.  Not to get all new agey on you, but I think that could have a lot to do with what makes coming clean the right or the wrong thing to do.  Are you telling your partner because you love them truly, because you’re truly sorry, and you want to correct your dishonest behavior and rebuild? Or are you telling them because you’re trying to remove your own guilt, which some may argue is a product of fear.  Or on the other end, could you argue that in staying quiet, you are acting on fear–the fear of your partner leaving you if they find out what you’ve done?  UGH I know this stuff has some merit but I really can’t talk about love and fear without thinking about Donnie Darko.

Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion

So let’s take this into pop culture, shall we. Recently to the horror of all those Twihards, Kristin Stewart admitted to cheating on R-Patz (nose wrinkle) with the MARRIED director of Snow White and the Huntsman. However she only admitted to it after some photos of her and director Rupert Sanders surfaced. Stewart regrets it, Sanders regrets it, lots of tears all around. But neither of the offenders came clean without the pressure of being found out, which makes their admissions completely fear based. Double fail for this shady lady.

Losing a Loved One

Loss is hard.  Fortunately, most college students who are dating don’t have to deal with their boyfriend or girlfriend dying.  It does happen, but it is a lot more rare than a typical break up.  However, after last Friday’s massacre in Aurora, Colorado, it makes you think about how fragile life really is.

A lot of people who were injured or killed last Friday were younger people.  They were sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends and even boyfriends and girlfriends of people who are now grieving the senseless loss of their loved one.  This year has been hard on my family as well.  We have experienced a lot of loss since the end of 2011.  It can make you stop and evaluate your choices in life.  There are so many things people take for granted when it comes to the people they love.

It is easy in the every day stresses of life to believe that the people you count on the most will always be there for you.  I have met with a lot of students who really can’t imagine losing their boyfriend or girlfriend or even their close friends to death.  It is easier to imagine losing a grandparent or distant relative.  It is a little harder to comprehend the loss of a parent, a sibling or a friend who still has so much life to live.

That is usually why it can be harder to accept.  The people who lost their lives on Friday, July 20th were mostly in the prime of their life.  They were looking forward to seeing a good movie with their family and friends and had no reason to think there life would be over within a few short minutes.  Thank God incidents like this are very rare.  You are much more likely to be struck by lightening then to be shot in a movie theater or on a college campus.  No matter how a person dies, when it happens to someone you love, it can be hard to understand and accept.

So, how do you move forward after losing a loved one?  You’ve probably heard it takes some time.  It isn’t easy, no matter what anyone tells you.  Your mind, your heart and your soul are going to go through a long process.  The grief process has five steps.  1. Denial  2. Anger  3. Bargaining  4. Depression  5. Acceptance

You notice that acceptance comes after a lot of other emotions cycle through.  No person grieves the same either.  That is why it is hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving.  Some people want to talk about the person and feel better when they open up.  For others, they don’t want to talk about it.  They do better when they stay busy and distract themselves a little more.  For most people, you can’t go wrong with giving the person who is grieving a hug and asking if there is anything you can do for them.  Sometimes just bringing them a home cooked meal is enough.  Just knowing that you care and you want to help is better than nothing.

If you are the one grieving, be patient with yourself.  Some days you’ll wake up feeling better only to crash back into depression or anger a few hours later.  It is a long grueling process, but time does eventually help.  The days and weeks pass and your brain will start to adjust.  At first, you may be resistant to letting go of your pain.  You don’t want your loved one to feel that you’ve forgotten them.  I remind people who are grieving that you can still remember them without feeling so much pain.  You can start to remember them with a smile and actually feel happy in your memories instead of feeling so lost or sad.

Life has a way of marching on whether we like it or not.  Days, weeks, months and then even years pass.  New people come into our life.  They don’t replace the people we lost, but they fill in the gaps that are still there in our lives that need to be filled.  The only positive thing about loss is being able to empathize and understand what other people are going through when they experience it.  You will be able to relate and give encouragement to those people because you’ve been their yourself.  This may help you, in a way, deal with your own loss.  Giving to others has a way of healing your own heart from the pain.

Even though we are all different, all of us at one point or another are going to experience a loss of some kind.  I hope you never have to experience what the people of Aurora, Colorado are experiencing.  I also hope as a college student you don’t have to go through the death of parent, sibling, friend, boyfriend or girlfriend.  It is hard enough to get through the stresses of college.  Going through a major loss can make it a lot more complicated.  If it does happen to you, know that you have choices.  You can withdraw from classes for the semester and take a leave of absence.  This will allow you to focus on your family or getting help for yourself without having to stress about papers and tests.  Many students have had to do this and come back to school after a few months feeling a lot more prepared to deal with class.  Other students need the distraction and choose to stay in school at this time.  There really is no right answer on how to best deal with situations like this.  Do what you think is best for yourself and your situation, and try not to compare yourself to others students.

Also, find trusted family and friends to talk to and gain support from.  You may also decide counseling is something you would like to try.  It can be helpful because you are able to open up without feeling like your burdening your family or friends who may be dealing with their own grief.  Many people have stated that counseling has been helpful, but it isn’t for everyone.  You can do some research to find out what ways of grieving will work best for you.  Just remember it is a process.  It is okay to be angry, upset and sad.  However, if you feel you’ve been stuck in one part of the grieving cycle too long, it is time to do something to be able to move forward.  One step at a time is the best way to approach the grieving process.  Feel free to look into any of the websites listed below that may be helpful.

Coping with Grief and Loss

Understanding Grief

5 Stages of Grief

Why Are You Having Sex?

There are a lot of reasons to have sex.  Same action, different intent (or reason), different result.  Sex can be simple or it can get really complicated.  When deciding to have sex, make sure it’s for the right reasons, otherwise the complications add up quickly.

Why have sex?  That is a good question.  Hopefully you decide to have sex because you are in love with someone and want to take your relationship to the next level.  Maybe you decide to have sex because it is fun.   There are many good reasons to have sex, and it doesn’t matter how often.  Even more promiscuous people can be having sex for the right reasons.  In fact a lot of promiscuous people tend to be safer, have more satisfying experiences, and have a sex-positive outlook on life.  Why?  Because they are confident about their decision to have sex.  It is about doing what they want, not about feeling obligated or trying to please someone else.  People who are confident also don’t need to have sex to feel attractive.  They can go out with their friends and not feel compelled to end the night in bed with someone else.  They have standards that they don’t lower just for the sake of sleeping with someone.  Sex isn’t an integral part of their personality – it’s essentially one part of their life that they enjoy.

The decision to have sex should be about you, not about impressing someone else or making someone else happy.  If you feel like you can’t say no, or you don’t have the right to say no, then you are getting into risky territory.  This is your body, and emotional and physical health you’re talking about here.  You should be making the decision to have sex because it is what you want. However, I find a lot of people hop into bed with someone they’re not even attracted to because they feel obligated to have sex.  This could mean there is something in your brain telling you the only value you have is sexual, or that people will only like you if you have sex with them.  You may also feel incomplete if you’re not having as much sex as other people around you.

Stop and think about your choices.  Remember that you actually DO have a choice to have sex.  It is also okay to decide not to have sex.  There is no rule that you have to hook up with someone because it’s Friday night.  If you have friends who think something is wrong with you because you went home alone, then you may want to examine the type of friends you keep.  The key to all this are the words “have to”.  You don’t HAVE TO do anything.  You can stay home and read a book on Friday night or you can go out and have sex with someone if it makes you happy.  Again, the key is doing what makes you happy.  In college it can be easy to get caught up in doing what you think other people would approve of.  Trust me, it is way more important to do things you approve of.  You have to live with yourself when you wake up the next day.  If you are okay with your choices, then don’t let others judge you or push you into doing things that make you feel uncomfortable.

Also, think about your choices after a night of drinking.  Maybe you make good decisions about sex when you’re sober.  You tend to have sex when it pleases you and wake up with no regrets.  However, is it the same after you’ve been drinking?  I meet with many students who only regret their sexual decisions after a night out drinking.  They didn’t intend to have sex, but find they always end up in someone’s bed after downing a couple shots.  Examine your behavior and make some different choices if what you’re doing isn’t making you happy.  If drinking is causing problems in your life, you may want to figure out how to change this pattern before it becomes even more complicated.

Having sex out of obligation, peer pressure, or only while drinking may be the result of something as serious as sexual trauma, a consequence of dangerously low self-esteem or a desperate desire to fit into the “hookup culture” mold.  If you aren’t having sex because it’s fun, pleasurable or as a way to connect to someone you love, then you need to examine why.  Whether you should seek therapy or whether it’s an issue you can work through on your own or with friends, don’t continue to indulge in behavior that isn’t good for you.  Remember, having sex for the wrong reasons is never going to satisfy you or make you feel good about yourself.

Catching a Cheater with a Spy App…Good Idea?

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know I love watching 20/20 and Dateline NBC.  One of them recently aired a show about cheating in relationships.  Each of the segments focused on different aspects of cheating.  One of the segments focused on a spy app for smart phones.  It made me think.  Is it a good idea to use this technology to spy on your boyfriend or girlfriend’s cell phone activity?  I did some research and here are some pro’s and con’s from my perspective on this issue.

First, I googled spy app for cheaters.  I found quite a few websites.  One was about using a legitimate app or you could possibly download viruses.  It also stated that there is no such thing as a free app that will spy on someone’s cell phone.  If your looking for a spy app for a smart phone, you should look at these tested and proven Apps to Catch Cheaters listed below:

The apps that you actually pay for and that will actually help you monitor another persons cell phone activities are not free apps to catch cheaters, but they can help you catch someone cheating by:

  • Allowing you to monitor their call logs and to see who they are calling and when.
  • Permitting you to access their voicemail to listen to voicemail messages, even deleted ones.
  • Admitting you to read their text messages and to see who they are texting and what they are texting about.
  • Enabling you to see their web browsing history on their phone.
  • Allowing you to record calls if you need them as evidence.

Technology sure has come a long way.  It is very true that technology has made the opportunities to cheat on someone much greater.  I now realize that technology also works the same way in reverse.  There are now a lot more ways to catch someone cheating on you.  I found the story below when I was googling spy apps.  Here is this person’s story for why he chose to use this app.

Cheating is always hard to accept. In fact, the most common reaction upon finding it is denial. Because it feels like a personal failure, it takes a conscious effort to accept it. However, we can not do something about it and move on with our lives unless we accept it first.

I think that’s what I found most useful about using a spy app.  Until then, I was not able to be subjective about it.  Even when my closest friends told me about my wife’s unfaithfulness, I refused to believe them because they could always be wrong or subjective about it.  However, it’s very different to be forced to face facts by something as mechanical and cold as a computer program.  After that, there is no way you can consciously bury your head in sand anymore.  Sure enough, the spy app showed me that she was having an affair with her Spanish teacher who wasn’t a teacher at all.

I ended up getting a divorce and now I’m starting a new relationship with someone else. I plan to do things right this time. And no, I don’t plan to use a spy app with her. One of the things I learned is that while the spy app helped me in the past, it’s not healthy to keep it using forever. It’s a bit like medicine, you use it until you get better, and then you move on.

I realize in this story, the person is married.  People may feel more justified spying on a spouse, rather than their girlfriend or boyfriend.  I used it anyway because I think some of the points are good.  I do know that it can be hard to be honest with yourself when it comes to someone you love cheating on you.  It is easy to be in denial and believe what you want to believe.  This could be helpful to people who know in their gut their significant other is betraying them, but just don’t want to believe it.  The person above used the information and left his spouse.  Cheating isn’t necessarily a death sentence to a relationship.  Many couples work through it and build back trust.  People can change.  Being caught can bring on a lot of shame and embarrassment.  A person can realize they made a huge mistake and move on from it.  Having this information in black and white may help both parties come to terms with reality which could help them move forward.

I also like when the person said he didn’t want to use the spy app with his new partner.  He didn’t need it to be able to trust in his new relationship.  I agree, a spy app is not an answer for those who have trust issues.  It could actually fuel a paranoid person’s thoughts and allow them to become much more controlling.  This app is probably more helpful for people who are too trusting.  If you have trust issues, you have to work on that separately.  No app in the world can replace confidence.  It takes work to build confidence and trust in yourself as well as others.   Even if the person above chose to stay with his wife.  He would have needed to take the spy app off her phone and begin to really trust her again.  It is the only way to build a healthy relationship.

The truth is if you are thinking you need to use this app, you already in an unhealthy place in your relationship.  Really evaluate if that is because you have trust issues that need to be resolved, or if your partner is doing something that just doesn’t add up.  If your radar is up and you know in the back of your mind you should be worried, then maybe this app could be helpful.  Either way, if you are not in a healthy place in your relationship, you’ll need more than technology to fix the problem.  The only thing technology can really do is identify that a problem truly exists.  After that, it’s up to you to put in the hard work to be able to move forward in a healthy way.  My advice is to think long and hard before downloading a spy app, and if you do, use it to be able to move forward in a positive way, not to get revenge.

Race and Relationships

Ryan Knapick and Josh Baker have been best friends since fifth grade. Colette Gregory entered the picture in high school. She and Josh are dating now. Knapick is white, Gregory is black and Baker is half-Hispanic. To them, race doesn’t matter.

“People are finding people with common interests and common perspectives and are putting race aside,” says Knapick, 22, a May graduate of Indiana University who works at a machine shop and lives with his parents in Munster, Ind.

He and his friends are among an estimated 46.3 million Americans ages 14 to 24 — the older segment of the most diverse generation in American society. (Most demographers say this “Millennial” generation began in the early 1980s, after Generation X.) These young people have friends of different races and also may date someone of another race.

This age group is more tolerant and open-minded than previous generations, according to an analysis of studies released last year by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, part of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. The center focuses on ages 15 to 25.

Another study by Teenage Research Unlimited in Northbrook, Ill., found six of 10 teens say their friends include members of diverse racial backgrounds.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, today’s teens and twentysomethings grew up with “diversity,” “multicultural” and “inclusion” as buzzwords. Many were required to take college courses in cultural diversity. Now the media fuel this colorblindness as movies, TV and advertising portray interracial friendship and romance.

Some attitudinal changes are based in demographics. About 33% of those under 18 are racial or ethnic minorities, and about 20% of elementary- and high school-age students are immigrants or children of immigrants, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Racial diversity is especially common in college friendships because that age group is exposed to a wider range of people, and college students have more opportunities to become friends with peers of other races, says Anthony Lising Antonio, an associate professor of education at Stanford University, who has conducted research on friendship diversity.

It’s not that young people are specifically seeking out friendships with other races, kids say.

“It goes beyond that to who you get along with,” says Karina Anglada, 17, a high school senior in Chicago whose parents are from Puerto Rico.

The ‘color-mute’ syndrome

Rebecca Bigler, 42, a psychology professor who directs the Gender and Racial Attitudes Lab at the University of Texas-Austin, traces such attitudes to baby boomer parents who may have set a tone for raising colorblind kids.

“It makes us feel racist if we acknowledge race, so we try not to, and we end up being color-mute,” she says. “Children learn from their parents that you don’t talk about race.”

Bigler is white. Her former husband, the father of her teenage son, is black. People talked about race when she was a child in the ’70s, she says, but now the younger generation — especially white kids — believe that racial injustice is “a thing of the past.”

“Society is still marked by racial inequality, and my worry is that it won’t get addressed,” she says.

Evidence of inequity is ubiquitous: A Department of Justice study released last year shows that blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to be searched, arrested and subjected to police use of force. And last month, the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University issued a report about inequality in American schools, even as the system becomes increasingly multiracial.

Where students go to school depends on where they live, which is dependent upon family wealth. The Harvard study found that segregation isn’t simply a black/white divide but a multiracial one, in which whites remain the most isolated group and the least likely to attend multiracial schools. California schools are the nation’s most segregated, the study found.

‘Common interests, not color’

Gregory, 24, knows that firsthand. She was born in Gary, Ind., and grew up in Los Angeles; she was the only black person in a private school in her Bel Air neighborhood. She returned to Indiana for high school, the same Catholic school Knapick and Baker attended.

“It’s more natural to me to be in a diverse setting and to be attracted to people because of common interests and not because of common color,” says Gregory, who works in fundraising at a Chicago theater company. She earned two degrees from Northwestern University.

Baker, 23, who graduated from Loyola University in Chicago and is an accounts manager for a Chicago consulting firm, says his high school’s diversity allowed him to be friends with whites, blacks and Hispanics. He says he’s Hispanic, like his mother. His father is white but is unsure of his heritage because he was adopted, Baker says.

Knapick, who is seeking work in his college major of criminal justice, bonded with Baker playing basketball, running track and as Boy Scouts. Both are Eagle Scouts and earned their honors at the same ceremony.

Some of the mixing is a result of record numbers of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, totaling more than 35 million over the past two decades and representing the largest wave of immigration in American history, says Marcelo Surez-Orozco, founder of the Harvard Immigration Project, now known as Immigration Studies @ NYU. He is a professor of globalization and education at New York University.

“We have more groups coming at a faster rate and changing our society with a speed we’ve never seen before,” he says.

In addition to immigrant families, the number of children from other countries adopted by U.S. parents has tripled from 1990 to 2005.  The fact that white parents are adopting babies from China, Guatemala or South Korea who don’t look like them reinforces the idea that race matters less. So does the fact that interracial marriages, though still not common, have increased from less than 1% of U.S. marriages in 1970 to almost 6% of marriages in the 2000 Census.

The tide began turning when the Supreme Court in 1967 struck down laws in 16 states forbidding marriage between blacks and whites.

No pressure to ‘choose sides’

A Gallup Poll on interracial dating in June found that 95% of 18- to 29-year-olds approve of blacks and whites dating. About 60% of that age group said they have dated someone of a different race.

Olivia Lin, 18, of Brooklyn, N.Y., is Asian; she’s dating someone who is Puerto Rican and says her family is “pretty open to it.” Lin, who will graduate in the spring with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, in the fall will attend Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., the only non-sectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university in the country.

High school freshman Aliya Whitaker, 14, of Montclair, N.J., says her mother is Jamaican and her father is African-American. Her mother encourages her to make friends with those of other races.

“She’s never told me to stick with my own people or choose sides,” Whitaker says. “When my friends have quinceaeras (Hispanic girls’ 15th-birthday celebrations) or bar mitzvahs (a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony for 13-year-olds), she encourages me to go.

“But she says: ‘Remember where you come from.’ ”

This post was originally written by Sharon Jayson in USA Today.   Click here to read the entire article.

Is Sexting Safe?

I wrote a post over a year ago called Safe Sexting.  I thought it might be smart to reiterate some of the things I said in that post plus add a few new things to think about.  Sexting has become very popular among younger people, and probably some older folks too.  People have told me it is a new way of flirting.  However, you can do some pretty stupid things with a smart phone these days.

Students have asked me if I think sexting is a good idea.  It really depends.  In some cases, it is a very stupid idea.  If you don’t really know the person you are sexting or sending naked pictures to, then it can get out of hand pretty quick.  If this person lives on the other side of the world, it may be relatively safer.  They don’t know any of your friends and family and it is a lot less likely that what you said or the pictures you sent could come back to haunt you.  However, if you just sent off a few pictures of yourself to a person you just met in your anatomy lab, be prepared to have their friends looking at you like they’ve seen you naked.  Chances are, they have.  Colleges and universities are like small communities.  People talk and others around you may know more about you than you think.

Another thing to think about is WHY you’re sexting with someone.  Some students have told me they feel pressured into it.  They start out just flirting with someone else through text, but then it quickly becomes sexual.  They tell me they want this person to like them so they continue to say suggestive things through text.  The next thing they know, the person is asking for a naked photo.  Sending this person a naked photo because you just want to get them to like you isn’t a good reason.  You should engage in sexual behavior because it is your choice and what YOU want to do, not because it is what someone else wants you to do.  Do what you feel comfortable with.  Don’t do something to impress someone or make someone else like you.

Be yourself.  If you aren’t overtly sexual in person, don’t pretend to be through text.  This person may then expect you to follow through with some of those sexual suggestions you made when they see you in person.  If you don’t feel comfortable following through, you shouldn’t be making the suggestions in the first place.  It is important to be confident about your decisions.  If you don’t mind being more sexual both through text and in person, then go ahead.  However, if you don’t feel comfortable than feel confident enough to say so.  If you say no and the other person stops texting you, it is a pretty good indication they only wanted to use you for sex any way.  If you want more than sex, it’s better to be disappointed now rather than later.

Is it smart to send naked pics to your boyfriend or girlfriend who you love and trust?  Maybe.  You could be with someone who you know loves you and would never betray you.  However, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories, so please think twice before sending that naked photo off into cyber land.  Once you send that picture you lose all control, so it is still a big risk.  Relationships break up all the time.  This would be a perfect opportunity for your now ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to get back at you.   The so-called love of your life could save that picture and when they feel angry or upset with you, they may send it to anyone and everyone you know.  Who knows where it could end up after the two of you decide to break up?

Also be aware that if you are in a committed relationship with someone and you are sexting someone else, that is considered cheating.  You can cheat with technology very easily.  Even if the person lives across the world, doing anything behind your boyfriend or girlfriend’s back, is considered deceitful.  You may also want to remove those photos that friends have forwarded to you if you are in a relationship.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend finds a naked photo on your phone that a friend passed along, that could still look very bad for you.  Keeping it on your phone even though it was sent from a buddy of yours, is not considered a smart idea.

Another not so smart idea is sending naked pictures of yourself to someone who doesn’t desire to receive one.  This person is NOT going to consider you irresistibly sexy if they receive unsolicited texts or pictures of a sexual nature.  It is usually a huge turn off.  Don’t just assume someone is willing.  Ask the person if they are okay with it before sending anything sexual.  If that person says no, be respectful.  It is also not a turn on to beg someone for sexual material either.  NO means NO.  If you proceed after this point it is considered sexual harassment.

If you want to be a little smarter while sexting it is a good idea not to send any pictures with your face also in the photo.  Some people say it is a little less likely that you will be able to identified in case the picture gets out to others.  Yet, remember, many famous people have been identified in naked photos even though their face wasn’t in the picture.  You may also want to set some ground rules before you engage in sexting as well.  Let the person know how far you want to go.  You may want to tell them upfront that you don’t mind flirting sexually, but you don’t want to receive or send any naked pictures.  If you aren’t ready to have sex with this person, it is also a good idea to let them know up front that you like to flirt, but don’t plan on meeting up with them at 2am to hook up.

I said this in my last post, but I think it is worth repeating.  As a counselor, I recommend you educate yourself before engaging in sexting with anyone.  It may seem fun, harmless and safer than having sex, but there are still consequences that can be devastating.  Be aware of all the risks before deciding what is best for you.  If you are over 18 it isn’t illegal to send sexual material over your phone to someone else that is over 18.  You have to decide what you are comfortable with and be strong about setting a clear boundary with others who are trying to engage you in this behavior.  If you start something and then feel uncomfortable, stop and let the other person know.  If they won’t stop, find a way to block them from your phone if possible or report them for harassment.  Be smart and be safe!

 

Say What You Mean

Why is it so hard to say what we really mean?  Our feelings of pride often conflict with being vulnerable.  Its hard to let our guard down.  Even in a relationship.  A former student said to me once that her boyfriend never listened to her.  She explained by saying that one night she went over to see him.  She told him she had a hard day and she was exhausted.  She then stated that she was mad because he went on to tell her about how hard his day was.   I mentioned that he seemed to listen to what she said, but she wasn’t happy with his response.  She said that she was mad because he didn’t ask her what was hard about her day, or offer to give her a hug, or tell her how great she was anyway.  We discussed the fact that she didn’t ask for those things, but still expected him to get that message.

So often we want something from someone, but instead of being direct, we assume people are mind readers.   This student wanted a hug, she wanted to talk about her day and be encouraged, but she never asked for those things.  She wanted her boyfriend to just “know” she needed them.  A lot of times in relationships people don’t want to risk rejection, so they don’t always ask for what they want.  Or they believe that they shouldn’t even have to ask.  You may believe it doesn’t mean as much if you have to ask for something because you think it is less sincere.  I disagree.  If you tell someone what you want and they are willing to make that adjustment or change, it says a lot about their feelings for you.  I think its important to let your boyfriend or girlfriend know what you want or need, especially in a relationship.  If they ignore you, then you have a problem to address.

Communication is complicated in relationships especially because its hard to find someone that thinks, feels, and believes the exact same way you do.  It is easy to become upset when people don’t always interpret your needs in the right way.  It can cause a lot of conflict.  The first person to look at when it comes to communication is you.  Find out if there is anything you can do differently to communicate your thoughts and feelings in a way that others can understand you more easily.  Ask yourself if you are sending “coded” messages to your partner.  Is it fair that they should always know what you mean without you having to open yourself up a little more?  Remember, its not always the listener that is at fault.

It is difficult to be vulnerable.  You may be rejected.  You may ask your partner for a hug and they may look at you like you’re crazy.  You may come to realize that your partner isn’t ever going to be the physically affectionate type.  They aren’t going to automatically hug you when you’re feeling upset.  You can handle this a couple of different ways.  You can choose to let it go and get that affection from other friends and family.  You may talk to your mom or your best friend if you need a hug.  It may decide its enough that your partner does other great things for you when you feel down.  Maybe they offer great advice or cook you your favorite dinner to make you feel better.  Look for the other things that your partner brings to the table and ask yourself if that is enough for you to feel good about your relationship?

The other thing you can do is decide that it isn’t enough.  Maybe you’ve opened up to your boyfriend or girlfriend about things you need in the relationship and they’ve ignored all of them.  You may come to the conclusion that they aren’t able to give you what you need.  Sometimes a couple may have similar interests, but the way they communicate or show love is completely opposite.  This can be overcome, but it requires a lot of compromise.  Again, you can look outside your relationship to meet some of your needs.  One person is never going to meet all of your needs anyway.  Which is why friends and family are so important.  However, if you are going outside of your relationship to meet almost all of your emotional or physical needs, then you may want to consider the fact you may not be in the right relationship.

The key is first ask for or explain what you want or need.  Don’t let yourself get upset over something your partner may not even know you are wanting.  Again, not everyone comes from the same background or thinks the same way.  What may seem obvious to you, may not be obvious to your partner.  Give them a chance to know what you need.  Also, remember that you may need to remind them sometimes.  Habits are hard to break and they may not always react the way you want or need them to.  If they ask you to do something that seems odd or different to you, you’ll realize that it isn’t always so easy to remember something that doesn’t come naturally to you.  However, if you both can be patient, it will be worth it.  It always better if both you and your partner open up  and help each other make a few healthy changes.  However, sometimes the person can promise to make a change and never follow through.  You’ll feel like you have to constantly remind them and they constantly forget or fall off after one or two times.  The anger and resentment will build and start to really damage the relationship.

In this case, you may come to realize that you need to leave the relationship because you’ll start to feel rejected by your partner.  It does happen.  Not everyone can give you what you need in a relationship.  This is why you date before you get married.  You want to find out what works and what doesn’t.  Dating helps you realize what you can and can not compromise on.  You can either change what you need or change the person you depend on to meet those needs.  It isn’t easy, but definitely necessary to live your life with someone and be happy.

Gonorrhea resistant to antibiotics???

This will be horrific if it is true.  I’ve heard on the news that a certain strain of Gonorrhea has become resistant to antibiotics.  The Center for Disease Control has this information on their website.  Right now, this horrible STI is very curable with antibiotics.  If you realize you have it, it can freak you out.  However, with one pill, Gonorrhea is eliminated from your body.  Unlike Herpes Simplex Virus 1 & 2, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Hepatitis and HIV which can be treated, but can’t be cured.  Gonorrhea may join these incurable STI’s if it continues to become resistant to antibiotics.  It is important to know the facts and do what you can to prevent contracting this or any STI”s at all.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection which can be contracted through semen or vaginal fluids during unprotected sexual contact, heterosexual or homosexual, with an infected partner:

  • vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner
  • oral sex, although this is less common
  • sharing sex toys
  • touching parts of the body with fingers (for example, touching the private parts and then the eyes)
  • any very close physical contact
  • the bacteria can be passed from hand to hand (very rare isolated cases)
  • from a mother to her baby at birth

You can NOT catch it from simple kissing, sharing baths, towels, cups, or from toilet seats according to the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Guide.

The best way to prevent contracting Gonorrhea is abstinence from sex.  If this is not realistic, then it is advised to follow these guidelines to reduce your risk of contracting Gonorrhea or any other STI:

  • Use latex condoms from start to finish every time you have oral, vaginal or anal sex.
  • Have sex with only one uninfected partner whom only has sex with you (mutual monogamy).
  • Water-based spermicides can be used along with latex condoms for additional protection during vaginal intercourse. Use of spermicide is not recommended nor found to be effective for oral or anal intercourse.
  • Have regular check-ups if you are sexually active.
  • If you have an STD, don’t have sex (oral, vaginal, anal) until all partners have been treated.
  • Prompt, qualified and appropriate medical intervention, treatment and follow-up are important steps in breaking the disease cycle.
  • Know your partner(s). Careful consideration and open communication between partners may protect all partners involved from infection.

Gonorrhea has several symptoms which can appear 1-14 days after sexual contact.

In women the symptoms appear as:

  • strong smelling vaginal discharge that may be thin & watery or thick & yellow/green
  • irritation or discharge from the anus
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • possibly some low abdominal or pelvic tenderness
  • pain or a burning sensation when passing urine
  • low abdominal pain sometimes with nausea

In men the symptoms appear as:

  • white, yellow or green thick discharge from the tip of the penis
  • inflammation of the testicles & prostate gland
  • irritation or discharge from the anus
  • urethral itch & pain or burning sensation when passing urine

50% of women and 10% of men do NOT have symptoms of Gonorrhea.  You may pass on the infection because you don’t know you are infected.  The only way to know for sure you have not contracted Gonorrhea is by getting tested.  Very often Gonorrhea is contracted along with Chlamydia.  50% of people who contract Gonorrhea, also contract Chlamydia at the same time.  Make sure you also get treated for Chlamydia if it is not ruled out when you are tested for Gonorrhea.  If Gonorrhea is not treated it can have long term effects on the body.

In women it can cause:

  • life-threatening complications such as ectopic pregnancy (outside the womb)
  • blocked fallopian tubes (the tubes which carry the egg from the ovaries to the womb), which can result in reduced fertility or infertility
  • long-term pelvic pain

In men, it can lead to:

  • painful inflammation of the testicles, which may result in reduced fertility or sterility

It is so important to protect yourself during any sexual contact.  STI’s are real.  Gonorrhea is one of the most common STI’s out there among young people.  It is known that over 65 million people in the United States are living with an STI and 15 million new cases are reported every year.  Please be smart about your sex life and practice safe sex every time you have sex.