If I Knew Then What I Know Now

February 11, 2011

I’ve been invited to contribute to a bit of an anthology that is being compiled for a girl named Clementine. Clementine is about to turn sixteen. Several women have been asked to compose a message to the girl they were at 16, so I’ve written this message to the girl I was almost 40 years ago.

Sixteen is young, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Stay young as long as you can manage to. A lot of the “grown-up” stuff that looks fun and attractive, comes with a high price. So take your time and ease into it.

Sex is one of those things. It’s also one of those things that you’ll be encouraged to do, via friends, and TV, and the movies. But, take your time; do it when you are ready. And whether or not you are having sex, some of your friends likely will be, so you can be helpful to those around you by getting good information about sex.

First, love and sex are two different things. Sometimes they overlap or meld, become one; this is a beautiful situation.

But there can be love without sex, and there can be sex without love–and either is fine. The important thing though, is to not confuse one for the other, and especially, not to confuse sex for love. Always strive to be clear and honest with yourself about why you are having sex. This will help you make good choices.

As a strong and vivacious girl, there will be many people who want to have sex with you–this is natural; take it as a compliment.

Sex is both simple and complicated. It is complicated because of all the precaution you must take to keep your health. It is complicated because people are reluctant to really talk about it, especially with young adults. Stick up for yourself and always take sensible precautions. And when you don’t, own up to it, take corrective action if necessary, and then forgive yourself.

Try and find an adult with whom you can talk about any concerns or questions you might have about sex and having sex. And should you get yourself into some kind of trouble, be brave and tell the adults who are raising you; they will still love you, and they will help you.

And lastly, know that sex is good. And, you are not a bad girl when you have sex or want sex. Yeah, you’ll probably make some bad choices, but do your best, respect yourself and your partner(s), and, enjoy.

[Three bits of 21st century advice, that I would give myself if I was 16 now ...

1) Don't post photos on the Internet that you wouldn't want your family to see.

2) The Internet is generally not a good source of good information about real-life sex,

3) Except for some sites, such as Scarleteen.]

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