by Dan Savage
I’m a reader in Kansas with two teenage daughters, 16 and 18. My girls recently met a boy where they work and both took an interest in him. The 18-year-old was devastated that he was more interested in her younger sister. I spoke to the 16-year-old about it, which is when I found out this boy is going to be a sophomore in college. The fact that he’s interested in a 16-year-old is a red flag. I asked the 16-year-old to keep her distance. She agreed, but I saw a shirtless photo he sent her. I don’t know what other photos he’s sent and I don’t know what she’s sent him, but I immediately removed all photo apps from her phone. The girls have had public fights about this boy. They’ve made peace with each other, but now my 18-year-old wants to date him. I can’t control the actions of an 18-year-old but (1) it seem likely this guy is a complete creep and (2) isn’t her relationship with her sister more important? — Knowing A Numbskull Stalks Adorable Sisters
1. I’m not ready to pronounce this guy a creep — at least not for the age difference. It sounds like he met your daughters someplace they’re all working this summer, which is a lot less icky than some college boy creeping on high-school girls via Instagram. And you say this boy is going to be a sophomore in college, KANSAS, but don’t give his age. There are 30-year-old college sophomores, of course, but if this boy went straight to college from high school, that would make him 19 years old. If your 16-year-old is closing in on 17, this guy could be “older” by two years and change. While I can understand why you wouldn’t want your younger daughter dating college boys, I think you are overreacting to the age difference — and it’s a moot issue, as he’s no longer pursuing your younger daughter.
1.5. You know what is creepy? Pursuing a pair of sisters. The possibility of conflict was so predictable, it was likely a motivating factor for him. Getting off on drama and public fights isn’t a crime, but it is a red flag.
2. You ordered your 16-year-old to stop seeing this guy and deleted apps from her phone. (It’s cute you think your daughter isn’t tech-savvy enough to re-download and hide all the same apps.) You should warn your daughter about the risks of sexting — it may be legal for her to have sex (16 is the age of consent in Kansas), but she could face child porn charges for sending photos and this boy could wind up on a sex-offender registry for receiving them. (Laws meant to protect young people from being exploited are routinely used to punish them.) But don’t attempt to micromanage your daughters’ love lives. Parental disapproval has a way of driving teenagers into each other’s arms, KANSAS. If you don’t want your daughters having a fuck-you-mom threesome with this guy before the summer is over, you’ll let them work through this on their own — but go ahead and stitch “boys come and go but sisters are forever” on a couple of pillows and put them on their beds.