Annie's Mailbox: Teen worries about lack of social skills

Dear Annie: I am very antisocial. I don't go to parties as often as most teens, I hardly ever invite friends over and the few friends I do have no longer attend the same school. I don't belong to any clubs or do other extracurricular activities, including sports, which greatly has affected my health. I spend most of my days at the computer, watching TV or pacing back and forth in my backyard.

My parents have noticed my lack of social skills. My older sister is the same way. They think they are to blame for not introducing sports and other social hobbies to me at an early age, but something tells me that's not the case.

I know I can make more friends if I try, but I don't know how. So, Annie, please tell me. How does a 14-year-old who's never had a circle of friends, never been a partygoer and never had her first kiss learn to be normal?

- Lonely for Life

Dear Lonely: You are not as abnormal as you think. Many teens have difficulty with their social skills, even though you may not see it. Plus, it sounds as if there is a family history of social anxiety. The fact that you want to change is a good sign, and we have every confidence you can take charge of your life. First, make an effort to get out of the house more. Force yourself to sign up for at least one extracurricular activity at school. Make a vow to smile and say hello to as many classmates as possible. Invite a new friend to go with you to the mall or come to your house and watch a movie. Be interested in what others have to say. All of these things require effort, and you will have to push yourself at first, but it will get easier throughout time.

Dear Annie: I met my girlfriend three years ago and learned that her stepfather had sexually abused her when she was a young girl. Her mother knew about it but never did anything to help her.

We now live together and have a child. On several occasions, I have suggested she get counseling, but she either refuses or puts it off. The stepfather still is married to her mom. I can't stand the fact that she doesn't realize how this infuriates me.

This man should be taken off the streets regardless of how long ago the abuse happened. What else can I do to get her to seek counseling?

- Concerned

Dear Concerned: We know how upset you are, but please remember that this is not about you, and the constant pressure on your girlfriend undoubtedly makes her additionally uncomfortable and stressed. She may fear seeking counseling because she thinks it would necessitate arresting her stepfather, and she may not be ready to take that step. We urge you to call RAINN (rainn.org) at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673) and ask how you can best help her.

Dear Annie: When I was 18, I found out I had genital warts, and my world came out from under me. I thought only bad girls with poor hygiene got STDs.

The response from my parents didn't help. Mom called me names and said I was "dirty." She insisted no one would ever want to touch me again. She phoned the doctor to ask if I was allowed to use the same toilet seats as the rest of the family. My father wouldn't make eye contact for a week. It destroyed our relationship.

Having HPV changed the way I looked at myself and others. Mom was wrong. I have been married for almost four years to a wonderful man. He knows he could contract HPV, but it doesn't change his love for me.

"Sad Mom" is doing the best thing for her daughter just by being there for her and not letting her beat herself up for the mistakes she has made. Someday, someone will see the beautiful person she is.

- Mending Relationships

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