Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Helping teens be authentic

I snorted (yes, actually snorted) when a co-worked gave me a pre-publication copy of a book titled “Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know about Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More” because the author is Jane Fonda. Yeah, Jane Fonda. What could she know about being a teen?

Well, turns out she’s spent 17 years working with teens around some pretty tough issues. In the 1990s she founded the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at Emory University.

Right now I’m the mom and stepmom to four teen girls, plus an 11-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy. So the issue of teens and sex, relationships, etc., is huge in my household. Here’s a section of the book that grabbed me:

“Our culture can make a girl start feeling pressure to

  • be sexy
  • fit in
  • silence herself
  • be a pleaser
  • wear the ‘right’ clothes or brands
  • look ‘good’ and conventionally beautiful
  • have the right hair
  • be passive rather than active
  • be nice rather than honest
  • do whatever it takes to be popular
  • be a ‘lady’
  • be unselfish
  • not show it if she is angry
  • not let on how smart she is
  • have (and keep) a boyfriend
  • be thin

What others can you think of? What pressures do you feel?

Here’s another real-life example of how this can look: A psychologist named Catherine Steiner-Adair was doing research on girls in middle school and sometimes she’d invite her students out for pizza. When she would ask the girls what they wanted on their pizzas, the ten-year-olds would want double cheese with pepperoni, the thirteen-year-olds would say, “I don’t know,” and the fifteen-year-olds would answer, “Whatever you want.”


The book is scheduled for a March release by Random House.