DR. WALLACE: I'm 17 and rather shy. I recently met a guy, and I have gone out with him twice. I really like him and think he likes me, too. In fact, he has invited me to be his date for his brother's wedding next month. We also have several dates planned before the wedding.
I have difficultly starting a conversation because I'm so shy. I'm worried that I'll say something stupid, so I just keep my mouth shut. Because he doesn't talk much either, we spend a lot of time together both feeling awkward. At least we have each other, but it's so strange, and even weird, how we are both so nervous around each other. Don't get me wrong; I want to keep dating him. I just don't want to do something stupid that might end this relationship before we have the chance to settle in comfortably. What should I do to get the ball rolling a little without being too forward? — Nervous yet Happy, Des Moines, Iowa
NERVOUS YET HAPPY: First of all, relax, and remember that conversing with another person is actually fun. Don't worry about occasional awkward silences. They happen to everyone from time to time. You don't have to fill them with empty chatter. Just remember that your goal is to get to know this young man better. Try to learn more about him and what his likes and dislikes are. You can start with the types of food he enjoys and those he avoids. Movies, music and sports are other safe topics of conversation. He might be interested in one or more of these areas. You can ask him if he has hobbies and what he likes to do when he has free time.
You might want to seek out a friend of his beforehand and find out the sorts of things he is interested in. A little advance knowledge could help you out quite a bit with some good conversation starters. For instance, if he's an Iowa Hawkeyes football or basketball fan, he'll be impressed if you can tell him a little about those teams. You can learn about the teams by spending a little time on the internet doing some research.
Also, no matter what topic you land upon, ask questions that require more than yes or no answers. The point is to draw him out with longer replies that will actually get him to relax by speaking about a topic he is interested in. Once you get the ball rolling, I trust your future conversations will begin to flow and you'll both forget about feeling shy. With any luck, he will do more than just talk about himself. He'll begin asking questions that allow him to get to know more about you as well!
DR. WALLACE: I'd like to comment on the article about a 19-year-old woman who was concerned that her boyfriend didn't use condoms during sex.
I am a family physician who sees many adolescent girls who request birth control. I agree with your advice that her partner should wear condoms constantly.
However, I am concerned because this young woman seems to be discussing condoms as a form of contraception. They are relatively inefficient as contraception. She should be using more effective means of birth control (birth control pills, Ortho Evra patch or Depo-Provera). Condoms are useful mainly as protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
A healthy, young, fertile woman who uses condoms exclusively is likely to get pregnant — especially with a boyfriend who is resistant to using them.
Unfortunately, too many teens have the mistaken idea that condoms are adequate contraception. I hope you will find an opportunity to correct the misconception, as I'm sure your column is widely read, giving you the opportunity to prevent some pregnancies. — M.D. Who Cares, via email
M.D.: Thank you very much for taking time to weigh in on this most important topic. The information you've outlined is indeed quite valuable and should be considered by all young people of both genders who are engaging in sexual activity. Our reader and I appreciate your concern and educational suggestions.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.