Erin Oliveri started to realize she was a lesbian when she was about 13. “We’d be playing kissing games at parties and I didn’t want to kiss any of the guys,” she says.
For the next few years, she struggled with figuring out her sexual identity. Growing up on Staten Island -- a short ferry ride away from Manhattan but light years apart in terms of attitudes toward homosexuality -- she went to a small, Catholic, all-girls’ high school where everyone knew everyone. “It wasn’t the most welcoming environment...
Before you ask out the object of your affection, or say, "yes" to someone who's interested in you, go through this checklist of questions to make sure you're ready to handle whatever might happen in your new relationship.
Question One: Are You Ready to Go Out?
About half of 15- and 16-year-olds say they've dated, but just because you've reached a certain age doesn't really mean you're ready to date.
"I think people are ready at different times," says L. Kris Gowen, PhD, EdM, a researcher in sexual and mental health at the Portland State University School of Social Work. She's also written a book about sexuality for teens, called Sexual Decisions: The Ultimate Teen Guide.
Gowen says being ready to go out has more to do with your maturity than your age.
How do you know if you're mature enough? For one thing, could you tell the person you're dating how far you're willing to take the relationship, and what your sexual boundaries are?
"Have you had a talk with yourself to say, 'Am I comfortable with kissing somebody, holding their hand, undressing to a certain level, caressing?'" Gown says.
These are decisions you need to make ahead of time -- not when you're in the middle of a make-out session and your date is pressuring you to go further. Once you know your limits, you need to be strong and secure enough to say "no" or "stop" if things are getting too hot and heavy.
Are you also mature enough to handle the rejection that can come in a relationship? "Any time you open yourself to somebody, whether it's emotionally or physically, and then they reject you -- it's going to hurt," Gowen says.
What would happen if you got dumped? Could you handle it -- or would you fall apart? On the flip side, if you were the one having to do the breaking up, could you do it in a firm, but kind way?
Don't base your readiness to date on what your friends are doing. Even if it seems like everyone around you has paired off, you want to go out with someone for the right reason -- because you really like that person. "The motivation to be drawn to this person is based on who they are as an individual ... not because you're the only person in your group who doesn't have a special someone," Gowen says.