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Author Gives Blunt Truth to Help Girls

By Mackenzie Carpenter
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
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Listen up, teenage girls, next time a suave but unfamiliar boy tries to talk you into -- um -- something.

If he gives you flowers or compliments, or takes you to dinner, enjoy yourself, but also remember this little pearl of wisdom from "What Your Mother Never Told You: A Survival Guide for Teenage Girls"

You don't owe him Jack.

Not only that, author Richard Dudum says, "If he tells you you're beautiful, he's right. You don't owe him anything for telling you something you already know. That's right, you're beautiful."

There's more no-nonsense straight talk along those lines in "What Your Mother Never Told You," a small, unassuming paperback published late last year by a small San Francisco firm and available at for $14.95. As self-help books go, this one is loaded with good sense, parsed out in short, easily digestible chapters, in graphic, occasionally crude language that may offend grown-ups but immediately translates with teens.

Exhibit A: In the section on Manipulative Boys, there's a chapter" 'You're Special' -- That's (barnyard epithet having to do with a male cow)!"

A little blunt? Mr. Dudum would be the first to agree, saying he agonized about using that word in the book, but he knew it was a word teenage girls would remember.

Indeed, his first talk took place 15 years ago with a group of 15-year-old girls. Six years later, one girl told him she was beginning to fall under the spell of a boy who was trying to seduce her, but when she heard, "You're special," a distant bell rang in her memory and she instinctively stopped, told him he was full of "it," got up and left.

"She made my day," said Mr. Dudum. "A lot of these chapter titles are candid, frank, blunt and direct, but the kids are getting the messages and remembering them."

So who is this guy, anyway?

Mr. Dudum, 48, isn't a licensed psychologist (but neither is Dr. Phil, at least these days). A San Francisco Realtor by day, a lawyer by training, a musician and summer camp director by avocation, and a cancer survivor by sheer fate, grit and determination, he is also that rarity among adults -- someone who communicates uncommonly well with teens, so much so that he has been asked to speak to many groups of them over the years at schools, camps and churches.

The father of four children -- three of them teenagers, two of them girls -- also believes that "most of the negative messages coming from the media and the Internet and popular culture are directed primarily at girls," especially on reality television.

With this book, Mr. Dudum says he hopes to "help girls anticipate and avoid people, places and situations that could put them in harm's way" by emphasizing two themes: the importance of self-respect, and having effective communication skills.

"I want the girls to speak up," Mr. Dudum said. "I want them to be assertive. I want them to know it's OK to say no."

He recommends, only half-jokingly, that parents not give the book directly to their daughters, which could mean rejection out of hand. "But if you leave it in their bedroom, they will read it."

So let's cut to the chase: Here are some excerpts from "What Your Mother Never Told You," courtesy of a San Francisco father of four:

- Chapter 44 -- "You Don't Owe Him Jack":

"Never feel pressure to give something in return just because a boy says or does something nice. You are being played! Your body is not merchandise. You can't be bought. You don't have to kiss him. You don't owe him anything!"

- Chapter 48 -- "Sex Is Often the Beginning of the End":

"Before you have sex, there is something to look forward to in a relationship. After sex, there's often nothing left, so couples break up. Rushing to have sex will only complicate, confuse, frustrate and change the dynamics of that relationship. Neither of you will know what is and is not expected of each other. Do everything in your power not to give your love away to the wrong people."

- Chapter 14 -- "Change Your Attitude ... Change Your Life":

"Sometimes you might get into trouble with your parents and you have absolutely no idea why. It could be because you gave attitude earlier and your parents are getting mad about it much later. Last night you rolled your eyes or jumped at them when they said something. Watch out. It doesn't take much to trigger the delayed consequences of attitude. Don't let pride blind you. Don't get angry or defensive with people who love you and are trying to help you. Give them a chance. You can be the most beautiful girl in the world, but if you've got attitude, you may find yourself all alone."

- Chapter 45 -- "What Will You Get by Giving [oral sex]":

"From a girl's perspective, I understand you want attention and affection, and you may think that this is one way of getting it. The problem is that you're getting attention not because of WHO you are, but rather because of WHAT you are willing to do. This is absolutely not the kind of attention you want!"

- Chapter 29 -- "Let's Teach You How to Drink":

Mr. Dudum would prefer that a teenage girl never drink, but if she does, "Never take a drink from someone you don't know, and never pour yourself a drink from the punch bowl. If you go to a party and leave your drink on a table, never, and I mean NEVER, drink from that cup again."

- Chapter 54 -- "After Midnight":

"When you're a teenager, nothing good happens after midnight. Absolutely nothing!

"Get off the street and get off the road.

"Go home."

For more information about "What Your Mother Never Told You," see Mackenzie Carpenter can be reached at or 412-263-1949.

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