Straight Talk: Strip poker sheds clothes and shreds friends

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: Last weekend at a birthday slumber party, one of the pushier girls suggested we turn our regular poker game into strip poker. Well, I was the only one who chose not to participate. Everybody laughed at me and said that I was a prude. I don’t think I’m a prude. I’m not shy about undressing in front of my sisters and friends and had no problem undressing in front of everybody at the party when there was a reason for it. Do you think there’s something wrong with me because I’m not comfortable with this? Everybody thought it was great fun and were talking about doing it at future slumber parties. I know I could just not attend, but this is my group and I don’t like missing out. I could force myself to participate, but don’t know if I should. ~ M. S. in Sacramento Sarah, 19, Redding: It’s tough being odd one out. I am very impressed though, that you withstood peer pressure and refused to participate in an activity you were uncomfortable with. The experience of defending your principles was infinitely more valuable than a game of strip poker would have been. People mature as they age and show more respect for an individual’s decisions. A few years ago, I would have been teased for refusing to drink at a party. Now, my friends appreciate a sober head. There is nothing wrong with someone who doesn’t follow the crowd; in fact, the most innovative and successful among us have been rebels! Elise, 19, Orlando, Florida: Your friends are being stupid and inconsiderate of your feelings. Do not do things that make you uncomfortable. I was lucky to (mostly) have friends who respected my boundaries, so I wasn’t put into many pressurized situations. However, at parties where I was offered alcohol and declined, some people made fun of me (and still do). But it doesn’t bother me because what they think doesn’t change me. Gregg, 20, Los Angeles: When my friends go smoke pot, I just say no. It’s good to begin getting comfortable saying no to your friends. Katelyn, 16, Huntington Beach: You did yourself a favor by not giving in to peer pressure. Strip poker is a way of seeing how “sexy” you’re willing to be. What if your future boyfriend tried to make you do something similar? You are not a prude; you simply have boundaries. Mark, 24, Laguna Niguel: My favorite definition of friendship/respect is “the tendency to desire what is best for the other.” Another wonderful phrase: “Good mental health is to tell the person that hurt you that they hurt you at the time that they hurt you.” In summary, your friends didn’t treat you with respect, and it would be healthy to tell them. I have given in to peer pressure too many times. My peers were definitely not seeking my best interest — rather their own humor. Regarding trying something once to truly know whether you like it or not, beware! You likely will react just as you assume you will: negatively and embarrassed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. The esteem you walk with everyday is a powerful influence on those around you. Recognize that your strengths help improve the weaknesses of others. This is accomplished by being truly yourself. Dear M. S.: Are you feeling better? I agree completely, not only is there is nothing wrong with you, you’re impressive! I’ll add to the excellent advice above by saying that the trick to saying ‘no’ while retaining your friends is to not judge them, even as they are judging you. “Just say no” — but do it warmly and with a smile. ~Lauren For more discussion, to ask a question, or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit __________ More from Lauren Forcella If the “just say no” campaign had added “warmly and with a smile” to the phrase, there might be less peer pressure today. Young people want to “belong” more than any other thing. They need to learn how to say no AND keep their friends. Obviously there are exceptions, where you don’t need a smile and you don’t need the unsavory company of someone who is treating you or others cruelly. But, many young people do stupid things before they grow up and they’re not bad people, in fact, they’re your friends, right?! The benefit of saying no warmly while not removing oneself is that it has a huge positive influence on others, giving them the same courage to say no. Love really is the answer. Saying no with love includes, not excludes. Saying no with love diffuses the almost mystical power of peer pressure and brings choice to the individuals within the group. ~ Lauren