I'm an 11-year-old girl and I have no friends!

Everyone else is dating and I feel like a BIG DORK!

Published September 17, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I'm a super friendly 11-year-old girl. I really love my school, but I'm not really the person with a lot of friends. I'm mostly a BIG DORK! I have a couple of friends, mostly girls. But I do have some really awesome guy friends! But almost everyone I know is dating, too.

I think I may be too young. Is there anything I can do to increase my friends?


Girl With No Friends

Dear Girl With No Friends,

As you know, I didn't answer your letter at first. Then you wrote and asked if I had gotten it. I said, Yes, but I'm not sure I can answer it. And you wrote again and asked, Why not?

Indeed, why not? I had to think about it. Frankly, and don't take this the wrong way, but I thought to myself, What do I know about being an 11-year-old girl?

But wait. I do know what it is like to be an 11-year-old boy who wants friends. In fact, I know what it is like to have your family move to a whole new town and new school when you are 11.

How did I manage? Not all that well at first. I lived in fear. I could not find where I was supposed to be. The new school was huge and not laid out like a regular school. For the first time in my life I had a locker. I don't think kids have lockers anymore, but at that time a locker was cool but also a big responsibility. For the first time in my life I had to remember a combination to a lock, and I had to be in different rooms all over the school all day long. And I had to remember which books to bring for which classes, and sometimes kids would knock the books out of my hands, or I would bump into someone and drop them in the hallway and I would be on my hands and knees trying to pick up my books and papers and pencils, which would roll away, and I would get stepped on or trip people and make them mad.

I did not like that! I didn't like having to figure out where I was supposed to be all the time. I didn't like screwing up. Sometimes the bell would ring and everyone would rush off to class and I would be left standing there, the only one in the hallway, not knowing where to go, and then one time this tall, angry, scary principal named Mr. Fitzpatrick came walking up really fast and shouted at me, "Where are you supposed to be?" and I couldn't even understand what he was saying. I hated that. I still hate that guy. I would have done something to him, or told him what I thought of him, but I was only 11 and he was the principal.

I was not a happy 11-year-old!

It was an experimental school and the schedules changed frequently. I cried a lot. I got lost. Lost! Can you imagine the shame and humiliation? Perhaps you can. I don't know. I don't know enough about you.

That's another reason I was not going to answer your letter. I don't know enough about you. I do know this, however: It's not true that you have no friends. You have a couple of friends. And you will have more as time goes on. And when the time is right you will start dating. Frankly, 11 sounds pretty early to me, but I grew up in the 1960s. Ask your mom. Do kids really date at 11?

You may feel like you have no friends, but this is a great time to learn the difference between how you feel and what the facts are. You do have friends. Your feeling is not a fact. Your feeling is one of loneliness, something everyone feels, even people who have a million friends.

Feeling lonely means you might like it if your friends were with you right now. So you can take steps to arrange for your friends to be with you, by calling them up and making plans, or inviting them over. That is the difference between feelings and facts. If you tell yourself, "I have no friends!" then you won't be able to call up your friends (or however you communicate with them) and invite them over.

See what I mean? As adults, we do this, too. We allow our feelings to become translated into statements that aren't true, like, "Everybody hates my writing and I am an idiot," or, "I'll never get the respect I deserve as a writer!" For some of us, it's hard to realize that maybe we don't have all the friends or all the money and fame we want, but we have enough.

Everybody does embarrassing things. We're all clumsy sometimes. We're all learning. It's true. You're 11. I just turned 59. We're both still learning stuff. We both make mistakes. We both look ridiculous sometimes. Everybody else does, too. I look ridiculous all the time. People write to me and tell me so. Big deal. If they were on display, they'd look ridiculous too.

You're going to be fine. Concentrate on the friends you have. Be good to them. If you are good to the friends you have, your friendships will grow.

By Cary Tennis

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