Psycho-therapist Donna Burstyn blogs: Today a young woman came into my office very courageous. The principal of her Jewish day school threatens to kick her out because she sees a boy.
My patient is 15. Her boyfriend is 17.
For those who don’t know, many Orthodox day schools prohibit mingling with the opposite sex. That means phone talks, walking down the street together, texting, emailing each other, befriending them on the social sites. The belief is that there is enough distraction going on for people of that age, their bodies are raging with hormones, and if you give a dog a bone, they’ll want to lick it all over.
This girl has been warned several times by the principal of her school.
I said, instead of warning her and having her sign a contract that she would sign because she wants to stay in school, why not think of a way of doing it differently so we’re not forcing her into lying?
Why don’t we understand what she’s getting out of this relationship?
My understanding was that she was getting more out of the relationship than sexual experience. I don’t think there was intercourse involved. I thought that she was getting love that she wasn’t getting at home, male attention that she never got from her father. That she was developing into a girl who was very pretty and had never felt pretty before. She was losing her braces and her skinny legs and she was developing into a woman. I think she found a confidant, a best friend, and he happened to be a boy.
He goes to a school where he signs a contract that there won’t be any socializing with girls. But being that he is a senior, there’s more leeway.
My point is that we should talk to our daughters, they are all our daughters, and tell them that their body is a temple. That they need to preserve and to protect this temple and hold on to it for dear life. That they need to feel rich and excited for that one day when they will want to come to their husband clean and without marks and that nobody else has touched them before. And then have an experience that will be like no other and have that only with their husband for the rest of their life.
We are kidding ourselves if we think this is the only girl who attends an Orthodox day school who has a boyfriend. I’d say that maybe 60% feel comfortable with the rules of the school and that another 40% are hiding and lying and texting and giggling and having people cover up for them. Out of that 40%, I’d say that 5% are in deep relationships that contain love and sex.
Schools don’t want a reputation of having promiscuous girls. They want a reputation for having “good girls.” They want boys who study Torah and don’t study the opposite sex.
So what do we do when we have this beautiful girl in front of us who doesn’t receive the love, affection, dignity, honor, and respect at home that she needs. She’s in a chaotic family with many children. Her parents are over-burdened and can’t give her the time she needs. She needs love. She needs to feel valued. She needs to feel good about herself.
Her grades were dropping. Her relationship was getting more and more important.
I understood the pattern. I tried to explain it to the principal of the school. I was so grateful to sit across from the woman for an hour and she could hear me. Some of the other administrators are so rigid in their thinking. It would be much easier for them to throw the child out. But this woman said, ‘This young woman has something so special. I want to keep her here. I want to help her to get some of her needs met. And I need her to join me and to meet me somewhere. Let’s get her more tutors. Let’s have her feel a sense of mastery. Let her come to therapy twice a week. Let her find you as her confidant and not this boy. The sexuality will always be there but she found it too early.’
I had a really positive meeting. I prayed before I went in. ‘G-d, let this meeting go from my heart to these women’s hearts. And let there be no distraction. And please don’t let me step on anyone’s toes. Let the girl feel that I am behind her and let the principal hear that I want the best and that I don’t advocate letting her break the rules.’