Teen Talk: Boy prolific with texts, but not talkative at school

Dear Kelly: I kind of have a thing with a guy, but he can’t talk to me. When we text at night, it’s all good and he can go on for hours about all kinds of things. He’s really funny and makes me laugh all the time. But when I see him at school, he doesn’t say anything and things are really awkward.

He tweeted that he hated girls who talk too much and talk about stupid things, so I’m always scared that I say too much or the wrong thing when we sit at lunch with our friends. But at night when we are texting and I say I have to go to bed or do homework, he says something like, “Don’t go. Keep talking to me. Pleeeeze.” But at school he never asks me any questions or talks directly to me. It’s bizarre.

He told me he liked me but that was a while ago, so now I don’t know. He seems so confident – almost cocky – at school, so I doubt he’s really shy like I thought at first. When I asked him why he doesn’t talk to me at school, he just said that it’s just different and he would try to talk more to me. But he really still doesn’t talk to me, and nothing changed after I mentioned it to him.

I like him but I’m tired of things being so sketchy at school and leaving lunch feeling badly every day because I never know if he really likes me as much as I like him. I’m confused and starting to wonder if this will ever work?

– Willow

Dear Willow: A lot of times when we like someone, we feel intimidated. And we trip over our tongues and don’t know what to say, so we say either too much and never stop talking or don’t say anything at all. Everyone can relate to this feeling, even people who seem rock solid and completely secure.

Just because he comes across as cocky and confident doesn’t mean you should rule out that he might be shy when he has to talk with you in person. Appearing confident can be the perfect smoke screen for someone who is bashful, nervous or fearful. Before you make any assumptions or end things, do a little research to determine what the real cause of his different behaviors might be.

A few questions to consider before moving forward: Is there a chance he struggles with one-on-one conversation, so texting is easier for him? Does he talk openly and freely to others at lunch and ignore you? Is he more interested in talking with his buddies than you? Has he had a lot of girlfriends or are you one of the first, so he might be uncertain about how to act? Is it possible he gets worried about what to say around you, so he says nothing at all? Do you help the conversation along or are you concerned with not talking too much, so you don’t say much either? Is there a chance neither of you are comfortable talking in front of other people, so neither of you talk to each other?

Teenagers text. I get it. It’s your form of communication, but sometimes it becomes a crutch and makes having actual face to face conversation awkward and uncomfortable. Learning to talk with people, not just texting and social media connecting, is an art form that many fear will get lost with your generation. If you never learn to make eye contact, carry on a conversation, talk, banter, chat or communicate in a way that does not involve technology you could be in a for some struggles as you develop and try to maintain relationships.

Carrying on a conversation is a two-way street. Stop worrying about talking too much or saying something stupid. Be yourself. He likes you – he told you. If he didn’t like what you say, I’m guessing he wouldn’t want to text with you all night. Why don’t you mention his tweet to him and find out why he said that. Maybe there is a simple explanation that will help you understand where he was coming from when he said that he hates it when girls talk too much. Odds are it has nothing to do with you or how he feels about you.

If he is too nervous to talk in person, why not try something like FaceTime or Skype? Or better yet, how about inviting him to do something like go jogging, bike riding or bowling, so you can talk with each other without anyone around but you aren’t having to look each other in the eye and have those awkward moments. Maybe he can come over and have dinner with your family. Take time to notice how he is around other people – is he comfortable talking to everyone but you? If so, he’s probably intimidated by you and his feelings for you get in the way of his ability to talk with you.

It seems like neither of you are being yourself around each other. Call it nerves, fear or just freaking out. Crushing on someone makes us do and feel weird things. Sometimes just the basic act of talking feels embarrassing and scary so texting might feel less threatening. Give it some time. Make an effort to talk with him and just be yourself. Stop trying to be the person you think he wants and just be the person you are. Maybe if you lead by example, he will follow and become more comfortable around you as well.

Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.