DEAR ABBY: I'm a 15-year-old girl. When I'm with the high school group of kids at my church, I try to extend myself and talk, but they never reciprocate much. I always have to try to think of something to say and be careful I don't embarrass myself. Especially around guys, I feel awkward and self-conscious.
I feel OK about myself, but I still get nervous. Other girls find things to talk about to each other but not me, and guys never talk to me first, either. I don't know if I'm doing something wrong or being too careful.
I'm an only child. I get along pretty well with adults, but I have a hard time with kids. I heard you have a booklet about these issues. If you think it might help me, how can I order it? -- UNPOPULAR IN SACRAMENTO
DEAR UNPOPULAR: Part of your problem may be that you're an only child, which can be isolating. If you spend most of your time with adults, it's understandable that you are less comfortable with people your own age. But don't let it stop you from trying to be friendly. If guys don't speak to you first, they're probably feeling as awkward as you are. To smile and say hello is not being pushy. My booklet "How to Be Popular" is filled with suggestions for polishing social skills. It covers a variety of social situations and is meant for people of all ages. To order, send your name and address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. There are tips for becoming the kind of person other people find interesting, attractive and want to know better. (If parents, teachers and clergy know someone needing help in this regard, it might make an inexpensive gift that could help change the course of that person's life.)
The key to being well-liked by both sexes is: Be kind. Be honest. Be tactful. Don't be afraid to give someone a compliment if you think it's deserved. If you think you're not beautiful (or handsome), be well-groomed, tastefully dressed, conscious of your posture. (People who stand tall and smile project self-confidence.)
If you're not a "brain," try harder. If you are smarter than most, don't be a know-it-all. Ask other people what they think and encourage them to share their opinions. If you're not a good athlete, be a good sport.
Think for yourself, but respect the rules. Be generous with kind words and affectionate gestures, but respect yourself and your family values always. If you think "putting out" will make boys like you, forget it. (It won't work, and later you'll be glad you didn't.) If you need help, ask God. If you don't need anything, thank God!