Hook-Ups, Friendships and the New Rules of ‘Dibs’ for Teen Boys

Author Rosalind Wiseman on how high school guys can navigate the treacherous shoals of love, sex and loyalty in an era of casual relationships

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Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, the 2002 book that mapped girl social hierarchies and inspired the film Mean Girls, is back with a new book. This time she’s exploring boy world. In Masterminds and Wingmen, published this fall, she offers a guide for parents hoping to help their sons navigate the shoals of adolescence. And, in this week magazine feature, “What Boys Want,” she gives us a rare chance to hear from the boys themselves about everything from love, to hookups and peer pressure. You can read that piece here.

But parents aren’t the only one need need some guidance. After visiting hundreds of middle and high schools, Wiseman found that the kids, and particularly boys, need some guidance an era where the lines are blurred between the private and public, between dating and hooking up, and sometimes between “yes” and “no.” So she wrote The Guide: For Guys which you can download for free as an e-book here.

Not surprisingly, in her talks with teens, Wiseman found that one of the most popular topics was the thorny social and ethical dynamics of hookups. So, based on these conversations, she created the rules of dibs for boys, or how to pursue girls without wrecking friendships, which you can read here in an exclusive excerpt from The Guide.

(Click here to join TIME for as little as $2.99 to read Rosalind Wiseman’s story about what boys want and why hook-up culture doesn’t just hurt girls.)

The Rules of Dibs

1. If it’s well documented or recognized in the friend group that you liked a girl first or you like her more than the other dibber, than you have the first right to dibs. That means that people know how you feel because you have said something to indicate your feelings.

2. You must follow through with the dibs in a reasonable amount of time, normally defined as about two to three weeks, unless other things come up, like going away for sports or school breaks.

3. If you make no progress or you fail, you must relinquish the dibs and communicate this to the friend in competition with you within one to two weeks.

4. You can’t call dibs to spite your friend or be annoying.

5. You can’t call dibs if you know you won’t succeed.

6. You can’t call dibs if you know the girl already likes someone else, especially if that someone is a friend of yours.

7. If the girl you’ve called dibs on rejects you, graciously bow out.

8. You don’t have the right to get mad at another guy for talking (not “talking”) to your dibs.

What if the stakes are higher? What if you really like the person your friend has dibs on? That can be even more awkward because it probably means telling the other guy how you actually feel. I don’t mean you reveal to him every example of how desperately in love you are. I do mean exchanging at least two sentences (one from him and one from you) that clearly indicate how much each of you honestly cares.

Here’s where it gets tough. Because guys can be so reluctant to tell their closest friends how they feel about someone they’re interested in, they can be really unclear. Once you’re unclear, the other guy can pretend he didn’t really get it. Or maybe you were so unclear that he truly didn’t get it.

What if your friend asks you if you’re okay with him asking out someone you used to like or hooked up with? You say yes because you think you’re fine with it, but when you see them together you hate it. Do you have the right to say anything? No. While you’re entitled to your feelings, you need to move on.

Good guys can also violate the dibs terms. Maybe they hook up with someone they really shouldn’t have because a friend was into the same person. As a general rule, everyone in that situation should get one asshole pass. If, however, a guy has a pattern of not respecting dibs, then he’s showing you that he doesn’t respect you, he doesn’t respect the definition of friendship, and it’s a really good bet that he’ll betray you in other things as well.

Below you can watch Wiseman and three of her teenage co-authors discuss what boys aren’t telling us when it comes to love, friendship and loyalty.

PHOTOS: The World of Boys–Intimate, Emotionally Charged Portraits by Laura Pannack

(The Guide: For Guys is excerpted with permission from the author, Rosalind Wiseman, published by RPW, Inc. in September 2013. You can download a full copy of this ebook on any ereader platform (iPad, Kindle, Nook, etc.) here. Find her book for adults, Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World here. Wiseman is an author and educator whose previous work includes Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & the New Realities of Girl World which you can find here.)