DR. WALLACE: I bowl in a teen league once a week. I met a girl from a neighboring town, and we became good friends. We are both 14 years old. For her birthday present, her parents let her get a rather radical haircut. It's very short on one side and shoulder-length on the other. I thought it looked funny the first time I saw it, but after a few weeks, I got used to it and didn't think anything more about it.
Last night, she needed a ride home. I called my father, and he said that he would give her a ride home — and he did. But when he let her out of the car, he told me that she was a "hippie" and probably a nonconformist troublemaker and that I couldn't have her for a friend anymore. What's more, he said if I did continue to hang out with her, he would pull me out of the bowling league. It so happens that this girl is a really good person, gets good grades and has done fewer questionable things than I have in my life. She even teaches preschool kids at Sunday school, and both of her parents are professionals. Do you think my father is overreacting? She's really become a good friend of mine. Together, we girls just wanna have fun! — Juleanne, via email
JULEANNE: Unfortunately, appearance is noticed first when we initially meet someone, and in many cases, it establishes a lasting impression. Yes, I think your father is absolutely overreacting. Is it possible to invite your mom to the next bowling session? Maybe, if she gets a chance to know your friend a little better, she will be able to convince Dad that she is a fine young lady and a model citizen.
Your letter here also serves as a good example for all of us to refrain from judging others solely on physical appearance. We should always get to know a person and their character before we form any lasting opinion about them. It's hard not be reactive to the visual alone, but as this example demonstrates, a complete and comprehensive understanding of a person is essential to creating an accurate, informed opinion of anyone — anywhere in the world.
CALL CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
DR. WALLACE: I'm 14, and next month, my family will visit some of our relatives who live out of state. I might come in contact with a younger cousin who I've heard has the measles, which I know is a highly contagious disease. I'm really concerned that I could become infected. Should I be safe and have a vaccination to make sure I don't get the disease? This is a really fun time in my life, and I don't want anything to disrupt it. — Worried Sick, Springfield, Missouri
WORRIED: Please call the Centers for Disease Control hotline at 800-232-4636; you will receive important and up-to-date information about vaccines, preventable diseases and immunizations designed to protect you. Callers are given data on 12 contagious diseases, including chickenpox, mumps, polio, influenza and measles.
The hotline provides information on who should be immunized and when as well as sites where vaccines are available. Hotline hours are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday. The hotline answers questions about recommended vaccinations for children, teens and adults.
I think you are a wise teenager to be so aware of your health and the health of others around you. Be sure to share what you learn on the CDC hotline with your parents and siblings.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.