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Jewish World Review August 21, 2001 /2 Elul, 5761

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports

Craziness about girls and boys -- "RANDALL is a stylish, sweet and athletic guy who enjoys hanging out with his friends. . . You can surely make this down-to-earth guy smile by serving his favorite food. . . pizza." Justin, from Washington, is 15. He values intelligence and beauty in a girl and his favorite sport is tennis. He's a Pisces. Nicholas, from Colorado, is 16, and "he has a sister, so he's bound to be sensitive. But he likes tough stuff too. . .And that smile of his drives girls crazy!"

Crazy may describe the whole phenomenon for which Nicholas and hundreds of other boys have been recruited. These real, everyday guys, described as "cool inside and out," are each featured on a playing card of the "Boy Crazy!" trading cards. Girls are encouraged to collect and trade the cards because, as is explained in each new packet, there is someone "to match every girl's taste." They are told to ". . .trade them with friends and definitely drool over your favorites." "There are no rules. . . Boy Crazy! is living proof there are tons of fish in the sea. Dive in!"

With more than ten million cards sold in the 2000 series since the game launched last year (2001 cards will soon hit stores), it's clear it's taken off like "wildfire" as Stephanie Kirby, a spokesman for Decipher games which markets the cards, put it to me. There's one young honey, aged 12-19, featured for each day of the year. No last names, no school identities, just a flashy photo and lots of information about the "boy next door." Unlike the stars young girls might typically pine after, these are real guys who are "obtainable" says Kirby.

Well, not technically. Though girls are encouraged to visit the "Boy Crazy!" Web site and chat with their favorite guy, no identifying information is exchanged on either end. Kirby told me a company staff member monitors everything to make sure any exchanges remain "wholesome."

The cards work because, explained Kirby, girls are, well, so boy crazy. The cards have proven so successful that the Decipher company is launching "Boy Crazy!" magazine in September. The twist? It's written for girls - by boys. Initial articles will focus on a boys' view of flirting, kissing and thoughts and feelings before a first date.

Lots of advice will be offered.

Of course one only has to wonder for a moment what the reaction would be to a card game for young adolescent boys, "Girl Crazy!" that featured real, pretty young girls whose cards the boys could trade and collect. Polite society would be offended to say the least - surely arguing that this just further perpetuated the notion that girls were seen by a male-dominated society as little more than commodities, to serve at the whim of boys and men, and so on.

And I think in that case polite society would have a point - one that is missing because these tables are turned and it's the boys who are anonymous commodities, as sweet and wholesome commodities as they may be. But it seems to me even that's not the biggest problem here. After all, at some level the "Boy Crazy!" cards are fun - and arguably innocent fun at that.

But innocent doesn't mean harmless. These game cards, and for that matter all the magazines, television, advertising, products and clothing aimed at even the youngest teens and pre-teen girls today, feeds more than ever before the notion that girls will be, and should be, boy crazy. That a girl just isn't whole if she doesn't have a boyfriend.

So, instead of encouraging girls to view boys as friends first, or at least to believe they are not required to have fleeting emotional and physical relationships years before they can start thinking about the fullest expression of romance in marriage, today's culture vigorously trains even very young girls to see boys only in the light of romantic fantasy. Impossible romantic fantasy at that. And since these are real girls with real hearts, they are just being set-up for disappointment, frustration, and very often heartache.

Girls having romantic notions about boys is hardly a development new to our age, nor is it wrong. It's how our boy crazy culture is shaping that inclination that's the problem today: By so wholly encouraging even the youngest girls to "dive in" to all the "fish in the sea," we're trivializing true romance and cheating our girls.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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© 2001, Scripps Howard News Service