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Dr. Rebecca Kennedy Headshot

Who's Afraid of That Girl?

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I don't want to be That Girl. Then he'll think I'm That Girl. I swear I'm not That Girl.

If you're a millennial woman trying to navigate the hook-up scene, chances are that you know about That Girl. You try not to be like her, and you don't want guys to mistake you for her.

In my psychotherapy practice I've been hearing more and more about That Girl. So, I started asking questions.

Who is she? She's crazy with guys. She texts them too often. She asks them to be exclusive too soon. Put simply, she can be described using the worst possible insult to a young millennial woman: needy.

How do you avoid being like her? Don't let the guy know that you want more than he wants.

My patients talk a lot about That Girl, and she's only been described in pretty awful ways. But things just don't add up, because I've never had a new patient come into my office telling me, I am That Girl. Help me! I asked some of my colleagues, and they confirm that while they've heard a lot about her, they haven't met her, either. If That Girl is such a social pariah, how come she never shows up in our offices to talk about how miserable she is?

Here's what I think: When it comes to exploring her sexuality while maintaining her self-worth, That Girl is doing just fine. She probably isn't consenting to devaluing sexual relationships. She doesn't feel powerless or substitutable with men. She doesn't have such a wide gap between what she desires and what she feels she has to settle for.

Maybe That Girl isn't so crazy after all. When it comes to guys, she texts because she knows what she wants. She asks to be exclusive because she knows what she deserves. She also knows what she needs -- and if that is what defines neediness then, yes, she is needy. Does she overshare sometimes? Sure. Is she the most sought-after girl among young men who are looking to play the field? Unlikely. Might she struggle to find a partner who will meet her high expectations? You bet. She has determined that these are worthwhile prices to pay for establishing self-respecting patterns for sex and romance.

That Girl certainly isn't perfect, but I think a lot of young women can take inspiration from her self-confidence, her willingness to take risks, and her security in her vulnerability. So instead of avoiding That Girl, can you get to know her better? What allows her to buck the current trend of taking whatever is given to her by men and, instead, to set her own rules for relationships? Can we find That Girl and ask her some questions?

I don't advise immediately asking for a relationship status change on Facebook, demanding text messages first thing in the morning and last thing at night, or even necessarily mandating exclusivity as a prerequisite for hooking up. My message for young women is to recognize your desires and -- yes! -- your needs and to make sure they are met in your relationships. This can take many forms and will certainly look different for everyone. So rather than shunning her, try to find That Girl inside yourself, give yourself a chance to like her, and let other people get to know her.

That Girl might not walk into my office, but I'm encouraging her to walk out.

Dr. Rebecca Kennedy is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Manhattan -- and a millennial herself. You can find her at rebeccakennedyphd.com.