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‘Queen Bees’ author reveals world of teenage boys

Sep. 11, 2013 at 10:41 AM ET

Video: Rosalind Wiseman is the author of “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” the basis of the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer that her new book, “Masterminds and Wingmen,” reveals that boys have as much baggage from their school days and face as many problems growing up as girls do.

They might seem like they don’t have much to say, but now it’s time to really hear it from the boys.

Rosalind Wiseman, whose best-selling book “Queen Bees and Wannabees” was the basis for the movie “Mean Girls,” is back with a book about boys, calledMasterminds and Wingmen."

Wiseman, who worked with 200 boys to find out what their lives are really like, sat down with TODAY’s Matt Lauer, who wondered if she found the male equivalent of “Mean Girls” in her research.

“Oh sure, and all different kinds of things because the world of boys is just as complex,” Wiseman told Lauer on the plaza Wednesday. “The problem is we think everything is so simple with boys because they don’t tell us what’s going on, but underneath that is a huge amount of problems, complexities, feelings that they need to be able to get out.”

High school senior Erik Overdyk, one of the boys she interviewed for the book, said in a taped piece on TODAY, “As a guy, you always shade your emotions a little bit.”

Another boy, David Benson, described what it’s like when his mother picks him up from school.

“She likes to ask a lot of questions,” said David, a high school junior. “Like, ‘Hi. How are you? How was your day” Tell me everything,’ and usually, I don’t want to say anything.”

So what’s the best way for parents to find out what’s going on with our boys?

Wiseman suggests turning the tables to see what it feels like to be grilled.

When a boy gets home after school, he no longer has to act in a way suitable for being around his peers, or as Wiseman says, “with armor” on.

“If you have a relatively healthy relationship with your kid, he wants to relax and decompress” after the school day, Wiseman says. “Then what happens is parents say, ‘How was your day today? What did you do?’”

That feels like an interrogation, Wiseman says, and can cause boys to shut down.

For parents to know what it feels like, imagine this conversation, Wiseman suggests.

“You walk in from a hard day and your son said to you, ‘So, Dad, how was your day today? Did you answer all of your emails? How was your presentation? How did it go? Did you get your promotion? Why not?’’

“Aren’t you going to be exhausted and shut down?” Wiseman wondered.

The boys want to talk, she says, but they need a break first.

“They don’t want to have constant talking,” Wiseman said. “What they want is a little bit of space and then they can talk later.”

Erik said in the taped piece that he is “at least as close with my best guy friends as girls are with their best girl friends.”

Are boys sharing their feelings with their close male friends like girls do?

“They do, but it’s complicated,” Wiseman said, “because at a certain point they feel like if they really talk about things that are really scary to them, it feels weak.”

“We’ve got to be able to tell boys and show boys that actually it’s not weak to ask for help,” Wiseman added. “It’s a capacity. It’s a skill.”

And it’s important, Lauer noted, citing statistics that show for every 100 girls ages 6 through 14 with a learning disability, there are 160 boys with such learning problems, and for every 100 girls ages 15 to 19 who commit suicide, 549 boys do.

As Erik put it: “Guys face just as complicated issues as girls do and have just as much trouble dealing with those problems.”