Monday, December 20, 2010

Playing Catch-up (II)

(Dec 9) Lulu and Ashley are academic snobs

Lulu: The second Cherie is kind of interesting today: I like the first question too but she says what needs to be said: What is your problem why are you not coming up with your own date ideas? In the second, though, he’s pretty mean to that kid, which is unusual for her!

Ashley: Yeah, the the second one is kind of impressive - i.e. it's what I would have said! High school isn’t hard, you shouldn’t be failing, so try harder instead of quitting and getting the GED. Except if the kid wants to go to college, it may be better to get the GED and then go to community college.

Lulu: I don't think a GED is significantly easier than passing HS.

Ashley: It depends on the state. I considered taking it at 16.

Lulu: I guess it depends on the school too, and yeah, so did I, but that was in the interest of time. It's not EASY but it's FAST. I would be interested to know what this person wants to do after high school, but also what is it about high school they dislike: if it's the social atmosphere or bullying or something, then yeah, drop out, but if it's the work itself... who knows. A GED is fine for community college but who knows if this person would like community college any better.

Ashley: Yeah, I’m just saying, if they WANT to go to college, a GED isn't worse than passing with all Ds.
Lulu: True, a GED + decent grades in community college is probably the best way to rehabilitate bad HS grades. Maybe they should also find out if they have a learning disability. Tough love is great, but Cherie's right, HS is not that hard. So it seems WEIRD that they can't keep up with the work and it just keeps piling up.

Ashley: WEIRD!

(Dec 10) Lulu and Ashley are slackers

(Dec 11) Lulu and Ashley continue slacking

(Dec 12) Dear Abby triple-hit

Lulu: I actually found all 3 in today's Dear Abby mildly interesting.



Ashley: That’s clever re: store tags. Clever thief!

Lulu: I know! I think the lesson is "don't be in the phone book" though. But yeah, they should not print your name on your receipt.

Ashley: Ha ha also, I love the third letter.

Lulu: So do I!

Ashley: Because that behavior DOES NOT GO AWAY.

Lulu: Hahahahaha. At least then it's your money!

Ashley: You just get old enough that your mom doesn't yell at you!

Lulu: Yeah, I mean, I do think the kid didn't really "forget" s/he was xmas shopping. S/he gave in to temptation as Abby suggested. BUT. I "forget" I am xmas shopping and buy things for myself ALL THE TIME.

Ashley: LIKEWISE IT IS A PROBLEM. The Christmas card thing is interesting too. I kind of want to see the handmade cards.

Lulu: I know several people who make handmade cards and nobody's ever complained, as far as I know. Also I sort of don't see the point of sending NON-homemade cards, but the homemade cards that, say, Charlotte makes are very well done. She's a good artist. Still, I can't imagine people being that upset about a badly made card by a child? I guess she is 14 now, and maybe it stopped being cute.

Ashley: It’s odd to prefer a store-bought card. Who really cares where the card you got came from? Isn’t the point that people remembered to send you a card? It’s such a confusing custom anyway.

Lulu: Yeah, it seems like they do it because it's fun and it's a bonding activity, but even if you do it for fun, you want to assume that people appreciate them equally with a store bought card. But yes, I don’t get the custom either. I understand a card as a festive covering for a check, I guess, like wrapping paper for a money present or a gift card. But I don't get Christmas cards at all.

(Dec 13) Slaaaack slack slack.

(Dec 14) Well, some people ARE always right!

Lulu: What would say to the lady whose boyfriend's preferences always seem to win out? Also we have NOT POSTED OUR CONVERSATIONS. MAYBE WE NEVER WILL.

Ashley: I have it on my calendar. To post. I keep moving it (ed note: Success!).

Lulu: Ha ha ha.

Ashley: It would be nice to have concrete examples.

Lulu: Yeah; how do these conversations go? Is it just like, I want to eat Thai. Well, I want to eat Mexican.
[various remarks in defense of one or other]
[length of conversation exceeds interest]
Ok, whatever, Mexican.
Is boyfriend just more willing to back his choices? Or seems to have stronger preferences?

Ashley: Or he's willing to state "Well, I'm doing this," and she would rather come along than go do her thing?

Lulu: It would be annoying to be in that relationship. Like, yeah, we can do things separately, but it's lame to be willing to do something you don't really want to spend time with someone, and have them not willing to do the same for you.

Ashley: Yep, but it's also unclear if she's mentioned to him that that's how she feels. Maybe he thinks he's winning her over with logic!

Lulu: I don't think the advice is great. I actually think it would be better to say to him, "I feel like whenever we have different preferences, you seem to win." He actually might feel that she wins a lot - confirmation bias one way or the other (or both). But either way, he might be willing to cede sometimes in the name of evenness, even if his preference in the current instance is, as always, logically better.

Ashley: I know how he feels.

(Dec 14, continued)

Lulu: So this H.S. senior has no desires except to go to California. S/he doesn't say why. Amy tells them to stay home and go to community college. Thoughts?

Ashley: Yeah, I read that but was too confused. Why CA? For how long? To do what??

Lulu: There’s no information in the letter.

Ashley: I mean, if "California" is code for "porn industry in Hollywood" that's one thing. If s/he wants to go for a summer road trip that's another.

Lulu: If you don't know what you want to do, except you want to be somewhere with a nice climate, I guess you might as well go.

Ashley: Absolutely. There's community colleges in CA.

Lulu: One generally has more support in one's hometown, but not always. You might as well live in a cheap apartment, work a part time retail job and go to community college in the place of your choice. There is a bit of cost involved in moving, but you can mitigate that by selling your stuff! And a road trip is even easier. By the time the road trip is over you might have an idea of what you want to do. Actually, what might be good if s/he can find a few friends who want to road trip to CA. Then, if it's nice, stay, and if it sucks, go home!

Ashley: Good plan! Just make sure you're not driving your car, 'cause then you’ll ditch your friends!

Lulu: Yessss, don’t strand people. And sell all your stuff before you go.

Ashley: They're in HS. I don't think they have a lot of stuff to sell.

Lulu: True. I guess bring anything you want to keep (i.e. items of sentimental value) and clothes. I don't know how the parents will feel about the child maybe moving away and maybe not.

Ashley: Well, they should be ok with a roadtrip? And then call them from CA, and be like, “Well, this is awesome.”

Lulu: I guess they can plan to stay in CA for 2 weeks. Enough time to find a job and check out schools and stuff, so they can be like, "I really like it! I found a job!" I mean, 2 weeks isn't really long enough to find a great job, but store or coffee shop or something would be fine. I wonder where in CA they want to go. They might want to narrow it down to a specific city first; California is a big state.

Ashley: And not all of it is warm. And some of it is quite earthquake-y. Maybe they'd be better off moving to Boston.


(Dec 15) Lulu is ignored

Lulu: The second Advice Goddess letter is mildly interesting... I don't think AA answers the question fully. Also, Carolyn HATES this guy who's annoyed that his wife's family picks out their own xmas.

Lulu: … Hello? Hel…lo?

(Dec 16) Just be gay. And Jewish.

Lulu: 2nd letter: person can't decide whether to join the GSA or Drama Club THEY ARE THE SAME CLUB.

Ashley: Dude yes. Dama club may as well be the GSA. As long as you join one of them, you've done your part for supporting the gay people of the world.

Lulu: Exactly. But also, you know, being gay doesn't mean you have to be an activist. It DOES mean you have to be an actor.

Ashley: Ha ha ha. Of course it does.

Lulu: This one’s on curfews. Dr. lovemonkey implies, but doesn't come out and say, that the mom should use 'caving' on this as a bargaining chip to get something she wants more.

Ashley: Yes, yes, he does imply that.

Lulu: But I disagree with his response to the second person, I think it's rude not to accept a gift. If they ask you what you want, you can say you don't do gifts, but if they have already gotten something for you, thank them! Try not to feel awkward, and don't reciprocate. They won't give you gifts anymore in the future, or if they do, it's because they don't care if they get something back from you. I disagree with both parts of his advice - that you should refuse the gift, AND that you should get them something some other time. Then you're still getting "sucked into the exchange!" It's lose-lose.

Ashley: Well, you could say, "Thank you for thinking of me, but I don't generally do gift exchanges," while handing it back. They'll either take it or say that you should keep it. Either way they probably won't give you another one. It’s a weird situation, but it’s also weird to go, "Thank you!" and then not give anything, or even explain why you're not giving them gifts. The whole situation is odd. Just say you're Jewish. Or BE Jewish!

Lulu: Hah! Well, I do think you should say something. I think your thing is good, "Thank you for thinking of me, but I don't celebrate Christmas," then take it if they insist. If they got something FOR YOU, they want you to have it anyway. But you shouldn't refuse twice. Once is polite, but twice is obnoxious.

Ashley: Agreed.

(Dec 17th) Lulu has been destroyed

Lulu: Yes, I DID pocket dial you.
...from a pit full of zombies

Ashley: Amazing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Playing Catch-up (I)

So Lulu and I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth or anything. It's just that the columns this time of year are mostly about Christmas and relatives and presents and drama, to which we just have a general response:

Lulu: Everyone has drama. Deal.

Ashley: Or don't deal. Go and deal with drama or don't go and don't deal with drama. The choice is yours and I cannot imagine caring.

Lulu: Jew Christmas is the best.

So we've basically not had anything extensive to say about any one column, but here's a collection of our discussions for columns between Nov 30th and Dec 8th.

(Nov 30) Lulu and Ashley hate on sugar

Ashley: Madelyn linked me to a new column, Dear Sugar.
It seems like Cary Tennis although maybe worse??

Lulu: Wow. Is this person's thing that they use endearments a lot? It's really gay (and I am reading a letter from a gay guy).

Ashley: The advice columnist is a woman and yes, the endearments get worse: sweet pea, honey buns, there's more. Darling. And that's only in the top 2 posts.

Lulu: It's really creeeepy. Also she uses Cary Tennis tiny sentences. Also HONEY BUNS. UGH. There is something about condescending use of endearments that I hate SO MUCH. Treat people with some fucking respect. I mean: yes; on our column we call people "kid" and "jerk" and "moron," so, hypocrite, I guess.

Ashley: Well, we're respectful. We only do it when they are kids and jerks and morons!

(Dec 1st) We find nothing

Ashley: Yo.

Lulu: Ayoyo.

Ashley: Indeed.

Lulu: It's Hannukah already?

Ashley: Figures.

Lulu: Nothing much in the columns.

Ashley: Feh.

(Dec 2nd) OMG a teenager

Dear Dr. Lovemonkey,

There's a guy named Carson that I know at school. He is 16 and next week I will turn 14. He told me he liked me last spring and I liked him too, but it just wasn't the right time because he had a girlfriend. But since the beginning of October, every time I go over to his house, we end up kissing. I've been over his house about 16 times now but he still has a girlfriend, though it's a different girlfriend now. What can I do to make him realize that I really like him and that he should be going out with me?

Lulu: SIXTEEN TIMES. That is a long time to keep count.

Ashley: Yes it is. Amazing.

Lulu: This seems pretty straightforward.

Ashley: There's really two ways about it, right? She could either 1) stop contact until and unless Carson wants to be her boyfriend or 2) accept that she'll always be the "other woman" and get experience with the physical side of things without getting emotionally involved. Either way she has to accept that he doesn't want to date her.

Lulu: Right, if she likes making out with him for itself, not wanting a relationship, then there's no problem, but if she's thinking of it like tryouts and if she does well enough she'll get to be the girlfriend, she's going to be disappointed because HE clearly prefers things the way they are, make-outs without status. It's not like he was just totally in love with the other girlfriend, because he broke up with her and got a DIFFERENT GIRLFRIEND and it's still not the LW.

Ashley: Also, she's 13. When I was 16, I wouldn't date a 13 year old.

Lulu: Right, yeah. He would be taking a social step down to date her and she would be taking a social step up, so even aside from the complications that always exist about people liking each other different amounts and valuing the relationship title different amounts, it makes complete sense that she wants it and he doesn't.

Ashley: Precisely.

Lulu: I like that in the high school setting we get to accept and admit that some people are just better status than others. It's like giving people advice for Victorian times: well of COURSE he's not going to marry you, honey; you only have 100 pounds per annum.

Ashley: High school might as well be the Victorian times. A lot of drama, not a lot of sex. In other news, Prudence tells a woman to let her husband see a dominatrix! After she told that teenage boy to get therapy over his benign latex fetish!

(Dec 3rd) Grudge gift-giving

Ashley: Carolyn's column has a gift exchange question that is right up the holding-a-grudge alley (ed note: it turns out we hold grudges).
My cousins and I do a Christmas gift exchange where all the names are thrown into a hat (there are 10 of us, ages 18 to 35). I have a major gripe with the system, though it's petty. My uncle married "Jill" a couple of years ago. "Jill" has a thirtysomething daughter whom I absolutely can't stand and don't see as my cousin. Jill is very insistent we include her daughter in all family things and now her awful daughter is in our cousin gift exchange.

I've enjoyed the exchange in the past, but I'm not sure I'm mature enough to buy Evil, Adult Daughter a gift. Am I being too bratty if I opt out?

Lulu: Hah, okay. It's like a Secret Santa? Would you participate in a Secret Santa in which there was a chance you would have to buy a present for someone for whom you held a grudge? First of all, it’s a one in ten shot. Also, I kind of think I would be HOPING to get the person I didn't like, but not liking someone doesn't necessarily mean they are hard to buy for.

Ashley: Right, I think it would be hilarious to buy for a person you hated.

Lulu: So many possibilities. First of all, you could just get something impersonal. Nobody cares. But you could learn her tastes to find out what she wants most, and get her something SUBTLY wrong.

Ashley: I’d get her a gift card. She would like it, and everyone who knows me would know that I hate her. GCs are terrible gifts! Although, it is a little weird to include a random person in your swap.

Lulu: She's not random, is she? She's sort of a Johnny-come-lately cousin by marriage; but it sort of seems weird to NOT include her if you're including all the cousins. It seems like one of those optional things where mature people would automatically offer and decline. The LW does seem like a jerk.

Ashley: A bit. Actually quitting the gift swap over it would be a jerk move.

(Dec 4th) We are slackers.

(Dec 5th) Still slacking.

(Dec 6th) Encourage slacking in others.

Lulu: Me, to sleepy coworker: You should take a nap in the game room.
Him: Where do you think I just came back from?

Ashley: Gooooood.


Ashley: yeees.

(Dec 7th) Where babies come from

Ashley: Last letter in Annie's Mailbox today: wtf is "fertility issues" doing in that list??

Lulu: Whaaaat? Why would you have fertility issues? If you... if you got an abortion?? It's totally going to scare some people into thinking sex gives you fertility problems. OTHER WAY AROUND, people. Not having sex is a big fertility problem!

(Dec 8th) We start to feel guilty about not updating

Ashley: Prudence has a chat, but nothing spectacular.

Lulu: we have been sort of having conversations? I just haven't posted any of them. We could do a grab bag?

Ashley: Yees, catching up would be goood... There's a gaming one from carolyn, where the husband has discovered an xbox.

Lulu: Yep; I feel like when it's that compulsive, it's not specifically about gaming. Our bailiwick is more 'what is this thing world of warcraft.' Also, in Dr. Wallace:

"I tried to convince an Irish teenager that smoking was bad for him, but he only laughed and said I was 'daft.'"

Ashley: Awesome. Also, HA to the response: "JULIETTE: The United States and Canada are leaders when it comes to public health and safety"

Lulu: Yeah, that was cute.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My important ipod

Ashley and I were together over Thanksgiving, which is bad news for the column, since there is no reason to chat online when you are in person! (We are far too lazy to do another podcast.) However, we did talk about columns.

Saturday's Dear Abby concerned a girl whose mother lost her ipod.
DEAR ABBY: I'm 13, and about six months ago my mom confiscated my iPod because I misbehaved. When it was time to get my iPod back, my mom couldn't find it. We have been searching everywhere in the house for it - but it's gone.
My iPod is very important to me because almost every cent I earned went into buying the music and applications. The amount of money I spent is greater than the cost of the iPod itself. I asked my mother to buy me a new one to replace the one she lost, but she said it was my fault that it was taken away, and she could not keep track of where it was.

I think it is unfair that my mom lost something I spent so much on. Who is responsible for buying a new one?
Unsurprisingly, because we are often on the side of kids and because we are always on the side of logic, we believe that the mother should honor the terms of the original punishment, which was the temporary loss of her mp3 player. When the mother chose to take custody of it, she assumed the responsibility of remembering where it was. This was a situation where we weren't sure which way Abby was going to go, but she agreed:
Good parents model responsible behavior for their children; that's how children learn. You misbehaved and you were punished for it. If the agreement was that you would get your iPod back, and your mother lost it, then she should replace it - including the money you invested in loading it. She should be ashamed of herself for trying to weasel out of it.
I will paraphrase our further advice.

Lulu: We (and Abby) can agree with the LW until we are blue in the face, but it won't bring back the iPod, or necessarily convince her mother to get her a new one. She will probably have to buy a new one herself. But her music and content may be saved. I assume from her name-dropping that it's an official Apple iPod, in which case I believe her account is based on email address, and not necessarily tied to her device. She should log into the Apple website and see what she can salvage. If nothing else, she can look up the number for customer support and ask them if her content can be transferred to a new device. In the future, she should remember to back up her content.

Ashley: If she buys a new iPod now, what's to stop this from happening again?

Lulu: It will keep happening again.

Ashley: The mother may know she is wrong, but still be unable to back down from her original position. She may agree to a compromise: the daughter buys a new iPod now, but in the future, the iPod is off limits for punishment. The mother can take away something else.

Lulu: Generally, anything a child bought with her own money should be off limits for deprivation punishments. It just doesn't make sense; the child's own purchases are not the parent's property to take away!

Ashley: Well, the parent probably gave her the money in the first place, for example through an allowance. But if that's the case, stopping future allowances would be a better punishment than taking away past allowances (or the objects bought with them). If we consider an allowance as a reward for good behavior, then bad behavior should result in no more rewards, not the removal of past awards. She already earned the past rewards!

Lulu: If nothing else, for the cost of a new low-end iPod shuffle, she could get at least two no-name generic mp3 players. She'll have to redownload and/or rerip her music to start with, but if she stores it in several places (multiple mp3 players, a computer, maybe some $5 flash drives...), she's unlikely to lose it all ever again. And when her mom takes away her mp3 player, she can just dig out her backup(s).

So, good luck, iPod girl. Nobody can make your mom be reasonable, but at least you have some arguments and compromises you can try. And techie workarounds. Techie workarounds to parental punishments is kind of our speciality.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Fake Out

Lulu: Ooh, I didn't see yesterday's Ask Amy. There is a LONELY BOY. I guess our "join mathletes" advice would still apply.

Ashley: Oh, right. I saw that. I refuse to answer anything that asks how he can "have a personal, intimate relationship with a female."

Lulu: It does sound like he is talking about an animal.

Ashley: Right. It's creepy.

Lulu: "How can I have a personal relationship with a female specimen?"

Ashley: Ewww.

Lulu: "of the family Hesperiidae?"

Ashley: Ewwwwwww.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sister Love

I don't like to keep beating up on the same columnist week after week, but (1) Hey Cherie is right in our wheelhouse, focused on kids and (2) Cherie never answers the freaking question. From today:
I'm a girl in eighth grade and I'm sick of my older sister falling in love.

My sister is in 10th grade. I admit that she is much cuter than I will ever be, but not in a scary way that makes boys not want to approach her. Instead, she is pretty in a way that makes boys want to talk to her. She also has the reputation of being very nice, and I think it is deserved.

She is always very nice to me, and she is even nice when boys ask her out and she is not interested. She says no in a way that does not hurt them. I know this because I have seen her do it.

The problem is, with all these boys around her, my sister is constantly in love. She has had about 12 boyfriends since the start of ninth grade, which works out to a boyfriend every six weeks or so. And my sister in love is not a pretty sight. She goes head over heels in love. The boy is the center of her world. She is always on her cell or on instant message with him. She always says that this boy is special.

They are always gone in a few weeks or a few months. I ask her what happened. She always says, "it just didn't work out."

It is extremely annoying to see your older sister walking around with moon eyes all the time.
Cherie responds:
A steady diet of honey on top of cane sugar on top of Splenda on top of molasses on top of Equal on top of sorghum (look it up!) on top of fructose would be enough to send even the most stable-blooded person to the doctor for treatment of diabetes. However, everyone finds their own path to the L-word: Love.

In your case, it sounds like there has not yet been a boyfriend who blew you away and made the world seem like it rested on a pedestal of him, him, him and him. I think you would have mentioned this guy in your letter if there was, and you would have drawn the stark contrast of how you are in love compared to how your sister is when she's in love.

Perhaps, you would revise your letter to me after your first serious boyfriend. Perhaps not.

Your sister's path to love involves a whole lot of boyfriends. She sounds like a really nice person. I think she's entitled to find her own way, the same way you will be entitled to find her own way. Do understand that if she finds herself sexually involved with boy after boy, that's a whole different story!

Ashley: So... she didn't actually say anything.

Lulu: Except to state that things are different if there's sex involved or if there isn't, but not what to do in each case.

Ashley: I guess... stop hanging out with your sister?

Lulu: I mean, yeah: you can't change someone's annoying behavior, you can only control how much you expose yourself to it or get invested in it.

Ashley: It just seems like the girl spends too much time paying attention to her sister if she's so annoyed by how in love she is. Maybe she needs friends or a hobby!

Lulu: She describes how her sister is better than her in all ways, so it seems like she is looking for something to dislike. I feel like this would also be alleviated with a good hobby. If we take her at her word that she's not as nice or pretty as her sister, maybe it would help to explore some skills which do not require being nice or pretty, such as mathletes or boxing.

Ashley: Yeeees. I wasn't sure what to do with her comments about how her sister was better than her, and neither did Cherie.

Lulu: Yeah. I mean, it seems like there are two components to her particular dislike of her sister's lovesick tendencies: (1) it drives home how much more lovable her sister is than her; (2) it annoys her because she knows how it's going to end and her sister never seems to learn. For (1) I would say that the number of boys you date isn't necessarily a good indicator of your worth. As she notes, her sister has the particular looks and personality to attract a lot of guys, and she seems to enjoy dating so she cultivates that, but, you know--see (2): it brings her an endless cycle of dating and breaking up, and it kind of seems--from the LW's comments--that that is not what she wants for herself.

Ashley: It is possible to be jealous of another person's happiness if you think you'll never be happy, even if their form of happiness is not what you'd choose.

Lulu: Definitely. But the fact that that form of happiness isn't what she would choose could maybe provide some kind of comfort? In any case, it does seem like she has to look for happiness via another path, and try not to be too jealous of the sister; she undoubtedly has her own problems.

Ashley: Yep yep. As for the second letter--
If I have a book report that's assigned on a book of my choice from free reading, and I read a bunch of unassigned books over the summer but don't really feel like reading a book now, is it OK if I do a report on a book I read last summer?

Ashley: Yeah, it's fine.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Work! Work! Work!

Lulu: So, dr wallace tells this girl to go ahead and get a job, which is good, but he implicitly agrees with a condition I disagree with:
DR. WALLACE: I'm 17, in the 12th grade and have very good grades. I've been accepted and will attend Oklahoma University in the fall of 2010. I have an opportunity to work part time (two hours after school and four hours on Saturday) at our city library. I would really like to have this work experience, and the money will be put to good use.

My parents are not sure they want me to take this job. I'm sure you will say take the job, but I should quit if my grades start slipping even a fraction. I just want to see it in writing to show my parents. -- Corina, Oklahoma City

CORINA: I hope your parents will allow you to take the job. The work experience will prove beneficial, and I'm sure the money you earn will be well spent. But I'm also sure they will make you quit if your grades start slipping — even a fraction.
Lulu: She is already accepted to college! What does she need grades for?

Ashley: Plus, fourteen hours a week? It's barely a part time job. I played Everquest for way longer than that, and that was on top of my part time job!

Lulu: Presumably she won't stop playing Everquest, or whatever else she does, but yeah: it's not like she would automatically spend all that time studying. Being busy doesn't make you less likely to complete your original set of tasks; in my experience, it makes you more likely, because you have to set aside specific time to do things instead of procrastinating forever.

But even beyond that, I don't understand this fanatical reverence for grades! They are an artificial measure of how well you complete worklike tasks; is not work experience just better? I guess maybe it's a different mindset when you are trying to get into college, but from here on out, people may care if you passed or failed or graduated or didn't, but they don't care what grade you got. But work experience is always helpful, for getting future jobs, and for having money and a sense of purpose and general job satisfaction right now.

Ashley: Are you at work right now?

Lulu: Shhhh.

Apparently I'm really pro working, because I also approve of Dr. Wallace encouraging the girl in the last letter to become a model.
DR. WALLACE: I'm 17 and all I can think about is being a model. I'm popular, get good grades in school, have a perfect shape, and I'm considered very good-looking. My only flaw is that I'm too short.

I've been told by modeling schools that a model must have a height of at least 5 feet 8 inches, but I'm through growing. Is there anything close to modeling that you can recommend? — Ashley, Portland, Ore.

ASHLEY: This is a popular question. Every week, I receive three or four letters from young ladies asking about requirements for being a model. I can understand why. It's a glamorous job that pays extremely well for those lucky enough to reach the top.

I contacted a model/talent agency and was told that the 5 feet 8 inches height requirement is only for high-fashion models in centers like New York and Los Angeles. If you meet the other requirements (proper weight, poise, appearance, etc.), it's possible to model regionally.

Check on modeling opportunities in the Portland area. Contact department stores (fashion shows and make-up demonstrations), advertising agencies (for TV and newspaper ads), local companies (for showroom demonstrations) and city magazines.
Lulu: Can you think of any careers that are similar to being a model, but for a short person? The only one that springs to mind is "department store santa elf" but that is seasonal at best.

Ashley: There's a lot of promotional stuff. If she wants to hand out fliers,
or work in marketing/PR/outreach. They all require young pretty girls.

Lulu: Ooh, good idea. Much more respectable than the obvious 'exotic dancer' route.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Password protection

Ashley: Did you read Carolyn's chat from Friday? There's an interesting comment that she agrees with:
Only reasons to hack email: You have been kidnapped and the police need leads.

You have expressed that you are likely to commit suicide and he is trying to find you.

You are a strung out crack/meth/heroin user and maybe something found in your email will help convince you to go to rehab.

Other than that - deal breaker.

Flip side - if you are in a long term & committed relationship and your partner has things password protected even from you (for no good reason) I also see that as a dealbreaker. I don't check my husbands email, but I could if I wanted to - he knows this so I have no need to and never have.

Carolyn Hax: Looks good to me, thanks.
Lulu: I don't think it's a dealbreaker if your partner password protects things from you!

Ashley: Precisely!

Lulu: Some things are just private. Personal emails/chats with friends, for example... (Unless you publish them on your blog.)

Ashley: Galahad knows I write [erotic fiction], but I don't want him reading [truly sick and wrong story Lulu is constantly goading Ashley to finish]. It's for his own good!

Lulu: I don't think I would be tempted to read my partner's email, if I had that access--and in fact the times when I've auto-logged-in I've just logged out again--but I can imagine someone for whom it would be a temptation, and it doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad person. Just curious, or impulsive, or a lover of hilarious pranks. Sometimes it's kinder to help a person keep themself out of trouble.

Ashley: Yeah. I know the idea is nice of trusting your partner not to look, but there's just basic protections you take that are not a reflection on the partner. It's just you not being retarded.

Lulu: Although... I know we have discussed passwords before... and I am pretty sure you could just log into my email any time you wanted.

Ashley: Yeah, same here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Loopy Friday Post! (contains digression about a bird)

I used the last letter on today's Tween 12 and 20 as a jumping off point to gauge Ashley's friendship.
I'm 15 and so is my best friend, Amanda. Amanda likes Zachary, and I thought he liked her, too, because they've gone out several times.

But last night, Zachary called me and asked me to go out with him. I was really surprised and kind of flattered because Zachary is very good-looking. When I reminded him that he was dating Amanda, he said he wasn't going steady with her. That's true. Amanda has told me that she would like to go steady with Zachary, but he hadn't asked her yet.

I told Zachary that I'd let him know about going out with him after I talked to Amanda. My question is, how should I present this to her without losing her as a best friend?
Dr. Wallace tells her to tell Amanda she will leave Zachary alone, although I notice he doesn't absolutely, positively tell her to actually leave him alone.
Tell Amanda that Zachary called and asked you out. Tell her your response to him. Then inform Amanda that she's your best friend and that you will tell Zachary thanks, but no thanks.
Lulu: What would you do? Bear in mind that Zachary is very good looking.

Ashley: I'd probably sleep with him and then dump him.

Lulu: Ha ha ha! Really?


Lulu: Weird! Did it bonk itself?

Ashley: Yes. But it didn't fall over. It just bonked into the window, looked confused, and flew off.

Lulu: I wonder why that doesn't happen more often.

Ashley: Maybe it does.

Lulu: I guess windows usually look dark going outside to inside? I bet they would fly at all the windows if you had one in your house.

Ashley: Yes they would.

Lulu: So if there was a guy that I was really super into, but we weren't exclusive, but i wanted to be, and he asked you out, you would sleep with him and then dump him?

Ashley: Well, I would tell you about him first, and presumably you'd stop wanting to be with him, since he's now a douche.

Lulu: Okay, that's what I wanted to know. If you would consult me. I would have no problem with you going for it after that. The question is just whether I would also stop seeing him. We could appear before him in matching outfits and say in creepy voices, "Come play with us Zachary."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Keep 'em separated

Two letters today! And no thematic relationship between them.

First, a teenage girl in Dear Abby writes in about her boyfriend's odd request.
My boyfriend is pressuring me to take his camera cell phone with me into the girls' locker room and take pictures of the other girls with little or nothing on. He says it has always been a "fantasy" of his, and that if I really love him I'll help him fulfill his fantasy.

He promises to keep the pictures secret and says that what the other girls don't know won't hurt them. He offered to do the same for me and take pictures in the boys' locker room, but I'm not interested. I know it would be wrong to do it, and I wouldn't want someone secretly taking pictures of me.

He hinted that if I refuse he will look for another girl who will. I'm scared of losing him because I'm not much to look at, and he's the only boy who has ever shown any interest in me. I know you're not going to tell me to go ahead and do this, so I'm not sure why I'm writing, but I would appreciate any advice you can give me.
At least she acknowledges that she knows what Abby's answer will be. And we already know that we will agree, which is always disappointing to us. We like to be contrary.

Abby says:
I'm glad you wrote. If you do what this boy is pushing you to do, you could be thrown out of school. He will not be able to resist the urge to show the pictures to his friends - and possibly put them on the Internet. It would be a huge invasion of privacy and a breach of trust, and regardless of what he says, it will NOT bring you closer together.

If he truly cared about you, he would never ask you to do something that could get you into serious trouble. You could be accused of creating and distributing pornographic material, and there could be legal liability. The penalty you would pay isn't worth the "interest" he's showing in you. Run!

Lulu: So... I guess I disagree that it would be impossible for him to resist posting the photos on the internet. He's just going to masturbate to them. But it's still not okay to take pictures of girls in states of undress without their consent.

Ashley: Yeah.

Lulu: Also, how exactly is she planning to get away with photographing girls in the locker room? "Oh it's okay... I'm a girl."

Ashley: You pretend to be texting or something. It's hard to tell when a cell phone is pointed to take a picture.

Lulu: Mine makes a CLICK noise.

Ashley: You can turn that off.


Ashley: Not that I know.

Lulu: Okay. Well, even if you don't think you'll get caught, it's pretty immoral and it seems like self-respect demands that you decline, EVEN IF you are ugly and your boyfriend is hot. Opposing viewpoint???

Ashley: Nope, I got nothing.

For the next letter, we advance to grownups in the workplace with today's Love Letters.
I had been dating a guy for about a year and we talked about moving in together when my lease was up this winter. He got scared back in August and decided that he needed to take a step back. Which is fine. We're both 27 and I'd rather him be sure than not sure. Granted, we've talked every day since his decision to take a step back, and we see each other on occasion. Although at times it doesn't seem romantic, I still have a little bit of a flame flickering for him. ...

Friday night he met me for a drink and a movie. The conversation over the drink was great. Things seemed to be going well and I was hopeful that we might be taking a step back in the right direction. I decided not to get my hopes up and talked myself into letting things progress naturally. Why push the subject if there's no subject to push yet, right? The drive home was also great and we talked about when we could see each other again. He was very active in communicating the rest of the weekend, which surprised me a little.

Fast forward to Monday morning. So he IMs me from "ABC Company," where he works, and we chat throughout the day. We made plans for the next week and mentioned an event he thought we would both like to attend in December.

Then, shortly after lunch, he told me he was interested in my company, "XYZ Company," which is ironically down the road from ABC. Needless to say, I felt like I was punched in the stomach. I know how miserable he is at ABC and that he would like it at XYZ. So I told him I would pass on his resume to the HR Director. He said he would put together his resume this week and send it over to me to pass along.

Here's what I'm thinking -- that this is the end of the chances of us getting back together. Do office romances really work in the long run? So what should I do? Do I actually pass along his very qualified resume or do I lie and say we're on a hiring freeze and continue on with our current situation? I know it sounds selfish if I lie but do I consider my feelings or his? What a mess.

Ashley: Here's the thing. You have to separate your work life from your relationship life. The question isn't how she would feel if he were working at XYZ, it's whether XYZ would benefit from having him work for it. There are people i would absolutely recommend to jobs that I would refuse to interact with socially. Is he a good worker? Then recommend him. I guess it's kind of a reverse way of thinking, but i think you're helping the company more than the guy. At least that's how I view recommendations.

Lulu: Out of curiosity, would you refuse to pass along the resume of someone who is kind of a slacker even if you do want to work with them?

Ashley: Absolutely.


Lulu: Not that... that's... relevant.

Ashley: It's actually a simple question. Do you think the company would benefit from that person? Then recommend.

Lulu: Yeah, she's focusing on the wrong parts of the question. The office romance thing is moot. He wants to just be friends and/or coworkers. The relationship is over.

Ashley: Oh, definitely.

Okay, so the official answer: Meredith agrees that she needs to separate work like and love life, but she advocates a different approach.
I wouldn't worry about an office romance at the moment because I'm not quite sure you're in an out-of-office romance. Are you still together? How would you define your relationship, SBAR&MHP?

You have to be selfish. But you also have to be honest. Tell Mr. I'm-taking-a-step-back that you're a bit confused about the status of your relationship and that having him in an office down the hall won't help. He's more than welcome to apply for a job at ABC Company, but he shouldn't be asking you to facilitate. You're doing a lot for him -- stepping back, stepping forward, being a friend, being more than a friend. Let's be honest -- it hurts, right? Can he consider your feelings for a few minutes or more?
Ashley: I do agree that he's using her.

Lulu: For sure. Stepping back was breaking up, and it's awfully suspicious that he got friendly right before he asked for a favor. He does not want to get back together. He wants a job. He has trouble separating work and personal, too.

Ashley: But i don't necessarily think that's a deal breaker for recommending him. He's using her like an acquaintance. She's part of his network! I would also take an acquaintance to dinner and then ask for a favor.

Lulu: But it's unfair if he made it look like he was maybe getting back with her so she would view him more favorably. He probably knows she hopes to get him back.

Ashley: Does he? Maybe she just read into it. Either way, it doesn't affect her recommendation. He can be a good worker even if he's kind of an asshole.

Lulu: Though hopefully she won't have to work with him closely if she is still getting over the breakup.

Ashley: I guess she could always ask him for a referral to ABC in that case.

Lulu: Swapsies!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cell Block J

Ashley: So people wrote in to Dear Abby re: father of girl with cell phone who told her to delete her texts if she doesn’t want him to see them. Unsurprisingly, they did not agree with us.

Lulu: Yeah, all those letters are like, you should totally check your kid’s cell phone. But it seems like they are advocating random checks, unannounced.

Ashley: Not the same as the original problem at all.

Lulu: I also don't believe that crap about how things are more dangerous now so you should value security over personal rights. All:
The world has changed with this technology, and the attention we pay as parents must change with it. I strongly urge the parents at my school to check their children's phones and computers regularly.
Ashley: It’s all so doom and gloom, and I don't like the security mentality at all, especially the police officer who wrote in. Yeah, he sees a lot of the bad stuff, but he's biased because he never knows the proportion of bad stuff to good stuff.
As a crime prevention officer, I regularly encourage parents to check a child's cell phone for bullying and sexting, most of which a child won't share with a parent. Especially if the child is the one who is using the phone to bully others, she certainly won't share her pictures with her parents. Most children are unaware that state laws have not changed, and children who send pornographic pictures of themselves to others can be charged with distributing child pornography and may have to register as a sexual predator for the rest of their lives.
Ashley: Oooh, nevermind, "crime prevention officer," not police officer. Seriously, it's a stupid law that you can be prosecuted for exploiting yourself; it's the law that needs to be changed, not the behavior.
Lulu: Right. Just because technology can be abused doesn't mean you shouldn't use it and I don't understand the mentality where you treat your kids like they're in maximum security prison until they're 18, because then they're just 18 year olds with the maturity of 12 year olds.

Ashley: Well, given the current imprisonment rates, maybe that's not the worst preparation...

Lulu: ha!

Ashley: It’s something like 11% of all men and 32% of black men are expected to spend time in jail, so... But it still doesn't explain policing the girls though. Girls don't go to prison.

Lulu: No, apparently they end up on child porn websites. I guess the idea of keeping their phones from them till they're 18 is that then they will go onto ADULT porn websites.

Ashley: Much better!

Lulu: I mean, the general lesson that you should think before you act is not limited to cell phone use and also impossible to teach.

Ashley: Thinking before I act has never been a strong suit, and I turned out juuuust fine.

Lulu: ...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Effective slacking with Lulu and Ashley

High school nerds are out speciality, and there's one in Dear Abby today.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a junior in high school and taking multiple advanced-placement classes. With all the homework we're assigned, I sometimes need to use lunchtime to finish assignments. My problem is my friends follow me into the school library and talk to me while I'm working. Their constant chatter is distracting and prevents me from concentrating on my assignments.

I don't neglect my friends. I spend hours outside of school with them every week. But I'd rather be left alone when I'm trying to work. My friends don't understand that I'm more focused on academics and long-term goals than my short-term social life.

How can I politely get them to leave me alone when I'm working?
Ashley: Do your homework at home. Problem solved.

Lulu: (a) How long is her lunch break? At my high school it was 20 minutes. How much can you get done in 20 minutes? (b) Isn't it nice to... you know... have a break? in the middle of the day? to... eat lunch? I bet her productivity goes way down in the second half of the day because she is so hungry.

Abby, of course, doesn't tell her to stop doing the extra work, but tells her to be upfront with her friends.
If you haven't told your friends plainly how you feel and clearly drawn a line, you shouldn't blame them for being clueless when they cross it. Tell them you need to concentrate when you're in the library and that they are creating a problem for you. Not only will you be helping yourself, you'll be doing a favor for other students who are trying to study and who are also being distracted.
Lulu: I do agree with Abby that the solution to "My friends don't understand that I'm more focused on academics and long-term goals than my short-term social life" is to, you know, tell them, I guess, but there's no way to say that without essentially say, "You people? I don't like you so much." "You guys, not priority for me."

Ashley: She might do better if she at least made it seem like she slacked off the night before. So she's not blowing them off for work she could do later, she's blowing them off for not working last night!

Lulu: Yeah, I did my fair share of pretending to have slacked more than I did in high school and college.

Ashley: I did not. I always slacked the most possible amount.

Lulu: I still don't see when she eats.

Ashley: During her other classes? But she should do homework during other classes.

Lulu: Right! Multitasking! Maybe she just doesn't like her friends.

Ashley: Maybe! I know I don't. (I don't know that.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Uniform smoothness

Ashley: Think the first letter in Ask Amy today is a fake?
Dear Amy: I am a girl in my junior year of high school, and the volleyball coach won't let me compete until I shave my underarms and legs (our uniforms are sleeveless tops and shorts).

I don't want to be forced into something that I feel is completely unnecessary. Leg and underarm hair is a completely natural part of becoming a woman.

Is this discrimination? Is there anything I can do (besides shave)?

I really want to play volleyball!

— Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Dear Gone: If your coach also insisted that the male volleyball or basketball players must shave their underarms and legs, then perhaps this wouldn't qualify as discrimination.

I'm going to assume that your coach does not make the male players at your school adhere to the same shaving practices.

I shared your letter with Lenore Lapidus, director of the Women's Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, who responded, "This is clearly gender discrimination, based on stereotypes of how girls and women should look." Lapidus would like to remind your coach that Title IX prohibits discrimination in any institution receiving federal funds.

Title IX is the federal statute that pushed open the door for girls to compete in sports on an equal footing with boys.

Lapidus suggests that you start by talking to the coach. "Try to work it out at school. It seems like something they should come around about because this is fairly clear-cut."

If your coach continues to insist on this shaving rule, take your concern to the principal.

I hope you will stand up for your right not to be forced to shave any part of your body that you don't wish to shave.
Lulu: I don't know. Seems plausible. You mean because nobody would be that flagrantly sexist?

Ashley: No, people would. I just think there's not a 16 year old girl who would write "it's a normal part of becoming a woman." That's an adult talking.

Lulu: Oh, I see. Maybe it was true in the past? "I was once a high school junior..."

Ashley: I just don't think that 1) a 16 year old girl would actually care, if she actually wanted to play, and 2) a coach wouldn't give a fuck either. I think it's made up to bring attention to the overshaving of American society.

Lulu: It does seem like a small thing to an athlete, who do tons of stuff in service of their sport. Although this is fairly clearly not actually in service of the sport.

Ashley: Well, in as far as it could be part of the "uniform."

Lulu: The girls' uniform is to be beeeeautiful.

Ashley: Well, I think the point of uniforms is to look uniform.

Lulu: Everybody gets lipo!

Ashley: Sweet! It's all I ever wanted?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rodent Choice

I like the second question (the "kid question") in today's Hey Cherie because it's unusual.
Hey Cherie,

If you had to choose between a gerbil, a hamster, a white mouse, a white rat or a guinea pig for a pet, which would you choose? I am in fifth grade and am allowed to get one of them, but I can't make up my mind. I want to choose by the weekend.

--Rodent Choice
I hope the LW means this weekend, but I suspect it's a weekend that passed long ago. This is clearly the kind of question where you just give an arbitrary answer, and Cherie says she will but then doesn't.
Hey Rodent!

Easy question gets an easy answer. I would choose the one that makes the least amount of noise running on his or her wheel at 2 in the morning. Go for the tame rodent and the well-oiled wheel.

As for me? I'll take guppies any day of the week.
Lulu: That's not an easy answer. We can do this, guys! GO! PICK A RODENT!

Ashley: I think guinea pig. They have cute noses.

Lulu: White rat. Rats are badass.

Darnell: White mouse. I don't have a reason, I have no idea what the difference between any of those are.

Okay, so I guess the random arbitrary response approach doesn't work when there are multiple respondents. So here's what you do, kiddo. You want to google "rodents as pets" or "what rodent makes the best pet." I just did and got this handy comparison. If you wanted to be orderly about it, you could make a chart comparing cuteness, difficulty to care for, how well they do alone (if your parents will really only allow one discrete animal), and how well they interact with humans (if you want to take it out of the cage and cuddle it rather than just watching it scurry around). My champion, white rats, seem to score high on all those measures except that they are social so you would probably need to be allowed to get two, like Pinky and the Brain. Hamsters seem to be the only ones that do well alone.

If I were you I'd clarify from the parents if it would be possible to get two animals of the same type in one cage. If they say no argue that in that case several animals including your FAVORITE, the noble WHITE RAT, are disqualified then because they need company, and it would be cruel to get just one. If they still say no get a hamster.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ashley and Lulu advise themselves

Lulu: So we haven't actually "posted" a "letter" lately. We have been having conversations, I think, but also I am lazy?

Ashley: And it’s more fun to talk about new ones.

Lulu: Well, here; I feel like the LW and Margo are being unnecessarily harsh in this first letter:
Dear Margo: I find myself in an unfamiliar territory asking a "stranger" for advice but I need someone outside of my circle to evaluate my situation. I had worked hard on raising my credit score for years in order to achieve my goal, which was to purchase a home. When I was finally ready to initialize my dream, I moved in with my aunt in order to save money. When looking for a house, I made my aunt come along, as it would be something we (she, my brother and I) would share. We sat down and had a discussion about splitting the mortgage and bills before I purchased the house. As the owner, I felt it fair that I naturally take the lion's share of the mortgage while they would only need to pay $300 per month. We've been in this house for almost a year, and with the exception of one month, I've had to ask my aunt for her share every month! After the third month of asking, I sat down with her and explained that when she paid her share late, I was forced to put it in myself. She indicated she understood. And yet, I'm here asking for advice because she is still not paying her share. I think she has control issues. (Her daughter recently had a baby, and she buys things for the baby so I know she has the money. She just chooses not to give it to me in a timely manner.) — Desperate
Margo responds:
Dear Des: Money and relatives always have the potential for conflict. Given the situation you describe, I would tell Auntie that you are no longer able to carry her, you are uncomfortable prying the agreed-upon "rent" out of her, so you have decided that if she does not contribute on the date agreed upon, you will have to look for a new third in the house, and perhaps she can live with her daughter. She will either start paying on time or she will leave, most probably not on the best of terms.

 — Margo, pragmatically
Lulu: So the homeowner asks for the rent? It seems like the aunt might be forgetful.

Ashley: Yeah, she says that she has to ask for it. I would set up an automated email and see if that works.

Lulu: Right, I mean, try reminding her before you kick her out.

Ashley: She is reminding her, I think that’s the status quo. And yeah, the aunt's behavior is annoying. I can see why you wouldn’t want to remind her every month, because you have to wait to see if she'll remember, then you have to remember to check, then to remind, then wait for the check. So much brain power.

Lulu: As tenant you should pay rent when it's due, but there are things to try before eviction.

Ashley: Absolutely. I have a list!

1. automated reminder email

2. ask for a year's worth of rents (then you have to remind only once a year)

3. set up automatic transfers through online banking

Lulu: Yeah, the automatic reminder is the first thing I thought of. It just seems like the aunt isn't necessarily forgetting out of malice, so even an in person reminder doesn't have to be stressful.

Ashley: An in person reminder is stressful though; not the actual reminder but that you have to remember it. The LW is right that it's not her responsibility, malice or no malice.

Lulu: Right also possible but your suggestions are much better: billing for late rent, or, as my building puts it, a "discount" for on-time rent.

Ashley: Hah! Rent-with-interest.

Lulu: But I'm all for systematic workarounds for people's forgetfulness, because I require those in order to live.

Ashley: Yes. Yes you do. And I'm on the LW's side here, because I'm always the one reminding you to do things. But I wouldn't kick you out because you always forget to take out trash!

Lulu: Dude. We should have set up an automatic reminder email for that.

Ashley: Yes that did not occur to me.

Lulu: Me neither.

Ashley: Well we are dumb. Or we've gotten smarter over the last year?

Lulu: But I am always looking at my email so it would have been great!

Ashley: Or... we're better at fixing others people’s problems? Even when they are our problems?

Lulu: Creepy life parallels are creepy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Three Letter Thursday!

Darnell told me this week feels slackish on MID, even though there was a twenty minute podcast, so yesterday, we discussed three (3) columns!

Afterschool Special Slumber Party

In yesterday's Hey Cherie, a girl described a slumber party I don't even believe because it seems too YA novel perfect: each girl was dealing with a different Issue Teens Face Today!
Hey, Cherie!

This is different from the usual letters that you probably get. I was having a slumber party with a bunch of my girlfriends. We are all in 10th or 11th grade. We were all downstairs in the basement, and my parents' room is upstairs on the second floor. The door to the basement was closed, so there was no way that anyone could listen to what we were saying.
Darnell: Well, it starts off sexy.
We made up a game called "What My Mother Doesn't Know." ... We just went around the group and each of us had to confess things that our mothers didn't know.

Here are some of the things that we all heard. One girl had been to Planned Parenthood to end a pregnancy and didn't tell her mother. Another had done ecstasy more than once. Another had cheated on a big math test in order to keep her grade up to an A. Another binged and barfed at least once a week. Someone talked about a Facebook boyfriend she had in another state. I heard a girl say that while her mom was on vacation, she took her mom's car and drove it 50 miles. Someone drove their own car 100 miles an hour. Someone else was a secret smoker (none of us knew that!).

I think you get the idea. Here is my question: How much do you think a teen girl should tell her mother about her life? Is it OK to keep the bad stuff secret? Is it OK to have any secrets? And how do you decide what to tell your mother, especially if you will end up being punished for what you reveal?
Cherie Bennett, the writer of this column, is herself a YA novelist, so she of course enjoyed this scenario.
This is one of the best letters I've received in the more than 14 years of writing this column. Fourteen years, 52 columns a year and two questions per column. You do the math! But I digress.

Different people, different cultures, different families and different sets of ethics mean that different people — and I count teens as people! — have different feelings about openness and honesty with parents. All I can share with you is my sense of it, which may be different from your sense or your mom's sense.

When it comes to me, I want to know. I would want to know all those things. If I don't know, how can I guide you through the minefield of growing up in the 21st century? Knowing is so important to me that I would consider a no-punishment rule if that's what it took to get my teen to talk to me. That is, I'd rather know and not impose a punishment than not know, hear about it later, and then punish. I understand many could feel legitimately different.

No matter what? Share as much as you can. I think you'll find most parents remember that they were teens, too. Parents had their secrets and they're pretty darn good listeners. Most of all, we care.

Darnell: Wow, she counts teens as PEOPLE. This is the most open-minded advice columnist ever.

Lulu: Right?

Darnell: This advice is terrible and vague at the same time.

Lulu: Yeah, it's not really advice. The question is "How much do I have to tell my mother?" and she answers as a mother, how much she would want to know; but I kind of feel like what she wants as a mother is not necessarily good advice for the kids. Parental instinct is to protect your kids but at 16 and 17 they need to start working stuff out for themselves.

Darnell: There is a bulemic in that group. Isn't that one of those things that after school specials teach us to tell people about, due to potential serious health issues?

Lulu: Yeah, in that case, if it's something where the girl needs a health professional, then she has to tell her parents so they can make an appointment for her. Sexual health is a possible exception since you can go anonymously through Planned Parenthood, like the girl who got the abortion. It sounds like she handled things well.

Darnell: I'm going to go secret by secret!

Planned Parenthood - I don't see the need to tell anyone about this. Aborting babies shows adult responsibility!

Ecstasy - Definitely no, parents are not understanding cuddlebears when it comes to drug use.

Cheated on a test - Good for her!

Binged and barfed - Yes? This seems like the one thing on the list that is dangerous, a regular habit, and something parents might actually deal with well?

Facebook boyfriend - I guess you could! I think she should have lost the game for having a boring secret. Maybe that girl should have a serious talk with her parents about how to be more interesting.

Secret driver - Rapscallion behavior and teenage rebellion loses its shine if you scuff your feet and admit it to your parents afterwards.

Speeding - Maybe tied for lamest secret. Do not tell anyone ever again.

Smoker - Nah, just stop doing that, it is gross.

Advice given!

Lulu: Okay! Thanks, Darnell.

Valium Frontal Assault

The second letter in yesterday's Dear Prudence also piqued my interest, touching on issues of impaired behavior, consent issues, and oral hygiene.
Last week, I had impacted wisdom teeth removed. A good friend from work agreed to pick me up after the procedure and drive me to the bus station. We're both younger and single and have many shared interests outside of work, except I'm a gay man and my friend is a straight man.

The dentist used intravenous sedation, and I remember nothing of the procedure or drive afterward—my first memory was getting off the bus at my stop. But the next day at work, my friend said that I was very sexually aggressive with him after he picked me up. He says I put my hands down his pants and he even had to stop the car.

My friend has been distant for the last week at work, and we haven't hung out since the incident. Needless to say, I'm embarrassed and horrified. While my friend is attractive, I would never make any sexual advances toward him (except, apparently, when coming off a Valium drip). I want to continue our good working relationship and friendship, but now he's creeped out by me or, worse, thinks I have a secret crush on him. How should I go about addressing this situation and repairing our relationship?
Prudence comes down strongly on an unexpected side.
I don't give a pass to people who try to excuse their bad behavior by saying they drank so much they no longer were aware of their actions. But that does not apply to the I.V. drip. I was knocked out for a medical procedure recently, and my husband said I babbled incoherently on the way home in the car, then fell asleep midsentence. Once home, I apparently asked my daughter repeatedly, and with increasing agitation, where she was going while she was simply standing in front of me. I remember none of this.

The reason medical offices release recently sedated people only to responsible adults is because patients could find themselves in deep trouble trying to make their way home solo. Your friend should never have dropped you off at the bus—you're lucky the Valium didn't prompt you to grope a fellow rider. He should have been thoughtful enough to take you home and make sure you were safely tucked into bed, no matter what kind of crazy stuff you were doing and saying about going to bed together.

You need to tell him that you're concerned your friendship has been damaged by your Valium-addled mental state. Reiterate that you have no memory of any of this, and now that your wisdom teeth are out, you plan to stay far away from I.V. sedation. If he remains cool, then he's just the kind of jerk who would dump an ailing friend at a bus stop.
Darnell: Prudence is a little harsh on the victim of sexual assault.

Lulu: I know!!

Darnell: Unintentional or not, that guy was well within his rights to remove himself from that situation as quickly as possible.

Lulu: Yeah, if someone is groping you, you are not required to take it if they are drugged. That's only true in the romance novels that I read.

Darnell: I think she has a good point that the guy should be more forgiving after the fact, and differentiating between drunken behavior and medically induced drugged behavior. If you get yourself drunk it is easy to shrug it off and say, "Well I was loaded!", but you do get yourself that way, usually on purpose.

Lulu: Right. This wasn't his fault. He may not even have had a choice of anesthetics if the case was especially bad, which it sounds like this was. Man, his mouth is probably still sore.

Darnell: Still, I feel like people should forgive drunken behavior, mostly because that is a stance I require to still have friends. You can't judge it cleanly without knowing the parties involved, but there is probably some homophobia in the mix there.

Lulu: Yeah? my thought was that there was probably some secret crush in the mix there.

Darnell: Probably a little bit of both.

Lulu: You probably wouldn't hit on someone you were totally unattracted to, even while drugged. But the fact that your friend is a little attracted to you doesn't mean you can't be friends. Which is a stance I require in order to have friends (WINK!)

Darnell: The number of people who are okay with gay is much larger than the number of people who are okay with gay when it is pointed at them. Because you can point gay at people, like a loaded gun. A loaded gun filled with rainbow bullets.

Lulu: Meh. I think it's legit if the driver's just upset at being groped.

Darnell: I'd lay good odds that if the LW was a lady, the driver would have still be uncomfortable in the moment but more willing to laugh it off the next day. I have seen this situation with a straight dude sober and a drunken drunken lady, and it was definitely more laughable than a serious offense.

Lulu: Hm. But if the driver were a lady (and the LW a straight man), she might be more creeped out. Maybe it depends on the relative physical strength of the parties involved???

Darnell: It could be! Science! I will make a chart!

DudeCreeped out and remains creeped out (situation in this letter)Maybe creeped out, quickly forgiving
LadyCreeped out and remains creeped out (according to Lulu)????
Lulu: Yeah, i dunno about lady/lady either. I guess it depends on the people, which is maybe true of all of these things.

Darnell: If a lady you weren't attracted to started groping on you while drunk or in a drugged haze, how would you feel?

Lulu: Who is this lady?

David: Patricia Heaton.

Lulu: Oh. I guess I would forgive her. I would be creeped out in the moment but I wouldn't hold it against her if she apologized.

Darnell: She is the darling of early evening television. Man, Prudence's advice is absolutely going to crush the friendship if the LW takes it. She is at least implying that the LW should be angry at the driver. Anger is not the emotion to bring to this conversation.

Lulu: True. If you're asking forgiveness, you need to be forgiving yourself.

Darnell: The LW can't even bring the attitude that he is forgiving the driver to that conversation. That might result in the sitcom situation where the party in the wrong is like, "Hey, I apologize for my terrible behavior... now don't you have something to say to me?"

Lulu: Yeah. It is weird for the columnist to take someone who is not angry and give them reasons they should be angry!

Darnell: Prudence, more like STEWdence... because of... stewing... in anger.

Lulu: No.

Darnell: No, not at all.

Lulu: So what is our advice? Do nothing, hope for the best?

Darnell: My advice is to apologize, if he hasn't already, the letter doesn't actually say. Make motions towards continued friendship in a space-giving way, group activities and the like. Sometimes you did kill the frienship though. If that doesn't work out, time to move on. Oh, and try to avoid situations that involve impaired judgment if you are going to hang out.

Lulu: I agree. And he needs to avoid any behavior that makes it seem like he has a secret crush, including but not limited to vehemently denying that he has a secret crush.

Vibrant Young Spinster

Ashley joined us just in time to mock me for being single as we discussed Love Letters.
Are some people just not meant for relationships? Here is a glimpse into my past:

In high school and most of college I dated many guys, generally for two months, from all walks of life: older, younger, the athlete, the nerd, the "gangsta," the preppy, the lead singer of a band, guy in the military, the cable guy, the nice guy, and the jerk. If you are wondering, I was only intimate with a select few at an older age. The one true relationship that counted lasted 9 months... Typically, I wind up losing interest after a few weeks and end it.

Present: today I consider myself very successful, confident, and independent at the age of 25. I work for a world-wide company and travel. Recently I have sworn into the United States Reserves and leave for boot camp very soon.

Future: My long-term goals include a career switch, continuing with the Reserves, and living in Massachusetts or the New England area. I feel very fortunate and proud to have accomplished all of this but I feel there is a piece missing. Perhaps the missing piece is a partner to share and enjoy life with.

I am afraid that my life will never calm down enough to share it with someone else. Everyone seems to be clingy nowadays. I am very independent and like to do my own thing but not necessarily 24/7 by any means. Maybe that could change if I met the right person. Friends have said that I need someone who will challenge me, be my equal, and have the same or very similar interests. Should I just live and enjoy my 20s even though I feel something is missing? Am I too independent? Should I be concerned that I hardly ever fall or "settle" for someone? It seems like everyone else I know can be happy or settle with someone. I just feel lost in this whole matter or that I am doing something wrong.
I don't actually have a problem with Meredith Goldstein's response.
You've dated a bunch of people, WIESD. You're 25. You're about to leave for boot camp. You're single and wondering why.

My thought is -- thank goodness you haven't met someone awesome. This isn't the right time. Maybe soon, but not now.

Now, everyone is going to tell you that you're whining about nothing, but before they do, let me remind them that there are some significant feelings going on here. Just because a person isn't ready to be serious with someone doesn't mean they can't get lonely. Loneliness can be overwhelming. It can make a person believe that they'll never be understood, that they'll never get out of their solitary hole, and that the rest of the world is experiencing something they'll never get their hands on.

Don't let the loneliness scare you. It doesn't mean that you'll never meet anyone. It doesn't mean that you're not capable. And being in the Reserves -- well, you'll be meeting people who share your motivation and drive. That sounds pretty promising to me.

The present doesn't stand for anything but the present. You're not doing anything wrong. It just takes time.

Darnell: Loneliness is a tough one!

Ashley: Yeah. I think that's a question for Lulu. Since losing interest after several weeks is what Lulu does best.

Lulu: Thanks. Thanks for that.


Lulu: Ha. Okay, well that's fair. Well, the thing is, I'm 25, and so is the LW. So I'm not coming to this from a grown up "oh you are so young, you are a BABY, don't sweat it" place. But: she is so young. Or he. It's a girl, right?

Ashley: I think girl, yeah. Presumably an openly gay man isn't joining the Reserves.

Darnell: Who has a successful life AND joins the Reserves?

Lulu: Not only is she young, but her life is in flux; it's not like she has a salary job in a small town somewhere and plans to stay there. In her circumstances, it's silly to think, "The way things are now is the way it will always be."

Darnell: In the same vein though, the idea that you'll eventually meet the right person when the time is right is laughably false.

Lulu: I agree, and it could be that she will never meet someone and will be single forever. But if she wants to have a relationship, she will probably eventually have an opportunity for that.

Darnell: If you don't make room for it in your life, those chances go up significantly.

Lulu: I dunno - I think it's fine for her to keep busy and keep her eyes open. No point in leaving Friday night open (just in case!!!!), that's just leaving the door open to wallow in self pity. If and when you meet someone you will be able to choose what other things in your life you want to blow off.

Ashley: Yeah, I think generally I'd rather fill my life with stuff and then give some of it up, than to leave it available for Someone To Come Along. But then again Galahad is busy a lot of the time. Saving kittens, etc.

Lulu: It seems like the LW would appreciate someone who is also busy a lot of the time. That seems do-able.

Darnell: There are plenty of busy people, they are just hard to meet.

Lulu: Yeah? I seem to exclusively meet busy people. People who are busy on Friday. Washing their hair. The people I meet have a lot of hair care needs, apparently.

Anna: I meet busy people at events, and then I never see them again. But I'm not looking for a romantic partner.

Lulu: But the LW's question isn't "How do I meet people" so much as "Is there something fundamentally wrong with me such that I will never settle down?" And to that I say probably not. A good percentage of the people in the world do eventually settle down, at least for awhile, in a long-term relationship, and the fact that you are flighty and single at 25 is not necessarily an indicator of the future. Lots of people are flighty and single at 25. LOTS OF PEOPLE. DAMMIT.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our first ever podcast! (and so totally last ever)

Lulu came to visit me over the weekend, and we read a bunch of the October 10th, 2010 columns with my (terrible) microphone on. Then we went through and the deleted the irrelevant discussions, and the "discussions" where we spend about five minutes looking up the Book of Exodus and other Exodus-titled books. The result can be downloaded here (about 25 minutes of audio):

Some problems I've noticed but am not going to fix:
1) I forgot to append the intro. So you can't tell who is who! Mwahahah! (Ashley's voice is higher)

2) Man, the sound quality sucks.

3) We should probably come up with a list of columns we actually ended up talking about and the links to them.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I don't drink; how come my friends don't ask me to the bar anymore?

Another drinking question--or rather a not-drinking question--in yesterday's Dear Abby:
Dear Annie: I am 19 years old and a sophomore in college. I have a large circle of friends who are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Or so I thought.

I have never been one to drink or party, not because I looked down on it, but simply because it wasn't my scene. When I entered college, I made new friends who enjoyed going out and drinking every weekend. I thought I might be missing something, so I went along. After a semester of this, I realized that the partying could be fun, but I didn't much like the way I felt after a weekend of drinking. I preferred socializing sober.

About the same time, I also decided to improve my health with meticulously planned workouts and a strict diet that left no room for empty alcohol calories. I loved my new healthier lifestyle, but my friends did not. They began badgering me every weekend to drink with them and gave me a hard time if I refused to eat deep-dish pizza and onion rings.

After a month or two, they began excluding me from their plans altogether. I was hurt. I never condemned them for their choices and would never preach to them. I don't understand why I should be left out because I make different food and drink choices.

I don't want to ditch my friends entirely. It would be next to impossible to find a group of college students who don't behave the same way, and I don't want to live in isolation. How can I stick to my healthy lifestyle without my friends intentionally excluding me from their social lives?
Abby responds:
This is not an uncommon problem. There is tremendous peer pressure to drink in college, and most people are aware of the "freshman 15" pounds that many students pack on due to the junk food and irregular eating habits. We commend you for choosing a healthier path. But even without preaching, your friends may be uncomfortable around you. You are a walking reminder of their riskier choices.

Explain to them how hurt you are by the exclusion. But also look for new friends, perhaps in the gym or cafeteria or through university organizations.
Darnell: I wonder if she got excluded because she stopped going out with them, and is just sad that she can now no longer turn down their invitations. Usually after the twentieth invitation turned down because somebody doesn't really like to drink, you stop inviting them out to drink.

Lulu: True. She can't be hurt that they don't invite her if she never goes, or if when she does go, she complains and obviously doesn't have fun.

Darnell: And maybe she should stop being such a crybaby. "Oh my friends poke fun at my life choices!" It is called having friends, get used to it. Call them a bunch of alcoholic fatties, have a good laugh and move on.

Lulu: To the extent that I agree with Abby, it's only that she could maybe make some friends who share her interests more. It doesn't sound like she has a whole lot in common with them--that's the problem. I certainly don't think she is a "walking reminder of their riskier choices".

Darnell: The description of her workout and diet routine does not make her sound like a fun person. Meticulous planning and fun college times do not often go together.

Lulu: I don't invite you to beta read my fan fiction, but it's not because you are a walking reminder of my, uh, girlier, sexually deviant, nerdier choices.

Darnell: Right, and I don't invite you on my homeless killing sprees but it isn't because you are a reminder of my lost humanity and innocence. If she is a walking reminder of their riskier choices, it is because she is actually reminding them out loud of how she is making awesome choices and they are not.

Lulu: Even if she makes a conscious effort not to look down on them for not treating their bodies like temples or whatever, it still seems like she is making it clear that they are not as important to her as her rules. And that's fine, everyone has priorities, but she can't complain about it when they notice.

Darnell: Clearly she can! But yes, she shouldn't. You know the reality of this letter is going to be that her friends are worried because she is now anorexic. Instead of making fun of her for not eating fatty foods, they are just pleading, teary-eyed, for her to eat something.

Lulu: Maybe she should build some freebie points into her diet. So she can have like... one drink a month. That wouldn't be so bad, would it?

Darnell: No, that would ruin her diet forever.

Lulu: She knows she wants it. Everybody's doing it. But really, it does seem like her main problem is that she wants to hang out with them without doing the things they like to do. That seems like an impossible request.

Darnell: They never want to go on a twenty mile hike with a picnic made entirely of wheatgrass wah!

Lulu: That's the thing! Has she even asked that? This question is all about negatives--what she doesn't want to do, what they don't do. They're not going to randomly ask her to go to the ice cream social if the bar works for them. She's the one who has to suggest activities that would be acceptable to her. They might just be assuming that because she always turns down their invitations, she's not interested in them anymore, or they might just not know what to ask her to do that she would actually agree to. I don't think she should explain to them how hurt she is--not if she doesn't like mockery--but she should occasionally ask them to do something with her. Something specific.

Darnell: Right, go out to a movie or.... Other... stuff. That isn't drinking. That there is.

Lulu: The aquarium!!!

Darnell: Stop suggesting the aquarium!

Lulu: I like the penguins.

Darnell: I didn't want to bring this up, but I had a bad experience with a penguin in my youth.

Lulu: I initially read that as, "I had a bad experience with a penguin in my mouth."

Darnell: Well that is part two of the story. His little tuxedo was a lie, he was no gentleman.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The lady is the tiger

This week's Dear Margo has one of those letters that starts out "Okay, sure," and veers suddenly into "WTF?"
Dear Margo: A friend of my husband is getting married. I barely know the man, and I’ve met the intended bride twice. A verbal invitation was extended to both of us. Oh, by the way, the bride requested that I not wear my ears to the wedding.

Several years ago, my husband bought me a headband with little tiger ears on it. Ever since he put it on me, I’ve worn my ears everywhere, including to two weddings and a funeral. I’ve made them a part of my identity — my personal trademark, if you will. Going anywhere without my ears makes me feel self-conscious and only partially dressed.

My initial reaction was to wear the ears anyway, but then I realized I am not exactly obligated to attend the wedding. I’m not close to the bride or groom, but my husband considers the groom to be a good friend; the invitation included me out of common courtesy. Perhaps I should keep my sulky, uncooperative self at home, even though my husband would prefer I suck it up and go. I have some months to think about it. What’s your take? — M.R.S.
While Ashley and I are busy picking our jaws up off the floor, Margo jumps in with an overwhelmingly favorable response.
Dear M.: Maybe you and I are on the same wavelength, or maybe we’re both nuts, but I think your trademark ears are a hoot. And who doesn’t love individuality — besides the bride? Seeing as how you wear them everywhere, I wouldn’t dream of suggesting you leave them at home for the upcoming nuptials. (Do go, by the way.)

Odd of the bride to suggest what you wear and what you leave home, but let’s assume she will be so engrossed in the festivities that she will not notice. And to be realistic: Little tiger ears are much less attention-getting than big, floppy bunny ears. At least with your little tiger ears, no one can say you are celebrating Halloween early or reliving your days as a waitress at a Playboy club. — Margo, individually
Lulu: W..... w.....

Ashley: W... I...

Lulu: I...I don't think the bride is being unreasonable.

Ashley: No I don't believe so either.

Lulu: Why would you make yourself dependent on tiger ears? What if the headband breaks?

Ashley: No idea!

[5 minutes of stunned silence pass]

[Lulu and Ashley become distracted by a shiny object]


Ashley: Do we have any advice for the furry lady? I... I can't imagine.

Lulu: Okay, here is my advice. When you're a grown-up, you need to have a sense of context. In some contexts, it's not appropriate to indulge your ridiculous whims. Ridiculous whims are fine... in their place. I have many. But there is a reason you don't wear a novelty headband to a wedding, and there is a reason you don't talk about your fanfic hobby at a job interview. Context. (Hi! I am a pot calling a kettle black!) Sulking because you can't wear this or that or because you're irrationally attached to some comfort object is endearing in a child of five, but in an adult, it's disturbing.

Ashley: I think it's kind of funny... and I would probably appreciate it at like, work. "Look, someone's being slightly unconventional!" But seriously, you don't see WHY she'd ask you not to wear them to the wedding?

Lulu: Yeah. A favorite accessory is fine, but when you get to the point where you can't take it off when someone asks you to as a personal favor, it's too much. It seems like the ears are controlling her.

Ashley: Maybe they are! I guess we did not account for that possibility.

Lulu: I mean there are some weddings where it would be fine. Especially at the reception. But in some ceremonies, people want that to be solemn. Tiger ears are antithetical to solemnity (unless you are a tiger.)

Ashley: Tigers are very solemn creatures. But yeah, I'm surprised it swung at a funeral.

Lulu: Oh, lord. She mentioned she went to a funeral with them? I missed that.

Ashley: Yes. 2 weddings and funeral.

Lulu: Jeeez. That seems really wrong. I've been to some pretty "celebrate life!" type funerals, but the level of whimsy in the tiger ears seems really inappropriate for coming into contact with grief. Didn't she feel like an ass?

Ashley: Dear Margo, I've been invited to a wedding, but I can't leave my custom donkey head at home.