Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Facebook Etiquette: there's less than you might think

It's been a long time since we posted on Carolyn Hax, both because she is usually unimpeachable, and because her RSS feed URL changed, like, a month ago, and I didn't notice. Today's second letter on Facebook etiquette, from an oddly tech-savvy grandma, piqued our interest!
Recently, I had the following conversation with my sister:

Me: “I’m taking care of my grandson until his mom and the new baby come home from the hospital.”

Sis: “WHAT? When was the baby born? Why didn’t you tell me?”

Me: “Well . . . we posted it on Facebook . . .”

Sis: “Oh, I never bother with that!”

Maybe I should have given her the news personally, but at the same time, I feel slighted that she’s not interested in me enough to read my “public” news.

It’s not the first time I’ve run into this sort of thing — I’m not young, and neither are most of my friends. Many are technologically challenged. Some don’t understand that “I had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch” means “I don’t have exciting news, but I’m alive and well,” rather than, “I’m going to force you to read every tedious detail about my life.” I understand that.

But having gotten to the point of opening a Facebook account and becoming “friends” with me, would you say there’s any rudeness in failing to check it occasionally?
Carolyn's response basically amounts to "leave me out of it," an unusual but fun choice coming from an advice columnist.
Oh my goodness.

If the outcome you want is to get along with your sister, then learn from this without prejudice and start sharing big news with her (and others) directly. If what you want is to find fault with your sister, then you’ll have to look somewhere else.
Lulu: You're supposed to keep up religiously with all your fb news feed posts? What if you have hundreds of friends? I think I'm the only person I know with a two-digit number of friends, and even I miss tons of updates if I happen not to check for a day or two.

Ashley: Obv she's wrong. EXCEPT. When there's a big event that you're expecting to occur in your family, it's KIND OF your responsibility to keep track of it. That doesn't need to be on Facebook. From the letter, it seems like the sister knew about the pregnancy but not the day of birth. If she was interested, why didn't she call up and ask how things were going?

Lulu: True, the responsibility of keeping track of all interested parties and disseminating information to each one should not fall entirely on the shoulders of the person who has the interesting life, who is presumably busy.

Ashley: Hypothetical here. Let's say I have a thing coming up, an exam or something. It's a big deal for me but I don't assume it is for anyone else. I post on FB. If people want more details, they ask me. Why would I inundate the world with details if they don't care? Wouldn't that be the grilled cheese for lunch equivalent? You can't bitch about FB being too crowded with details and then demand more details!

Lulu: Wait... which one are you arguing against?

Ashley: Both of them! They're both wrong.

Lulu: Answering the LW's question directly, no, there's no rudeness in failing to check fb even if you went to the trouble of creating an account and friending someone, because people open fb accounts for different reasons. "For a lark" or "to play games" or "to check every blue moon when I'm bored" are legit, and you'd still friend people/accept friend requests, because it would be weirder not to.

I think if you want to know something about someone, you should contact them using whatever means of communication is most comfortable for you. Check their fb, call them, whatever. It's not their fault if they fail to contact you in the way you want.

It's also nobody's responsibility to keep up on your preferred method of making announcements. If you really want a specific person to know something, contact them directly; don't assume the message got to them unless you get a confirmation (response to post, email back, they say "uh-huh", whatever).

So, yes, I disagree with both of them too.

Ashley: Yay!

Lulu: This reminds me of a question I read awhile ago. Someone thought it was rude for people to post a lot, because it pushes the 'meaningful' posts off. It was like the opposite of this LW with her grilled cheese posts. Let's see if I can find it. I don't think we discussed it, which makes it more difficult.

Ashley: We didn't. I didn't read it.

Lulu: Yeah, when I search for "facebook" in my gmail I just get this:
me: I have poked you.
me: you will be notified of the poke next time you log into facebook.
me: just so there are NO SURPRISES.
me: WHAT
Lulu: Oh, here we go, Miss Manners from March 25.
What do you think about Facebook “friends” who post things that no one cares about, like “I took a nap today” or “I woke up feeling grumpy today” or “I got my oil changed today”?

Also, and even more annoying, are people who post lots of pictures and comments about themselves, their kids, their vacations, etc., but never comment on anyone else’s posts. Please share a little Facebook etiquette for everyone!
Miss Manners responds,
What a gift those sites are for bores. If someone came up to you at a party and said, “I got my oil changed today,” how long would it be before you had to excuse yourself because you thought you heard your mother calling you?

The good part is that it is easier to escape bores who have not cornered you in person.

Politeness in any form of discourse requires taking into consideration what would interest the listener, which is exactly the element that is missing in bores. It is a particular danger of Internet postings that what might interest one person is not of widespread interest.

Miss Manners is willing to imagine that the oil change would be of interest to someone planning to use the car; the nap would interest someone directly concerned with that person’s health or ability to stay up late for festivities that day; and the grumpiness might serve as a warning to keep out of his or her way.

No doubt there are general announcements intended for an entire circle of friends: births, for example, or “I won the lottery.” But one has to be totally besotted with someone else to be fascinated by the mundane details of that person’s everyday life — as indeed, bores are with themselves. You may be sure that they do not bring this sort of thing up because they want to hear about your oil change.
Lulu: The thing is, this doesn't need to be an etiquette issue. Facebook HAS TOOLS FOR THIS..

1. You can use "Top News" instead of "Most Recent" and it will weight the posts which have comments and likes.

2. Using the pulldown under "Most Recent" you can filter to show only the most recent posts from the people in a particular friend group. So you can create a friend group consisting only of your most interesting friends.

3. To ignore specific people, you can click the 'x' which appears in on the top left corner of a news post on mouse over, and the dropdown offers an option to 'hide all by' that person. They will be added to your "hidden" list which you can also manipulate if you go to "Edit Options" under "Most Recent."

It does not need to be a problem that your friends are boring! No need to complain that people are being rude by being boring! It does not need to be a problem! As Miss Manners says, it's much harder to ignore them in person.

Ashley: I know! I'd rather have them on FB!

Lulu: What do you think about this second remark about how people are rude for not commenting? Like there's some kind of currency of comments and it's like Lendle borrowing and lending or something, where you earn the right to post a status update by commenting on other people's?

Ashley: Or like slash fic. Didn't you once say you'd only write a sequel to a story if you got to a certain number of comments?

Lulu: That was off the record. Anyway, it was to gauge interest!...

Okay, I do feel like the fanfic community is a specifc place where comments do serve as currency, to a certain extent. They are the only payment writers get. I sometimes feel like a taker for posting stories more than I read and comment on other people's work, but I've been assured by multiple readers that that's okay. There are enough people who only comment and don't post to make up for it.

So even within fanfic where "getting feedback" is a goal people are openly working for, it's still understood that certain people will 100% post and 0% comment, certain people will 100% comment and 0% post, and there is room for that.

And I never felt that that was a thing on Facebook.

Ashley: Right. I certainly don't comment on FB (maybe once a month?) and I never thought I was rude! I'll respond to other people's comments. Like if someone likes my sweater or something, I say thanks!

Lulu: I VERY RARELY comment unless someone asks a question. I never felt that there was any social pressure to comment. I think that social pressure is just in the LW's imagination.

Ashley: Agreed.

Lulu: There is also a Miss Manners from April 1 about Facebook invites, which i found in the process, but here, MM is right. Don't use Facebook invites if you need an RSVP.

In conclusion:

Facebook is good for some things and not others!

If you have preferences for what method to keep in contact with, you should use that method! To keep in contact! But don't expect others to know which method is best for you.

Post whatever you want to post! Read whatever you want to read!


Friday, April 22, 2011


Reader mail! Rosalie alerted us to an awesome smackdown of an advice column suggesting that a 14-year-old lesbian should remain in the closet. Thanks, Rosalie! The original letter appeared in the Dear Lizzie column of the Pennsylvania Patch newspaper, which we may have to start following.

Now, we move onto college. In April 14's Miss Manners, a student doesn't want to share notes!
I am a college student with a question about the etiquette of borrowing notes. It has taken me a long time and a lot of hard work to get to college, as I’ve been financially independent since high school. Now that I’m actualizing my goals of higher education, I take my studies seriously and make a point to not skip class, to do my homework, to understand the material, etc.

There is a girl who was in a couple of my same classes last term and is again currently. She is an excuse maker, and she is constantly behind. She asks me for help. Last week, she asked to borrow notes. I said okay but told her to return them before next class so I could keep my notes in order.

Surprise, she didn’t show up. She brought my notes back to class today, but, since she missed class again on Monday, now wants to borrow those notes. I find it rude that she would ask for a favor, not uphold my conditions, and then ask for another.

I’ve turned down her requests for help in the past, but she keeps asking. I am sick of hearing her self-pitying; none of her excuses are justifiable for consistent lagging (i.e. oversleeping, slow bus, etc.), nor are they more serious than any of the challenges I’ve overcome to be here. Life is hard, so is college; stop making excuses and get to work.

How do I politely tell her that I am not her personal tutor?
Miss Manners responds,
You have a perfect excuse in that your classmate did not abide by the terms you set when lending her your notes. Yet you have fresh experience of how annoying excuses are.

Miss Manners assures you that no such evidence is necessary — nor is using one desirable. Excuses invite the persistent to argue back. You would only bring on another round of her excuses and unreliable promises.

Lulu: I'm not anti-nerd. I'm not anti-take-good-notes or anti-do-well-in-school. I like all of those things! (Although I did not take good notes.) But this LW really rubs me the wrong way, and it's not just the word "actualize." It's pretty clear that the thing about keeping notes in order is an excuse, and the LW doesn't want to share because he (I'll assume it's a he) doesn't think the asker deserves them. He feels put-upon that he has to do all the work and some people GET AWAY WITH DOING NOTHING. I can't stand that attitude.

Granted, the asker sounds like a tool, too--if you borrow something, you should return it before the other person needs it--but what's the big deal with giving out your notes? Why do you have to be possessive of them? Why can't we help each other, regardless of the moral fortitude of our peers?

That said, since he believes that hard work is a sign of virtue and failing to prioritize academics is a sign of worthlessness, he could at least make an effort to find out if the reason she can't make it to class is because of obstacles (e.g. job, family responsibilities, learning difference) or priorities (prefers to sleep, active social life, overloaded on other classes etc.) "Overslept" could mean "I was partying" or "I was working the night shift to PUT MYSELF THROUGH COLLEGE."

But if he doesn't want to share his notes, he should just say so. It seems like the only reason he's doing it is because he's dimly aware that refusing would make it look like he's being uptight, but since that is what he is doing, he should just be honest about it.

Ashley: Or he could just photocopy them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Liveblogging the Carolyn Hax Chat

Lulu: Carolyn Hax chat is NOW NOW NOW

Ashley: Okay, so the first question...

My daughter is a few weeks shy of 16. She is a good student, a good athlete, and very popular at school. She has a boyfriend who is (I believe) about a year older than she is. We assume they have sex, because she came to me six months ago and asked for advice about birth control. I'm okay with this, and in fact feel rather lucky that she was responsible about it. But everyone else seems to think I am a negligent or somehow terrible parent for knowingly allowing a teenager to be sexually active. I'm at the end of my rope with the judgments. What do you think?
Carolyn responds,
I'm with you on a few things: I would rather my kids be open with me, even if it meant I had to learn about and then condone their sexual activity at 16; if I got the news about the sexual activity the way you did--by being asked about birth control, by a 16-year-old--I would not stand in the way, and if fact would try to help the birth-control process along; and I think people are out of line in judging you.

The one thing that really stopped me was your parenthetical. Maybe it's misleading, but it makes it sound as if you don't really know/know much about the boyfriend. If I'm wrong about that, great, but if you aren't well acquainted with him, then I think it's your job to get to know him.
Ashley: "A few weeks shy of 16th birthday" is 15. And six months ago is definitely 15. And while 16 is fine in most states, 15 may in fact we illegal. If that's the case, the parents should at least not advertise that they know about it. They can get charged with neglect, and possibly endangerment.

Lulu: Oh, good catch. I wonder if that would change Carolyn's answer.

Ashley: I don't care about 15 vs 16, and I would totally do the same thing (minus the gossiping). They just might want to stop talking about it enough for everyone to judge them.

Lulu: Yeah, I wonder how all these people are finding out about it. Maybe the daughter talks about it?

Anna: It sounds like the LW is getting judged, not the daughter. The LW is a terrible parent, not the daughter is a slut or anything.

Lulu: Right, but if the daughter tells her friends, and her friends tell their parents, the parents might judge the parents. Like, the daughter's friends don't judge, they think it's awesome. They're like, "Well, MARLENE's parents let her have sex. They are TOTALLY COOL WITH IT."

Ashley: I see. Right. Ooh, there's a followup comment in the chat from another reader.
Why are you violating your daughter's privacy by discussing this deeply personal topic with anyone other than 1. her and 2. her other parent?
Carolyn responds,
Oh duh, I totally missed that. Thanks.
Lulu: Yup. We just covered that!

Ashley: I was just showing off that I caught it.

Lulu: So what's our advice? We're thinking denying and feigning ignorance would have been good strategies when it originally came up, but what can the LW do now?

Ashley: Change the subject, I guess. What do people do when others bring up topics they don't want to discuss?

Lulu: Yeah, I guess "I'm not going to discuss my daughter's personal life" works anytime.

Ashley: It is weird to say that if you gleefully discussed it before. Maybe,
"well, let's agree to disagree" and then shut up about it.

Lulu: Should we post this RIGHT NOW? SUPER TIMELY!

Ashley: DO IT

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Editing the script

I love it most when advice columnists get very specific and tell you exactly what to do or say. Vague advice is less interesting and less useful, and it's also less easy to nitpick!

Meredith Goldstein from Love Letters occasionally gives LWs a specific line or script for a dating situation. Recently, Ashley and I critiqued two of these.

(Note: in both of these, I edited the letters heavily for space, but if you follow the links you can see the (less-)edited version. Both the LWs express their personalities very vividly in writing.)

From April 8, She's a Stage 5 Clinger:
I'm considered a pretty nice person, which at times is not good. Yes, I have gotten the whole "You're too nice" malarkey several times. And no, this is not one of those "waaahhh I'm too nice, I hate my life waaaahh" stories. No, I'm not like that I, I don't play that card, I find it pathetic. But every once in a while I wish I could be more of a jerk.

...[A] couple weeks ago, I hooked up with this girl and she stayed over. Sweet, right? Wrong. I've known this person for a long time and had a sense that she liked me but I wanted no part of her beyond what we were doing that night and made that explicitly clear. Before anything physical began I reviewed the ground rules (this is what it is and not anything more, I don't want you calling me all the time, I will not visit you, I do not feel for you romantically, this is just a hook up etc etc). And now I am being mercilessly bombarded with numerous daily texts, phone calls, Facebook chat messages and wall posts, she's friended my friends ... I hate when my cell phone buzzes. Seriously it's NON STOP. I've reminded her of my pre-bedroom riot act speech but nothing changed. Currently I'm ignoring her and it’s not working... She is a STAGE FIVE CLINGER.

...I have never had to resort to being a jerk to get rid of someone and I really do not want start now. I feel like that might be my only resort unless you can figure out an alternative.
Meredith responds,
Feel free to cut this next paragraph and email it to your clinger.

Dear [insert clinger's name here],
This is a difficult email to write. I'm concerned about our friendship. I allowed our relationship to become physical a few weeks ago and it was probably a mistake. I've been noticing that you're contacting me a lot more often than you used to, and while I think that you're pretty great, I just can't be the friend/partner you're looking for. I'm starting to feel guilty when I don't pick up the phone, and when I do pick up the phone, I afraid that it means more than it should. I think that we should take some space to figure out how to make our relationship more like it used to be. I care about you and don't want to hurt you. But I also want to be honest and make it clear that I was happy with what we had before we crossed a line. I hope you understand. For now, let's keep our distance.
[your name here]

That answer falls somewhere between passive and jerky and makes it possible for you to block her on Facebook and to ignore her calls without feeling as though you're disappearing without explanation. Just be clear about what you need -- and do it respectfully. It's called being empathetic and assertive. You're capable.

Lulu: Well I mean it's kind of tangential point, but I don't understand this guy's definition of "too nice."

Ashley: It's a common misunderstanding of "nice", avoiding someone because you don't want to hurt their feelings or whatnot.

Lulu: Yeah, that's sort of what it seems like now, he's being indirect or conflict avoiding because he thinks that's nice, but before the hookup, it seemed like he valued directness over tact, what with the lengths he says he went to to assure her it wasn't anything more than a hookup. I just can't form a consistent code of ethics out of what he says.

Anyway, it doesn't matter, because the solution is the same. He has to be direct with her now. I see NO WAY in which Meredith's letter is "somewhere between passive and jerky." It's waaaay too nice. It's mixed messages, and there are so many compliments that she'll just read it as a love letter.

I don't think it's mean, or jerky, to say what you mean in direct language, especially when hints or softer language have proved useless. Being mean would be calling her a dumb bitch, which is what he's going to snap and do if he keeps trying to be nice and she keeps not getting the point.

Ashley: Yeah, I'd just break up with her. Even though he said blah blah etc., clearly she thinks they're together. "I'm sorry, I can't do this anymore. I'm seeing other people, please stop contacting me."

From March 29, "Dating While Dry":
This past year I was diagnosed with epilepsy and my days of enjoying cocktails at the bars of Back Bay are, much to my 27-year-old chagrin, currently shelved alongside my dating books. One of those very books on that shelf says that dating at this age without adult beverages is virtually impossible, and I can assure you that is a fact. I recently went on a first date and couldn't have my patented first date glass (or 3) of wine.

The date went surprisingly well and at 2 a.m. it was time to go home. Thank god, because Cute Boy was clearly digging this Back Bay blonde and I wanted to ride the wave to date number two. Here's where it got awkward. Ugh. He made a comment about me not drinking. "So I need to ask you, are you always dry?" The question was fine. I mean, it is weird when people don't drink and you don't know why.... [but] it kind of ruined the moment. He ended up saying, "Maybe I'll see you around Back Bay this weekend." (Awesome, Cute Boy. See you at Shaws. I'll be in the H20 aisle.)....

So what should I do Meredith? Stalk AA Meetings? Fake Drink?
Meredith assures the LW she can still date without drinking, and advises her on how to answer the "Why?" question, which I agree is her real problem.
There are ways to answer the booze question without getting into specifics. You can try, "I'm on meds that don't mesh well with booze." Or, "I'm a vodka-tonic girl, but only on special occasions." There's also the good old, "I can't drink much because of a health condition. But I make a fantastic designated driver." You don't have to get into the whole epilepsy thing, but you do have to come up with some sort of answer. And as long as you're easygoing about that answer, it'll be OK.

Lulu: I'm here to tell you that dating without drinking is possible. I think I've had a drink on maybe 1% of my first dates.

Ashley: It's harder, in the same way as having any restriction is harder than not. And how you frame it matters. Take vegetarians as an example. I would have no problem going to a bakery or something for a first date, if they didn't tell me they were vegetarian. If they did, i'd be automatically thinking of things we can't do instead of things we can. When you focus on things you can't do, it makes the person less appealing.

Lulu: Yeah, I agree, it's about context. If you plan a date at a barbecue place, the fact you're vegetarian will come up, and it will make you look repressed and inflexible with your sad salad. If you go to a bar then not drinking looks weird. Maybe she should plan a first date at a coffee place.

Ashley: Okay, I've read it now. So, it's not exactly that she's telling people ahead of time, which was my concern; it's that when they ask, she doesn't have a response. In her situation, I think it's fine to say "I have epilepsy."

Lulu: Yeah, I don't see why she can't tell it like she did at the beginning of letter. "I have epilepsy, so I can't drink." I didn't know that was a thing, but a guy will figure it out from context, like I did reading the letter.

Ashley: It's not like it's a stigmatized disease or anything. I think "health condition" makes it sound way worse than it is.

Lulu: Ditto "meds."

Ashley: Yes. Meds is bad. Makes you sound like you have schizophrenia. (You shouldn't drink on those meds either.)

Lulu: Even 'medication' isn't great.

Ashley: (What should schizophrenics say??)

Lulu: I have epilepsy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tiny House

Lulu: Check out this awesome girl in Annie's Mailbox.
I am a 14-year-old girl. I am arguably the smartest in the school and have never lacked confidence. I admit I am prideful and have never questioned my self-worth. I am always the one in the group with a sarcastic remark, although I am always careful never to hurt anyone with my words. I consider myself literate beyond my years.

This past week, my friends said they didn't think I could be truly "nice." I don't question my friends. I know they are the best of the group, and I am thankful for them. But one of them described me as "cold." This upsets me a great deal, as I thought I had been doing better opening up to people and being less aloof. I thought I was succeeding, but I have failed miserably.

I don't particularly want to be Miss Congeniality, but I also don't want to be labeled as cruel or cold. I am fun loving and can be sweet and compassionate. It appears to be overlooked that I do volunteer service regularly and have befriended "outcasts" when others wouldn't look their way. I really do try, and I know my personality is getting in the way. But I don't know how else to present myself.

I don't want to alienate myself from others. It sounds really stupid, but I want to be the stereotypical girl everyone wants to be with. Just a little. How can I open up after 14 years of acting totally self-sufficient?
Darnell: Immediately, this girl has Asperger's. She is Tiny House. ...Bungalow?

Lulu: The thing about House is that he is (or professes to be) fine with not being liked.

Darnell: Maybe he secretly writes into Dear Annie when nobody is looking.

Lulu: I bet he does! "I love them, but I keep pushing them away! What is wrong with me?"

Darnell: I think that every middle-to-high school outcast thinks that they are the smartest person in the school. It is the only thing they can cling to.

Lulu: True. I'm not sure she was condescending as much as she thinks she was to the outcasts she befriended. Maybe they were also like "Oh, i better befriend this outcast."

Darnell: And now regret it EVERY day.

Annie responds:
You sound smart, sassy and completely self-centered. Nearly every sentence in your letter has "I" in it. It seems as if you behave in order to be admired, and this is what your friends are reacting to.

If you truly want to open up, take a genuine interest in your friends without comparing their accomplishments to yours. Ask how they're doing and how they feel. See if you can make it through the day without saying something snarky.
Don't brag about yourself. Make your friends feel important to you. You can be assertive and still develop some humility. It will help.

Darnell: I love advice that boils down to "Stop being yourself." Because that is clearly not working for this girl.

Lulu: And to try to appear nice, which I think she has been trying. It just seems like her previous attempts to appear nice have rung false and insincere in her friends' ears.

Darnell: Probably because those attempts were both false and insincere.

Lulu: I'm not sure she can invent sincerity though. Annie tells her to be genuinely interested in her friends, can you do that?

Darnell: No, you cannot. I think what you can do is make a real effort to not be such a self-important doucher.

Lulu: I do agree that trying to not think about everyone else as peons will help her stop treating them in a way such that they recognize they are so many peons to her.

Darnell: We said the same thing but you said it more nicely! An alternate route is to play up being cold and mean. Focus it outside of your group, obv, for laughs!

Lulu: Yeah, I mean, we started off talking about House, and his method is: be a jerk, be known for being a jerk. Show a TINY AMOUNT of basic decency to those closest to you. SOMETIMES. They will grow to crave it.

Darnell: If you're aggressively cruel to people outside your group, you can probably ramp it down to just neutral with your friends and it will be mistaken for kindness. Warning: May get you punched in the mouth.

Lulu: If she really is somewhere on the autism spectrum, it could be that she doesn't communicating in a way that most people expect, and that is why she is coming off as cold. On users with autism and Asperger's have written some useful step-by-step guides to social niceties. Which I know for no reason. No reason in particular.

Darnell: Wow, actual advice.

Lulu: I'm also asking Ashley for her take!


Ashley: Yeah, I mean, it's hard to fake being nice if you aren't.

Lulu: Right. People can tell when you're being insincere. I speak from experience.

Ashley: Although people think you're insincere regardless of your sincerity.

Lulu: I don't know why! I don't mean to be mean!

Ashley: I don't believe you. I guess not being nice occasionally prevents me from doing things other people might want to do, but they're never things I want to do. I guess I don't see the problem of being cold.

Lulu: Well, if she has zero friends, it might be lonely.

Ashley: She has friends. They're the ones who told her she's cold. If my friends told me I was cold, I'd say that you have friendships with different people for different reasons. Presumably I have good qualities that are not "niceness," and the friendships should focus on that instead of expecting me to be something I'm not. It doesn't sound like she expects intelligence from her friends, so why do they expect niceness from her?

Lulu: She shouldn't say THAT part.

Ashley: Ha ha. I WOULD.


Lulu: Ha ha. Ashley said the girl in the column should say to her friends, "I don't expect you to be smart, so why would you expect me to be nice?"

Darnell: That is a good way to not have friends!

Lulu: I love our advice.

Darnell: Their response would likely be that they are both smart and nice. After all, they are outcasts so they are the smartest people in the school.

Lesbian prom date

Ashley: Abby has an interesting column, and I don't agree with her response. It's a lesbian love triangle situation.

Lulu: OooOOOoooh!

Dear Abby from March 26:
I am a female high school junior with many friends I love and a boyfriend I care for very much. A number of my friends are gay.

One girl, "Belinda," is a year older than I am. She told me a couple of years ago that she is a lesbian. I have done everything I can to help her and support her. Last year, Belinda shared that she loves me more than as a friend. She would like to take me to the prom this year, and I would like to go with her.

Because I am already involved in a relationship with a boy, should I not be Belinda's escort? If I go, how do I tell my parents?
Abby responds,
It's time you have another talk with Belinda and explain to her that you like her very much as a friend, but not in the same way that she feels about you. Because you are already involved in a relationship, you and your boyfriend could (possibly) attend the prom with Belinda as a threesome -- but you should not be her "date." If this turns out to be the solution to your problem, I'm sure your parents would have no objection to it.

Lulu: Well, if the girl thinks it's a date, then I don't think she should go. On a date. With someone who is not her boyfriend.

Ashley: Right. Why does she want to go to prom with the girl if she's got a boyfriend? Does he not want to go?

Lulu: It's Belinda's prom. She's a senior, the LW and boyfriend are juniors.

Ashley: Oh, I see. So now Belinda is supposed to invite both of them?

Lulu: She can't. Tickets are sold in pairs. I don't think you're even allowed to bring more than one date from outside the senior class.

Ashley: Right, that's why Abby's thing doesn't make sense. Even if it's allowed, though, it's weird. It's definitely possible to go to prom as friends, so if it's like a support-your-lesbian kind of thing, then sure. I don't see why not. As long as Belinda's clear on the show-of-support date as opposed to a date-date.

Lulu: The fact that Belinda has confessed her love, though, makes me think that it's too fraught. Unless the LW actually does want to go on a date with her, which kind of seems possible. I mean, it kind of seems like maybe the LW likes Belinda more than her boyfriend.

Ashley: Eh, I think she likes proms more than not going to proms.

Lulu: Just saying. She can go as Belinda's actual gay date. I'm just throwing that out there. Or she can go as friends, if they're both clear they are going as friends.

Ashley: Agreed.

Lulu: And if that is the case, the way she tells her parents is, "We are going as friends."

Ashley: Sort of in either case, depending on the parents.

The bad boys

All right. Let's do this.

Hey Cherie from March 24:
Here's my question: Is having the wrong friends better than having no friends at all?

Let me explain. I am the new kid in 10th grade... This is a school that is pretty small — less than 800 kids for the region. These kids are from families that don't move. Everyone has been here forever. Everyone knows each other. Everyone knows that I am the new kid. No one else has been new in like two years, and I am not exaggerating.

For a couple of months, I didn't have any friends at all. That sucked in a lot of ways. Then about two weeks ago, a group of kids who I would otherwise not be friends with somehow decided that I might be cool enough to hang out. They are into their cars and stuff but not grades and books. Some of them drink. I know some of them smoke 420 quite a bit. They are not at all like the kids I was friends with when I lived out west, but I don't live out west anymore.

So I guess my question is: is it better to be friends with these kids just so that I can have some kind of social life, even though they are not the kind of kids who would normally be my friends? Or should I put up with more months of being all alone in hopes of something better?

Cherie says:
New Kid, I'm going to give you some advice that some people might disagree with. I think it's fine to be friends with kids who want to be your friend, even if they're not like your friends when you lived out west. I think that you will find that at least one of these new friends could turn out to be a true friend — and be much deeper and more complex than you might expect.

It is easy to judge people, like books, by their covers. But books are not their covers — believe me, some great books have crappy covers! — and people are not always how they present themselves to the world. If you use good judgment and avoid activities that you wouldn't ordinarily do, I think that you'll do just fine. It's no fun to be alone.
Ashley: She... she says things I agree with!!

Lulu: Yes!! I was nodding along when she said the LW will probably find some value in the people if he spends more time with them.

Ashley: Yeah. Also it's like jobs: easier to find one if you have one, even a crappy one. You can meet other people who're tangentially part of the group.

Lulu: The one thing that's weird is "avoid activities you wouldn't ordinarily do"--I mean, no, if you do that, you'll be stuck at fifteen forever. Part of the open-mindedness Cherie is talking about is letting yourself try new things. I think what she means is "avoid activities you object to on moral or legal grounds."

Ashley: Well, what she means is "don't smoke pot."

Lulu: Right. And being friends with people doesn't mean becoming them. I've definitely been in groups where I was "the one who doesn't drink" or "the one who doesn't smoke" and they just thought it was quaint. It's possible as long as you're nonjudgmental. Or if you say you're straightedge.

Ashley: Or if you make up for it by hotwiring cars.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rodent choice follow-up

We have been chatting and will post again soon, I promise! In the meantime, this small cool thing. In the comments of our Rodent Choice post, in support of my rodent choice of the noble rat, I linked to an article about hero rats that sniff out landmines and tuberculosis. It turns out you can donate to buy hero rats bananas and exercise wheels! Wow!