Friendship/Life Advice

May 22nd, 2004

Hello! Dr. Michele Jaffe and I are back to tackle your burning friendship and school/career-related problems. Remember, we cannot possibly answer ALL of your pleas for advice, as there are simply too many of them. But I'll let you know when we're doing our next advice blog, and you can try resending them then. Maybe your problem will make the cut. But as we try not to repeat the same problems (those of you asking “How can I make him love me?” : we've covered that time and time again. Please go back to the archives for your answer) don't be offended if yours never gets picked.

Without further ado, let's get started:

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I am a freshman in high school and I am struggling with “teenage blues.” I have found it hard adjusting to high school and haven't made many friends. Fellow students aren't friendly, and I feel like I don't fit in to my sports-oriented school. I study classical ballet and karate outside of school and am an honor student, although I am not involved in school sports, which does seem to separate me from my peers. I would really appreciate your advice–thank you!
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Meg:

High school sucks. It's normal that you hate it. If you didn't hate it, I would be scared for you.

And no one says you have to friends from school. Aren't you friends with people in your ballet and karate classes? If not, why not? You can't tell me you don't share the same interests! Why don't you ask some of them to hang with you on weekends, go see a movie, or whatever? You don't HAVE to be friends with people from school. I mean, they aren't people you've CHOSEN to be with…the ones in your classes outside of school are.

As for the teenage blues…they're totally normal, too. Keep active, and you won't notice them so much. If they get to be a REAL problem–like if you can't even get out of bed in the morning—it's time to alert an adult and get medical help.

Michele:

The AMOUNT of friends a person has—or how popular they are—doesn't matter. It's GOOD friends who matter. One good friend is worth a hundred acquaintances.

Still, aren't there any after-school clubs you could join that aren't sports-related? Isn't there a drama club? You don't have to be a good actor to get into it…you could help with stage lighting or costuming. If there isn't a drama club, or a chess club, or a manga club, or whatever…START ONE!!!!

Clubs are a great way to meet people, because the people who join the clubs all have one thing in common…they like whatever the club revolves around!

Good luck, and get involved!

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Dear Meg,

I am homeschooled and I don't have any friends. My 16th birthday is coming in a couple of weeks and I always pictured my birthday having fun with a bunch of friends. But instead I am spending the day with my not so fun relitives (I just know there is going to be a fight). What can I do to make my birthday special?

sincerly, hopless homeschooled
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Meg:

This is why I think home-schooling is usually a bad idea: it is incredibly socially isolating. I understand that in some communities, there are organizations or clubs where home-schooled kids can come together to hang out with people their own age. This is cool. But in communities where there are no such organizations, what are the poor home-schooled kids supposed to do? Hang with their parents all day? No offense, but how is that supposed to prepare you for entering the real world, where you will have to interact with people your own age?

Michele:

I agree. But since this person apparently doesn't live in a community with clubs for home-schoolers (although isn't there a youth group or Y she could join?), she needs to see her 16th not as a downer, but as an exciting personal turning point. Hopeless, why don't you make a list of goals for the next year, or things that you want to experience/have happen? Write it down and keep it in a safe (and PRIVATE) place. Nothing is too silly to be on the list, from 'Try peach ice cream' to 'find perfect pair of shoes to go with black skirt'. That way, no matter how you spend the day, it's exciting, the beginning of things to come. It sounds like one of the things on the list should be 'meet some people my own age' so you could even mark the day by finding a club or online community to join, or by taking up something like karate.

Also, you should read Susan Juby's books, Alice, I think and Miss Smithers, FOR SURE.

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Dear Meg (Or Michele),
I really love to write!! It's one of my favorite hobbies but the problem is their is seriously no hope for me. Every time I write a story I'll write and write but then I'll read it to me and rip it up cause it is horrible. How can I stop killing my self with writing stories then hating them?
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Dear Wanna-Be-A-Writer,
I'm afraid we cannot help you, as we feel that way about 99.9% of the things we write. In fact, we think this is one of the main symptoms of writer-itis. So basically, all we can say is CONGRATULATIONS! YOU'RE AN AUTHOR! Get an accounting or medical degree and find real happiness.

Love,

Meg and Michele

Meg:

Just kidding. Not.

Michele:

For real, writers are always their own worst critics. No one will ever be as harsh about your work as you are, and, in fact, people will see things in it you didn't even realize were there. Maybe you should let someone else, like the editor of your school literary magazine (if there is one) or a writing teacher take a look at them instead.

Meg:

But don't give up if the writing teacher doesn't like your writing, either. Tons of teachers HATED my writing style.

Michele:

OOOH, here is what to do: write to MTV Made and say you want to be Made into a writer and you want Meg as your writing coach. And then I could come as Meg's side kick and wardrobe stylist. Not that she needs one. Its just that I really really really want to be on Made, so please live my dream for me. Thank you.

Meg:

Michele and I really want to be on Made, so please help make our dreams come true. Thank you.

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Hey Meg and Michele! I have a big problem. My once best friend is totally
mad at me, and I have no clue why. She always used to send me annoying
forwards, ecards, and blank emails that only said “hi” and nothing else on
them. I was, frankly, sick of it, so I emailed her and told her to cut it
out. I thought I was as nice as could be expected. I guess not, because she
blew up at me and now she won't even talk to me. What should I do? I don't
really see how apologizing will help, since she is one of those hardened
types where she doesn't start being nice to other people until she is
treated like Lana Weinberger thinks she should be treated (like a spoiled
princess). What should I do? I would really like to be able to talk to her
again. Also I am mad at her because she is always dissing my writing. I want
nothing more than to be an aut
hor, and she has never given me one word of
encouragement or said anything positive about anything I write. It is
entirely likely that my writing sucks and that is why she has nothing nice
to say, but I think if it does suck, she should wait for my “editor” who is
also my boyfriend to tell me.

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Meg:

If you really want to be her friend again, you SHOULD apologize for telling her to cut it out with the forwards/cards. She was just trying to be nice. The real question is, why, considering the second half of your letter, do you even want to be friends with her?

Michele:

I'm going to take a minute here for a public service message:
DO NOT BE FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE MEAN TO YOU. Here are the things to look for in a friend, male or female:

1. You like hanging out with them
2. They treat you with respect
3. You want to treat them with respect back
4. You have fun with them
5. They ask how your writing/play practice/swim meet/photo project went and are genuinely interested
6. You would trust them with your wallet
7. You can have serious conversations with them
8. They would stay up all night with you to make sure your writing/play practice/swim meet/photo project goes perfectly
9. You would trust them with your deepest secrets
10. You can do crazy dancing in front of them and know they'll never mock you for it.
11. They would lend you their favorite sweater and only be a little mad if you got lipgloss on the sleeve (and not mad at all when they find out it was only because you were dancing with Stefano, the hot new Italian exchange student, who has a totally cute friend named Adonis he wants to introduce her from).

Ok, back to the letter, I don't get why this girl is your best friend. She doesn't sound like she is very nice to you at all, and certainly not supportive. What I am wondering is: is her hard/meanness new? And could it in any way be related to the fact that you now have a boyfriend/editor and she is scared that you don't need her any more?

Meg:

Or jealous that you have a boyfriend and she doesn't?

Michele:

Maybe she feels threatened by both him and your writing, seeing either or both as taking you away from her? Because that's a different thing. If she's freaked out about your friendship changing, then reaching out to her is worthwhile. I suspect that if you make a bold opening gesture, she might hold back for another few days, but she'll come around. There are a few things you could try:

–You could send her one of those free e-cards from Amazon, with a note that says something like “I feel like a dork because I seem to have made you mad and I didn't mean to and I'm sorry.”

–Or you could say that to her face or you could find a random news article that might interest her like 'POLAR BEAR WITH FACE OF JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS THE FATHER OF MY CHILD, LOCAL WOMAN CLAIMS, ' or whatever her personal and private interest is.

Hopefully that will open up a dialogue where she'll say “I can't believe you didn't want my chain-email-forwards” and you can be all, “Well, actually, I love getting email from you, but none of those forwards is as cool or funny as the things you write yourself.” Because this will reassure her that you weren't repudiating her, that you still like her a lot.

And once you've established that you could mention that you wish she'd be a bit more helpful about your writing. (Although, frankly, the right solution to that part of your problem might just be not to show her your writing at all; having people close to you read your writing can be one of the worst things writers do, and has ruined more author's friendships than you could imagine).

Meg:

Yeah. I can't believe your boyfriend is your editor. That would mean the express train to Break-Up Ville if it were me.

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Hey Meg (and meg's friend ,mayb) Ok I REALLY want to be a famous actress. My parents are totally against it. They said that I can do it when I get a movie deal. Should I give up on it ? <3someday a star
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Michele:

Totally hold on to your dream! But in the meantime, go to college. Not to please your parents or anything like that. Becoming a famous actress is HARD, but every single life experience you have, every single thing you learn, will get you closer to that. Because actors call on everything they've ever seen or felt or tasted or known to develop character's for plots, so the more you try, the more you learn, the better you will be. The most famous actress of all, Meryl Streep, went to Yale Drama School to hone her craft. You could major in drama in college, like her, or you could do something totally different like physics or math or English, to expand your knowledge base. Nothing you learn will ever be wasted. And you might decide you don't want to be a famous actress, or it might take a while for fame to come your way (most of the famous people you see now have ZILLIONS of lousy films and missed parts behind them), so whatever you learn in college can help support you and keep you in lipgloss and great clothes for all those auditions.

Meg:
I'm concerned about your use of the word “famous.” Do you want to be famous, or an actress? Because you can always be an actress. If you truly love to act, you can sign up for lots of stuff in your community, and act there. My worry is that you're more interested in being famous than in being an actress.

Have you actually acted before? Because I wanted to be an actress, too…until I tried it. Do you know how many auditions you have to go on before you get even a STUPID part? Do you know how boring it is to sit there while other people try to get their lines right? Or while the lighting guy adjusts the spot? IT IS HIDEOUSLY BORING. That's why Hollywood actors get paid so much. If they didn't, they'd quit from sheer boredom. Also, people who are “into” drama can be very fake. Do you want to hang out with fake people all day long? I sure didn't.

Before declaring that you want to be an actress, I would try out for some local theater, and see if you even like it. Because chances are, you may not. And then you've gotten your parents all upset for nothing.

PS If you really want to be a famous actress and people are on your back about it, just DON'T TELL THEM ABOUT IT ANYMORE. Lots of people got on my back about me wanting to be a writer, so I just shut up about it, and went out and did it anyway. If you really love your dream, no amount of negative feedback is going to stop you from achieving it.

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Okay, my friend had her bat mitzvah this past week. the party was a bit boring, but since we were her friends we stayed inside whereas these other girls left the party room and stood outside flirting with the guys. Well then it came time to eat but me and three other friends didn't have anywhere to eat so we went outside to eat on a bench. Then we came back in and partied blah blah blah. today, she came to us during lunch and yelled at us and said she was really mad at us for leaving the party. now shes not talking to us and is hanging out with the girls who she used to hate and stayed outide for most of her party. She calls them her REAL friends. They dont even care about her. I know that shell come running back to us saying sorry and wanting to hang out with us again. Should we forgive her?
What should we do now? Should we try to convince her shes wrong? Shes a really sensitive person and is waaaay overreacting.
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Meg:

Oooh! A BatMitzilla! Like Bridezilla, BatMitzilla wants everything to be about her, her, her on her special day. And it SHOULD be. But BatMitzilla should know that she can't control a) the weather and b) her friends on her special day, and get over it. It sounds like she just wanted to be the center of attention, and then when she wasn't, she freaked.

Michele:

Yeah, this is a clear case of Party-Girl-itis. Here is how it works: It always sounds totally fab to be the center of attention, right, have a big party all for you? But secretly, its very stressful, and almost always a let down. Because the more people there are, the less time you can spend with them, and the less attention they can lavish on you.

Plus, if the party is being given by someone like your parents, then you have to go and talk to all their friends and stuff, and by the time you get to your friends, they've been hanging out all night and have all their own inside jokes and you feel left out. AT YOUR OWN PARTY!!! That just plain sucks.

So what you do, when afflicted with PartyGirlItis, is get sad and frustrated. And you express that by lashing out at your closest friends, the ones you trust the most, because you know they will take it. Which sounds like exactly what happened here: The Bat Mitzvah girl was feeling like everyone was having a good time at *her* party but without *her* and since it was a party she'd been working toward and dreaming about for YEARS the condition was acute, and she wigged out and went all PartyGirlItis on you, her *real* “real” friends.

It wasn't nice of her to do at all, but it is kind of understandable, so the best thing that you can do is not hold it against her. Instead of arguing with her about who was upstairs and for how long, or whatever, you could just be like, “your Bat Mitzvah was totally fun and I'm sorry I didn't get to spend more time with you. I really didn't mean to disappear.”

That should start her on the road to recovery. If it doesn't, well, don't invite her to YOUR Bat Mitzvah!

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My friend invited me to her Sweet Sixteen, at Six Flags Magic Mountain. I would be very happy to go, if it were Disneyland. You see, I am afraid to ride roller coasters because I hate it when it makes my stomach drop. I don't know whether I should go and ride roller coasters, go and sit out by myself the entire time, or not go and miss out on all the fun. My friend really wants me to go, and I want to go too, but I don't want to look like a chicken in front of them all. Please help me.
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Meg:

I think you should tell your friend that you get sick on rollercoasters. And then go to her party. And be the person who sits in the shade with everyone's purse while the rest of them ride the rollercoaster. Trust me, you'll have more fun this way than if you don't go, or if you go on the rides and try to pretend that they don't bother you. I get really bad motion sickness, and so I've always sat out during parties at amusement parks. I've still had fun…just not on the rides.

Michele:

Totally go. Your friends won't think your “chicken” if you say you THROW UP on rollercoasters. Trust me, they won't WANT you on the rides with them…nobody wants to get barfed on. Plus, you can flirt with cute boys in line while you're waiting for the rest of your friends to get done with the ride.

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Meg,

Recently, one of my friends has been “experimenting” with drugs and drinking, even though she is only 14. She switched schools this year, and ever since she left our school, she's changed a lot. She says that she knows when to stop, and is just doing it for the “experience”, but I'm not sure that that is true. She also says that she hasn't gotten drunk, but only because she would have to drink too much to get that way. I'm really worried about her because last year she was depressed, and even though she's on medication she's always been more of a follower than a leader. I'm thinking about either calling her parents or writing them a letter, but I don't know if I should, or if I do, if I should tell them who I am. Can you help me?
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Meg:

Everyone I know has “experimented” with drugs and alcohol at one time or another. It's not the best idea in the world, as we all know, to put harmful chemicals in your body unnecessarily. Also, it's against the law (but not in EVERY country, remember. In most of Europe, under 21-ers have been enjoying beer and wine at dinner, as well as pot in special “hashish bars”, to no ill effects that I'm aware of, other than the usual ones…asinine behavior, liver problems, and drunk driving accidents..which is why, by the way, if you're going to experiment, make sure someone in your group agrees not to, so he/she can drive everyone else home safely. See the movie Say Anything for more on this).

Clearly not everyone who has a drink turns into an alcoholic, and not everyone who tries pot turns into a pothead. Generally, if they're anything like I was, after people experiment and find themselves barfing into the toilet a few hours later, they're like, “Well, that wasn't as fun as I thought it would be” and never do it again.

But there are SOME people who don't understand Cher's comment in the movie Clueless, that it's OK to “spark up a doobie and get laced at parties,” so long as one isn't “fried all day.” What I mean is, there's a big difference between trying a beer or a joint at a party, and being drunk or high all the time.

Remember, you can't control your friends. You can only control what YOU do. Your friend could very well just be trying stuff out, and will naturally quit when she finds, as most people do, that drinking and drugging are gross and no fun and totally get in the way of achieving your goals.

If, however, as sometimes happens, your friend seems to be taking the next step—from occasional experimenting to full on, every weekend abuse—and you're really worried about her, and you've told her you're worried and her answer was unsatisfactory, you should tell your parents, and have THEM tell HER parents.

Your friend will, of course, hate you for this. But there's nothing you can do about that. Maybe, if you're lucky, she'll forgive you someday, if you point out that you were just doing it because you care so much about her.

Remember, though: it's your friend's life. You can't live it for her. Her problems are her problems, not yours.

SPECIAL ADVISORY: If someone you care about is abusing drugs or alcohol, visit Ala-Teen. Ala-Teen is an organization strictly for young people who have friends or family members (parent or sibling, girlfriend/boyfriend, aunt/uncle, you name it) who are addicted to either alcohol or dugs. Ala-Teen holds completely anonymous meetings (you don't even have to tell them your name if you don't want to) for teens only, in every city in the country. Go to http://www.al-anon.org/alateen.html to find out what Ala-Teen is all about.

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Meg, I just want to let u know I love your books, and they make me happy when i read them, because i feel like i am going through the same
kind of stuff. But at school my friend is always making fun of me for reading them and she wont stop. Is she really a true friend then? She also says that i have a lower reading level than her because i read those kinds of books.
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Meg:

Anyone who would make fun of someone else because of the books they read is no true friend—also, she's not a true lover of books, because if she were, she would realize that true book lovers read ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, regardless of its “reading level.” Frankly, I think you should find a new friend immediately. Preferably one who loves my books.

Michele:

I read Meg's books, and I'm in my thirties.

Meg:

Yeah, and Michele went to Harvard. My books are DEFINITELY below her reading level.

Michele:

But I read them because they're fun. Which it sounds like your friend doesn't have enough of in her life.

Meg:

Yeah. Maybe you should tell her to write in to us. We might be able to help her.

That's it for now! Stay tuned for more news on the BIG SURPRISE, which will be coming on June 1.

More later.

Much love,

Meg