BECAUSE NO ONE CAN GET ENOUGH ADVICE

January 27th, 2005

Well, I made it back home after my long, looooong book tour. I am still coughing—hacking up a lung is more like it—and I seriously have like 40 hours of TV shows to catch up with on my TiVo, not to mention about four feet of mail to get through.

Not that TiVo is more important than my mail. Cough.

Oh, and Henrietta didn't recognize me, and wouldn't come out from under the bed for the first 6 hours I was back. Seriously. I mean, I have fed her every day for 10 years, and I go away for three weeks, and she's like, “Um…do I know you?”

Obviously, things here at home are in a sorry state. I mean, I'm still in a confused and emotionally unstable state over Brad and Jen's break up. And now I'm supposed to update my blog?

So what choice do I have, really, but to turn to the tried and true you-know-what.

That's right. You asked. Dr. Michele Jaffe answered. I commented. Enjoy.

SHOULD I ASK HIM OUT?

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Ok, there is this guy I like… Let's call him Bob. Bob and I are in the same Driver's Ed class, but that is the ONLY time I see him because he goes to North and I go to South. Driver's Ed ends this week and after that I will like, never see Bob again unless I decide to go to North (which his actually possible). We talked for like an hour straight during a class one time (we were supposed to be changing tires) it was really fun. some times… when I look over at Bob, he looks at me and smiles and then I just blush and look away.I really like him. He plays Saxaphone in Marching band and I'm in colorguard so we have something in common there.The other day, I sent Bob an email that said: “Hey, This Kait from Driver's Ed.” and that was all. He didn't write anything back yet. Does he like me?Is there any way that a realtionship like this could 'stick'? Should I ask him out?
*

Michele says:

Yes. Ask him out. You have nothing to lose: Either he says yes, or you never see him again because you go to different schools. GO 4 IT!

Meg says: Duh. Ask him out. Hopefully you already have and you two are planning what to wear to the prom.

OKAY, SO I ASKED HIM OUT. NOW I DON'T WANT HIM ANYMORE:

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Dear Meg and Michele,
So I have this boyfriend. And this boyfriend is LITERALLY the-boy-next-door. I'm also young and vibrant and I DO NOT want to be tied down in a serious relationship right now, but despite this I thought I'd try this out. This boy-next-door is REALLY sweet and everything, but I just do not want in this relationship anymore. I really miss the time when we were just friends. And I know that's got to be the most over-used phrase in the history of dating, but whatever. Anyway, I'm writing to you and Michelle or whomever answers this e-mail to ask what is the most heartfelt and sensitive way possible to break up with a boy. Even though that sentence in itself is a complete paradox. I hope I haven't bothered you or anything because most girls that write are desperate for a boyfriend and here I am being the stupid one that has to write in to ask how to GET RID OF her boyfriend. Ugh. I've got to go. I've just realized that this e-mail is very unnecessarily long. I am desperately hoping that you get back to me. Thanks for your time!
A very distraught fan
*

Michele says:

Dear Distraught,

Fret no more, help is on the way! And its not even hard. In fact, you pretty much got there on your own. The thing to do is ask yourself, if someone were going to break up with you, what would you want them to say? Chances are, unless you are deeply unstable, you'd want them to be honest.

So what you have to say to your boy is something along those lines, like: “Boyfriend, you are totally great, and I adore you, but I just do not want to be in a romantic relationship right now. I'd really love to go back to being friends. Romance is too much for me. Friends, that I can do WAY better.”

And mean it.

It sounds to me like you really care about him and you would like in the long run to stay friends. In that case, you should know about two things that could happen that could make this harder. One of them you can prevent, and one of them you just have to let wash over you.

PREVENTABLE:

You may feel the desire to embellish. This would go something like “You deserve someone better than me,” or “You deserve someone who loves you the way you, er, deserve to be loved,” etc. You see, it even sounds lame. Do not give in to this temptation. It is freaky, passive aggressive, and it never works. It is trying to make this not your fault, to pretend you are not the one doing it, when actually you are, and it will not help you. In the end it just makes the other person feel manipulated and mad, and it will make this process last longer. If you really like him and really honestly value his friendship, be honest.

[In a week or two, though, you could totally tell him about some other girl who likes him. That is OK and not manipulative]

WASH AWAY:

No matter how careful you are about what you say and how you say it, his reaction may really suck. He could be angry, he could be silent, he could be maudlin, he could sing really awful songs. You have to brace yourself for this, and for the fact that he might try to do things to antagonize you; if he is in pain, he could lash out and try to cause you pain. Don't give in to it, don't say anything you might later regret (EG: “Oh yeah? Well you kiss like a gopher!”), and understand he's just sad because he's losing you. Give him a few days and then reach out to him, inviting him to do something the two of you as friends used to do.

Whatever you do, the key thing is to be honest. Mainly because he lives next door to you and would know if you were lying if you said you had a horrible disfiguring skin condition and were never leaving the house again and it wasn't true. Also because, of course, lying is wrong.

Especially about disfiguring skin conditions.

Because you might jinx yourself.

The only other thing I should mention is that if you are breaking up with this guy because there is someone else you have your eye on, you either need to include that in your honesty thing, or wait a few weeks before letting Break Up Boyfriend know about Mr. New.

Meg says:

Totally go for the “I just wanna be friends” thing. Because it's true.

LITTLE BROTHERS SUCK:

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Hey! If you are reading this, I say thank you for taking time to do so.
I have a question. My little brother is really rude to either my friends or I whenever he gets the chance. He frequently likes to say that we smell and other degrading things to us. Is there anything that I could do to make him stop while still being nice to him??
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Michele says:

Meg has this one, since she grew up with two little brothers:

Meg says:

Here is what you do: The fact is, your brother is doing this because he has crushes on your friends. So next time your brother is rude to one of your friends, very calmly and matter-of-factly say, “You know, Name of Brother, it is a known fact that boys are only rude to girls they have crushes on. It's very sweet you have a crush on Name of Friend, but I'm afraid she's too old for you, and also, she already has a boyfriend.” Then persist to tease him about how he loooooves your friend until he cries.

Repeat as necessary until he avoids you and your friends likes the plague.

Michele says:

Man, that is fantastic advice. Seriously, take a bow.

MY LIFE SUCKS

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Dear Meg and Michele,
I feel like my life is so messed up right now. I used to have 3 best
friends but of of these friends treats me like crap so I'm not talking to her…unless I have to be rude to do this. The problem is that my other friends still like her. And don't get me wrong, I have other friends. Actually, I sat with my other group of friends today at lunch because I was mad at the 'friend' I'm not talking to. I dont' know what to do…plus, my grades are horrible right now. Horrible. I need help, I don't get the math….my teacher won't help me, she's evil. And my parents are crazy old people with full time jobs and leave me home alone all day…plus they dont' know how to do my homework. Also, I'm fat. Very very fat. I'm trying to lose weight…trying to eat healthier, doing the treadmill every night…but it's not working. I like this guy who's a year younger than I am and several inches shorter. He isn't hott at all…and I don't think any other girl would actually like him, but I like him so much! He's smart and funny and friendly…and he goes to my school and church and church group. Our moms are best friends, our little sisters are best friends, I'm sorta friends with his sister, we're neighbors…I know you get a lot of questions about crushes, sorry. I don't know what to do. I'll come home all the time and go online and cry about my day and I know that sounds dumb. I'm only 13 and I hate my life. I know you're busy and get tons and tons of emails on advice, but if you could help me would be so happy. Thank you
*

Michele says:

Miss Good Taste In Guys, I commend you. You have decided to have a crush on a guy because he is nice and smart and friendly, all the best reasons to like someone. This shows you have really good judgment and are quite smart—at least about guys. Give yourself a round of applause.

Good. Now on to the rest of it. It sounds to me like, despite the fact that you have so many friends you can chose different groups to sit with, you are feeling a little overlooked in all aspects of your life. It also seems like you are feeling trapped and powerless in this situation, and don't know how to change it, which leads to you hating your life.

But hate no more! Solutions are at hand! We are going to tell you how to give yourself a Full Life Makeover. I know this works because I have seen it on the TV. No really, because I and friends of mine have done this ourselves. Believe me, you are not the only thirteen year old to feel the way you feel.

So how does it work? Well, the other night while I was in the emergency room because I sliced off the top of my finger (Thank you. Dr. Watson, for the skin glue instead of stitches!!!) I saw one of those Xtreme! Makeover! Shows on TV. And I studied it hard, partially to ignore the fact that my finger was bleeding all over my pants and that the lady next to me with the gash in her leg from where a pit bull bit her was screaming in pain, but also so I could be of use to you, Meg's fabulous fans. And here is what I learned:

Changing the shape of your body depends 80% on diet and only 20% exercise.

“Um, so what?” you are saying. So, I say, I think that is a metaphor for changing your life: it's 80% what you take inside of you, and only 20% external stuff.

(Okay maybe that is a crappy metaphor. It seemed better at the time, with the blood and stuff).

What that means in the case of our Life Makeover, is that the most powerful tool you have for changing your life and how you feel about your life is your brain; and we've already established that it's a good one. You can literally think yourself happier. Seriously. I know it sounds really very very annoying, but it is true. Tell yourself you are happy, make yourself smile, and after a while, you will feel better. For real. Try it. Please. Right now. Smile. (Smiling is not just good for your brain, its like a mini-face lift. Are you smiling?) Smile bigger. BIGGER. BIGGGGGGGGGGER. Now stick your tongue out at me for making you do that (you know you want to).

(yes you do)

It seems to me like you have four main areas of your life you're dissatisfied with: your friends, your math grades, your weight and your parents. To make you feel better, you only have to get to work on one of them, but I've got a solution that will deal with them all. Yes!

This is where that other 20% of the work comes in, the part for which we need external expert help. Who? Your parents! No, don't groan, they are only the beginning. We have to make them feel important or they get all freaky.

So the first thing for you to do is talk to mom and dad or mom or dad. Tell them that you are struggling in math and/or that you are worried about your weight, and ask them for their help. It's like a parent's dream to have their kids confide in them, it really is, and they will appreciate it, even if they don't totally show it by dancing around and singing songs from their youth like 'You light up my life.'

After confiding these problems to them you say: “I know that you cannot help me with my math homework but please help me GET A MATH TUTOR.” Yes! Expert tutoring. Parents really dig it when you show that you are trying to take charge of your problems, and, weirdly, it will make you feel good too.

(Smile again. Just do it. Don't make me come there and force you).

It wouldn't hurt, certainly, if your math tutor were, oh, the smart funny nice guy you have a crush on. Tutoring, as Meg has advocated elsewhere, is a good way to make a love connection. But lets say that doesn't work; whoever your tutor is, you can use that person to practice being happier or more upbeat on. By, for example, SMILING. The point is, a tutor will help you get your math in shape, which will help get your school situation under control. You can do the same thing with your weight—find a friend to work out with, or just keep at it on the treadmill.

What you'll discover is that by taking charge of only one part of your life—fixing, for example, the math part—everything else will start falling into place too. You'll feel happier and more confident—and that will cause you to be less bugged by your friends, as well as getting people like your cute crushy crush to notice you more. Now throw him a smile, let him know you are interested, and you're off!

Meg says:

If you want to lose weight, do what Oprah does: eat a good breakfast every day, drink a lot of water, cut out processed sugar, flour (including white breads, pastas, and rice), eat loads of complex carbs like beans and oatmeal and other whole grains, and eat more fruit and vegetables. Oh, and take a half hour walk every day. This will help decrease your stress, too.

HE IS PROBABLY GAY:

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Michele and Meg, You guys rock so I figured writing in to request a nugget of your all's insight would be okay. You know how you guys are always saying tell a guy you like him? Well I did it. Don't worry he and I were slightly friends (not good friends but we talk and are in a school activity together). I didn't exaclty say the words, “I like you, now let's pick out our matching side-by-side grave plots”- though I wanted to, I resisted- but I told him I thought he was, “brilliant, hilarious, a nice guy, cute, etc.” I made it pretty obvious and he seemed pretty happy to hear it. I thought. But now he just acts like nothing happened. He kept flirting with me after he knew I liked him but now I feel like what's his deal? Why hasn't he asked me out or at the very least asked for my phone number? Or emailed me, b/c he has my email address. How do I know whether to move on or hold on?
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Meg says:

Gay.

Michele says:

Okay, he might be gay. Alternately, he might be dense. That is quite likely as he is a
guy. In which case the only cure is to ask him out. As advised elsewhere in this blog, a good first step is going out in a group. This would also allow you to knock out the other possibility, which is that he may just not be interested in a relationship. Some guys like keeping things at the just friends stage.

Meg says:

He could just like the attention and not like her back in the way she likes him. In which case, she needs to get rid of him, pronto. Because if he really liked her, he'd have asked her out by now. Unless he's gay. In which case, he will never ask her out, because he likes boys.

ANXIETY ABOUT ANXIETY

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Meg and Michele, I could use some advice. The other day at school I had an anxiety attack. This NEVER happens at school and usually happens at rare, rare moments when I am in a crowded store with loud music and a lot of people. But, for some strange reason, I was just sitting there and started feeling it. So I went home and now I think people think I'm weird. Because I guess I was shaking and breathing hard and stuff. And to top it off, the next day I had an allergic reaction to the face cream stuff I was using and my face turned red and swelled up.

I'm already kind of a dork, I can only handle so much. What should I do?
*

Michele says:

Laugh about it and move on, because the only way that it will stay alive to taunt you is if you keep it alive. Consider this: every day at your school someone comes out of the bathroom with toilet paper on their shoe and someone else's underwear shows and someone has a big green thing between their teeth and someone else has a massive zit on their chin and a girl's period bleeds through her pants, and the chances are, you don't notice any of this. OR if you do, you soon forget it. Because everyone is way too wrapped up in their own lives and embarrassments to really think about how embarrassing life is for others. Honestly.

I am a little worried about the panic attacks though. It would be great if you could talk to a counselor about them. Especially if they only happen at home, I hope that everything in your home life is okay, but if not, please reach out to an adult near you, okay?

Meg says:

Also, they have medication for panic attacks. Why not see if you can get yourself some? Then you won't have to worry about this happening again.

MY FRIENDS SUCK:

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So my friends started drinking last year and although one friend had said she never would, of course she did. I on the other hand believe in sticking to what I believe in. So I haven't touched it.
I didnt realize how hard it would be though. It would be so much easier to go against everything inside of me telling me that I just don't want to. I've never believed in doing something for other people, because in the end, hello? who do you need to respect you? other people or yourself?
This year though I've decided I can no longer tolerate being around my friends when they drink.
Not long ago, when they started drinking almost every weekend, I began to resent them since it felt like to me they were picking doing that over hanging out with me. When I told them how isolated I felt, they blamed me and told me I was isolating myself and they did everything to include me, that I was being ridiculous.
Now it's gotten to the point where I don't even feel like I have real friends … I dont feel like they care how I feel or about me at all. I'm in such a horrible place right now, where I feel like the biggest freak. I'm so lost and torn and confused and all I do is cry.
So, ummm, what do you say to the only teenager on the entire planet who doesnt drink for a reason she doesnt even know herself, just that it doesnt feel right?
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Meg says:

You aren't the only teenager who doesn't drink. I mean, even ADULTS have this problem: Some people drink a lot. Some people don't. If you are not a drinker, it is no fun to hang out with drinkers. Because drunk people are boring if you yourself are not drunk as well.

So what do you do? Get new friends. Because it sounds like you have loser friends. Dump them and get new ones who have their priorities in check.

Michele says:

You are a wise genius of a teen, and also have things going for you that are going to take you far in life. Here is how I know: you are trusting your gut feelings about drinking, and you don't feel like you need to drink. There is NO reason to start drinking at a young age, and many reasons not to. The most obvious one is that it is illegal, but let us move that aside and go on to others such as:

It makes you act like an ASS
It can stunt your growth
It can cause other health problems
When mixed with cars, it can leave you or someone you care about dead.

When I was in high school, a guy I knew killed his best friend by driving drunk. For real. And it destroyed his life. He would have given anything to take back the moment when he got behind the wheel of his car, that one stupid decision, but he couldn't. Going to jail was the easiest part of his punishment; the real torment came in his head.

But even if you are not driving, there is still no reason to be drinking under aged. And I applaud you with a standing ovation for not being interested in drinking.

Now here is what I don't get: Do you feel isolated from your friends because they act like total freaky-llamas when they are drinking? Or do you just feel isolated from them because you don't understand why they are drinking when in the past they evinced a lack of interest?

If its the first one, that they act like freaky llamas, then you have two choices: confront them, tell them they are acting like freaky llamas and that it worries you to see them being that way; or second, say ciao for now and find yourself a new, non freaky posse.

If, on the other hand, what is standing in the way of your having fun with them isn't that their personalities have changed but only that you disapprove of their drinking, there is still a chance to salvage your friendship with them. It merely takes you knowing that you have made the right decision for yourself, and accepting that you can't stop them from drinking.

The bottom line, though, is that you can only be responsible for your own actions and decisions. You are making really good ones right now, and should pat pat pat yourself on the back for it. While waving good bye to your friends.

*
Meg and Michele,
i have a problem. My friends dont really like my friend Anna. Anna is super nice to me and to alot of people.
they dont like her because she was “punk” last year and this year she's a “prep”. well they really dont like hanging around her cause they think she is a poser. and they hint around that they dont want me to hang with her. i hate how they “label her as stuff and its really bothering me of what i should do.
what do you think i should do?
drop her or stay friends with her?
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Michele says:

It sounds like your “old” friends are insecure about losing you to your “new” friend. If they can't see beyond her sartorial choices, they are kind of weak as friends go anyways. One of the hardest things about growing up is that sometimes you also grow apart from your friends.

Meg says:

What do you care what your “friends” say? What they are telling you to do is drop some girl you like, just because they don't know her that well. If they told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that, too? Grow a backbone, stay friends with Anna, and tell your other “friends” to stop telling you what to do. If they take offense, they weren't your real friends to begin with.

MY PARENTS SUCK

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La
tely, it feels like my parents supports aboslutely nothing I do. First of all, I'm a vegetarian, and all they've done since I've gone veg is trying to shove meat in my face. They tell me all this stuff about how only eating only plants is bad for the body, how it doesn't have some essential proteins that only meat can provide, and blah blah blah. They never even listen to my point of view, so I don't even bother to tell them that I can never eat meat again now that I've realized how disgusting it is. Also, I'm a animal rights supporter/PETA supporter/PETA2 street teamer/etc. I go to protests and do volunteer work. But since I'm not 16, I can't drive, and have to rely on my parents. And I know that the last thing they want to do is be my taxi driver, as they call it. The only reason they even took me to a KFC demo last time was because they wanted to yell at the leader for making me go veg! That really annoyed me, since influence or propaganda had nothing to do with the changes in my diet, and the fact that they'll just blame anyone for the decisions *I* make. They're always saying I'm too young to make my own decisions, that I know nothing, or whatever. What they can't seem to understand is that I think I know what's RIGHT. I know what I'm meant to be doing. I know that I want to be out there, making a difference in the unfair treatment of animals. But every time I ask them for a ride, they brings up the subject of my veganism even if I just wanted to go to an animal rights meeting or whatever.
Anyway, the point is, my parents don't support anything I do. I want to do everything I can to stop animal abuse, but it's so difficult to accomplish anything with them standing in my way. If they can't find it in them to support me, then why can't they just at least trust me and give me rides? Why can't they just let me handle my own life? Why can't they understand that I have to make my own decisions and choices right now in order to learn from experiences? They're trying to shelter me, prevent me from living life to the fullest. And no matter what I tell them, THEY JUST WON'T LISTEN. It's driving me crazy. I go to sleep at night crying because I can't seem to do anything to help animals or anyone else in need because of my parents.
I don't necessarily need their encouragements. I don't really even need their support. What I do need is their UNDERSTANDING that I know what I'm doing and I'm serious about making a difference. I need them to believe in me enough to drive me to wherever I need to be in order to accomplish that.

Please, any piece of advice would be helpful right now.

-100% Desperate

*

Dr. Michele Jaffe chooses to abstain from answering this letter as she is too busy finishing her cheeseburger to comment, so I, Meg Cabot, will attempt to answer it to the best of my ability, though it will be hard because I too have a cheeseburger waiting for me.

I think it's great that you have, at such a young age, begun to question the status quo. Too many young people blindly accept what they are told by the “establishment” and never learn to think for themselves. So I applaud you for thinking outside the box and struggling to find your own identity separate from your parents', and telling the Man to Stick It.

In this last instance, however, I fear you may have been precipitous. Because you cannot tell The Man to Stick It while The Man is the one paying for your room and board. And if you can't make it to PETA rallies because you don't have a ride, then you, sister, should not be telling the Man to Stick It just yet.

Because just as you do not have to blindly accept your parents' principles and values, they do not have to accept yours. In an ideal world, you should all mutually respect one another's beliefs–but they certainly won't learn to respect yours until you become more respectful of theirs, and also until you stop blaming them for your perceived inability to “save the animals.” Because it isn't their fault.

Think about it. Did the suffragettes blame their parents for the fact that they wouldn't give them rides to the suffragette rallies? No, they used their own resources and found rides with one another. Because as much as the suffragettes wanted the vote, they also needed places to live, which their parents were providing for them, much as your parents are providing that for you, and they were respectful of that.

Remember, they ARE your parents. You only get one set of them. Do not alienate them. For one thing, they are the only ones who are ever going to bother to remember your birthday in later years, so it does not pay to expel them from your life at this stage. And perhaps more immediately, your parents are paying for your room and board, and will continue to do so until you graduate from college, so you had better learn to suck it up and play nice with them until you are in a position to support yourself.

That doesn't mean you should stop wanting to save the animals. Just stop blaming others for your inability to do so. You are just a kid. You aren't supposed to be saving anything except your money to buy some new jeans. You can't save the animals until you have your own money and vehicle.

Also, just as an aside, I too have a family member who has espoused a cause I despise. I have stopped sending her money and gifts for fear she will use them to promote her cause, and I don't like to see her in social situations because she brings up her cause and makes me uncomfortable. I will NEVER embrace her cause, or come around to seeing things her way, no matter how much she yacks about it. I imagine your family feels the same way about you and your cause.

So try to see it from OUR point of view: you are boring and alienating us with your constant talk of your cause. Feel free to fight the good fight, but please, LEAVE US OUT OF IT.

PS Have you consulted a nutritionist? Because your parents are right–growing bodies DO need more protein than adult bodies. If you are serious about giving up meat, you need to consult a doctor and/or nutritionist to figure out what you should be eating instead.

And remember, your parents will be paying for that, too. I'm just saying.

That is all the time we have for advice right now, and actually, for the foreseeable future. As Michele and I have some books due, some TiVo to watch, and some mail to get through, we won't be answering pleas for advice for the time being.

But please feel free to stop by The Meg Cabot Book Club and ask for advice there (if you've posted enough on the books boards, you will be allowed to post in the Off Topic section). The MCBC members are really quite sage and helpful.

Oh, and don't forget to stop by my online chat on Saturday, January 29th at 4PM to talk about Mediator 6, Twilight!

And if any of you know what the REAL story is about Brad and Jen, please let me know. I am still reeling from what I heard about it through Gwyneth's hairdresser's boyfriend's cousin. It CAN'T be true. It just CAN'T.

More later.

Much love,

Meg