Your Questions, My Answers (and hotlines if you keep scrolling)


Dear Carol,
I have a crush on a guy who doesn't even know me. I gave him a huge smile at the pool and now I think he thinks I'm a total freak.
Bad First Impression

Dear Bad First Impression,
So make a good second impression! It's not over till it's over, and everyone feels freaky and self-conscious in front of a crush. For all you know, he's kicking himself for not having smiled back. Next time you see him, instead of smiling--or diving in the pool and holding your breath until he walks away--make yourself talk. Ask what time it is, ask if the water is cold, or say that you need a fourth person for a card game. Anything! If he's nice, great! If not, well, at least you won't have squandered the whole summer crushing on a snob.

Dear Carol,
A month ago, my close friend said, "I don't want to be your friend. I have a new friend." It broke my heart but I got over it and made new friends even though I was still sad. Now she got dumped by her friend and wants us to be best buds again as if it never happened. What should I do?
Not Sure

Dear Not Sure,
It's easier to have friends than enemies, so it usually makes sense to act friendly rather than put up a Do Not Disturb sign. But unless this hot-and-cold girl makes it clear that she learned from being fickle and getting burned, I wouldn't sign on to being her best bud again. You've found that you can survive disappointment and make new friends-and that's great to know. Let's hope she has found (the hard way) that when you treat a friend like dirt, you can get treated the same way yourself. Can you two hang out? Sure. Should you re-invest big time in someone who hurt you without apology? Probably not.

Dear Carol,
Sex ed is coming up. Even though we split up into girls and guys, I'm just not prepared. They're going to talk about starting your period and having sex, right? I don't want to talk to my parents about it or my teacher. Only my friends. Can you give me some tips on how to prepare?
Ready or Not

Dear Ready or Not,
You don't have to prepare. You're the student, not the teacher. I promise no one will put you on the spot and ask you to stand up and get personal. The teacher's aim is simply to help girls understand puberty and their bodies. The problem with talking only with friends is that friends often share inaccurate information. Each year in this country, nearly a million teen girls get pregnant and almost three million teens get sexually transmitted diseases. Teens need to learn about abstinence, contraception, and making smart decisions. Others are anxious too, but just because you're learning about the adult world doesn't mean you can't stay a kid for years and years. You can! For accurate info, however, read the Sex chapter in my book Girltalk (HarperCollins).

Dear Carol,
I think I have a REALLY serious problem on my hands. I've been getting emails from people I don't know who keep asking for my help on money matters. They live in another country and are sending me messages saying their families have been killed. I've been replying and saying they have the wrong email address. Well, I just got one email I could not ignore. It's from a desperate woman in West Africa who was begging me for help but saying her message was confidential. I am sure this email was sent to me by mistake because I'm only 14. One of my teachers is part of the National Guard, is it a good idea to show him the email?
Unlikely Ambassador

Dear Unlikely Ambassador,
Your heart is in the right place, but guess what? This is a scam. Those e-mailers are not desperate-they're greedy. You're right: adults in need do not seek help from random teenagers. I've gotten many similar emails, and my advice is stop answering and start reporting the spam or pressing delete in good conscious. People who get involved in con artists' schemes sometimes lose a ton of money. As for asking a teacher, sure, that's a good idea, National Guard or not. Finally, let me add that I also delete chain letters-especially the ones that say that if I don't forward the email to ten people within the hour, terrible things will happen. Why would I saddle my friends with that?

Dear Carol,
A friend of mine is always trying to be like me (she even buys the same clothes as I do). It gets irritating and people think I am trying to copy her because that is what she tells some friends. All I want is to be able to be my own person and not have a clone walking though the halls. How can I tell her this without hurting her or being a lame friend?
Trend Setter

Dear Trend Setter,
Can you compliment her taste when she wears something you genuinely like? Say, "That's so YOU!" or "I really admire how you wear lots of bracelets." Or help her find her color by saying, "You look amazing in pink" (or blue or green). It's also okay to come clean and say, "I feel awkward saying this, but I'm not comfortable when you buy the same skirt I just bought. I'd really prefer if you would buy something else since we're kind of old to do the twin thing."

Dear Carol,
I moved and I'm VERY nervous about going to a new school.
Nervous

Dear Nervous,
Understandable. But you've made friends before and you'll do it again. Say hi, smile, make an effort to remember names, don't talk too much about how great your old school or old friends are, and sign up for afterschool activities-theater, newspaper, sports-since working on projects or working out on teams makes bonding easier. As for schoolwork, stay organized so you can get off to a good start. Talk to teachers if you're falling behind or if you're at a different level in language or math than the rest of the class. Finally, be sure to proofread (not just spellcheck) your work sew their r know miss steaks.

Dear Carol,
One of my best friends is anorexic, and she was always the skinniest person ever. She was beautiful, but now she is pale, and you can see her bones right through her skin. She has told me that she has an eating disorder, but she can't stop. I am really worried about her, what should I do?
Don't Want to Lose My Friend

Dear Don't Want to Lose My Friend,
Wow. Since she has bravely come clean to you, I think you should tell her how worried you are. About one of 100 adolescent girls has anorexia and what's scary is that in worst case scenarios, emaciated girls really can starve themselves to death. You are right to be very concerned. Don't gossip to others but do make sure that her parents and doctor are helping her. If she hasn't told her parents, offer to be with her when she does. Or together, tell a teacher, school nurse, coach, or counselor. Counselors are trained to deal with eating disorders, professionally and confidentially. Your friend may need therapy or even hospitalization. Meantime, your support can make a real difference, but don't start monitoring her every bite as this will become upsetting for both of you. Keep talking about other things too-friends, school work, movies, vacation plans--and don't let her disease prevent you from having fun and living your life fully. Ultimately, she needs to figure out how to develop healthy habits and take care of her body and soul. This is her task, not yours, but she's lucky to have you as a nonjudgmental caring friend and you can feel good if you help make sure that a responsible adult is aware of her dangerous eating disorder. Two helpful websites are www.aabainc.org and www.anred.com.

Dear Carol,
I am only 14 years old. I am a virgin but I have done everything except that. The stuff I have done has been with my brother's friends who are about two or three years older than me. I have been doing it since I was 11. Am I doing something wrong? I know that none of the guys like me.
Boy Crazy

Dear Boy Crazy,
When it comes to sex, fourteen is way too young and eleven is alarmingly young. Start saying no to these guys--and yes to yourself! It is NOT your job to do any jobs for them! That's not sex; it's abuse. I'm sorry your brother started letting these older boys take advantage of you when you were just a child. That is terrible! Please stay a virgin and please confide in a trusted adult who can help you.

Dear Carol,
Most of the girls in my class have a boyfriend and I am the only one who doesn't. One friend always whines on the weekends about how much she misses her boyfriend and then she says, "I guess you wouldn't know because you don't have a boyfriend."
Boyfriendless

Dear Boyfriendless,
Open your school directory, go down the list of names from A to Z, put a dot by each girl who really truly has a boyfriend, and you'll find that most girls in your class do not have a boyfriend. I can also assure you that if you keep being friendly to lots of different guys, something will spark. Meantime, what concerns me is not your boyfriendlessness (if spell check will let me get away with that word), it's that your so-called friend is so obnoxious. Next time she launches into her woe-is-I veiled bragging, say, "I get it. I get it. You're miserable without him. That's a shame for you, but could we please talk about something else?" She's trying to make you jealous, so why buy in? Start planning more active weekends of sports, shopping, movies, or doing a project with her, or better yet, with more thoughtful girls.

Dear Carol,
I recently told a guy that I liked him after we'd spent an hour together at a soccer game, but he said he didn't want to go out. Is it true that you should always tell a guy you like him before the chance slips away?
Mini Date Blues

Dear Mini Date Blues,
You never heard that here! Rather than rush to say that you like someone, it's wiser to keep getting to know him, to enjoy the flirtation, to show him you're interested rather than tell him, and to slowly figure out how you feel about him and how he feels about you. This beats coming off as desperate or scaring the guy away before he's even asked for your screenname. If there's chemistry and the foundation for a real relationship between you, then there's plenty of time to get things going. So don't pressure yourself or pressure him. Too many teens feel they are supposed to grab a guy and race around the bases, but these same teens usually wind up with relationships that end too quickly or never quite work.

Dear Carol,
I'm fat and I hate it. Should I stop eating or just take diet pills?
Fat and Miserable

Dear Fat and Miserable,
Neither! I don't know if you're overweight or not, but I'm sorry you're miserable and I want you to know that fasting and taking pills are both terrible ideas that can make you sick. Ask your parents or doctor or school nurse to be honest with you about your weight. Many kids are overweight, but many aren't and just feel heavy because they compare themselves with models or actresses (not exactly a fair contest). Some kids develop eating disorders, which can be dangerous. If you want to be fit and healthy, then be sensible about it.
The best way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more. And here's my S Rule: Cut back on soda, seconds, sweets, snacks. Can you enlist a friend or your mom to start walking or running with you? Don't obsess about calories but do start making an effort to get healthier. Do you have to swear off cookies forever? No. But have one or two, not a bag. Believe it or not, you can learn to resist dessert--and learn to feel good about taking good care of the only body you'll ever have.

Dear Carol,
My dad hasn't talked to me in over a year. I've written him a million letters, but I've thrown them all out because they are either too nice or too mean. What should I do?
Hurt

Dear Hurt,
Write him one more. Start it, "Dear Dad, I've written you a million letters, but I've thrown them all out because they are either too nice or too mean." Then finish it and mail it.

Dear Carol,
I have a crush on the guy across the street. I've never felt this way. Should I tell him?
In Like With A Friend

Dear I.L.W.A.F.,
Uh-oh. Instead of feeling happy and relaxed, you feel excited and self-conscious? Instead of talking about anything at all, you're jittery and empty-brained and blathering about nothing? You're not the first girl to fall for a friend (or neighbor), but it can be awkward.
Since friendship often outlasts romance, don't rush your crush or put him on the spot. And don't tell him anything--show him. Flirt ever so slightly by looking into his eyes, complimenting his new shirt or haircut, and using his first name. Phone and ask friendly questions or email a joke. Then notice his reactions. Does he seem interested? Is he complimenting you or asking you questions or phoning or emailing back? Hurray! Or, sigh, does he seem oblivious? Bummer! But at least you know where you stand. And by the way, if this relationship is not to be, please try to move on. He's your first crush not your last.

Dear Carol,
I feel like a loser. No boy likes me. All they want to be is friends. I am 13 and I've never had a boyfriend. I know I shouldn't, but I really want a boyfriend and my first kiss. I'm so dumb that I dream about it, figure out how I want it to happen, and practice on the wall in the shower. Is this weird?
Problematic Teen

Dear P.T.,
Weird? Nah. Refreshingly honest. Lots of girls yearn for boyfriends and many a pillow --and perhaps even shower wall-has been surprised with a hot-and-heavy makeout scene. So, first of all, don't diss yourself. You're not a loser, you're normal. That said, do what you can to liven things up. Make plans with girls instead of obsessing about guys. Sign up for a class or workshop. It's often when you're busy and happily involved in activities that someone special will notice you.

Dear Carol,
I know this boy who says he would like to hurt someone. He is mean to animals. I know that his father hunts and that means he owns guns. With all the school shootings, I'm scared. What should I do?
Freaked Out

Dear Freaked Out,
Is this boy a big-mouthed bully or a menace to society? You shouldn't have to be the one to make that judgment. Tell a parent exactly what you told me. Or type an anonymous note on plain paper to your teacher or principal or both. You wouldn't be landing the boy in jail; you'd be alerting an adult about a worry that is too big for you. Ask to keep your name out of things, then sleep well knowing that you've done what you could.

Dear Carol,
There's this boy who keeps asking me out. I have to make up excuses every time. I'm running out of excuses! What should I do to get him out of my face without hurting my feelings?
Excuse Maker

Dear Excuse Maker,
Since he has been unable to read the writing on the wall, you may have to spell things out for him. Next time, instead of saying it's your grandmother's birthday (again!), tell him you are sorry but you aren't interested in going out with him and would rather just be friends. Gentle honesty is not rude--and can be kinder than leading him on.
If he still doesn't take the hint (even guys with excellent taste can be clueless), you can say, "You're a good guy but I don't have special feelings for you. I'm sorry." Will you bruise his ego? Possibly. But bruises don't last forever. So as long as you don't say, "As if!" or "In your dreams!" or anything unkind, you don't have to feel guilty. After all, sometimes saying no to someone else means saying yes to yourself.

Dear Carol,
I've been cutting myself and I don't know why. I'm not unhappy. I have a loving family and friends and good grades. I know cutting is bad and I've hinted to my friends that I'm doing it, but they've never noticed. I think I want them to notice, but I'm not sure I want to tell them. I definitely don't want to tell my family.
Confused

Dear Confused,
Thank you for telling me. I really hope you can take good care of yourself rather than flirt with self-destructive habits. You wouldn't cut a friend--don't cut yourself. Throw out the sharp instruments and promise yourself you will not cut yourself this week, then renew the promise next week, and the next. When you feel anxious, call a friend, take a walk, write in a journal, chew gum, do jumping jacks, juggle--something besides hurting yourself. We all want attention (this is normal), but can you think of more positive ways to get it? Finally, just as you were courageous enough to write me, don't hesitate to reach out to a caring adult in your community (family, neighbor, counselor, minister, rabbi). Or call a hotline anonymously to talk to supportive adults at the Covenant House Nineline at 1800 999 9999, or to trained teens at 310 855 HOPE, evenings.

Dear Carol,
I have always been skinny, but recently I have been working out to stay thin. During the summer when I wear shorts, I get really self-conscious about my thighs. They are pretty big and at the end of school, I usually put my binders over them so no one can see. I don't like going to the pool either. Feeling Self-Conscious

Dear Feeling Self-Conscious,
Start looking out instead of down. Eyes off your thighs. Really. Do your best not to become one of the millions of women who obsess about weight. It's such a brain drain. The goal is not to be skinny or thin. The goal is to be healthy and fit.

Need an answer now for yourself or a friend? Consider calling these numbers:
1 800 COCAINE (for drug questions);
1 800 999 9999 (for emotional support);
1 800 230 PLAN (Planned Parenthood);
1 800 799 SAFE (to report violence at home);
1 800 931 2237 (anorexia/bulimia); [www.nationaleatingdisorders.org]
1 800 SUICIDE (for despair, despression, crisis);
1 800 SAFEYOUTH (for violence, abuse);
1 800 656 HOPE (National Sexual Assault 24 hour hotline);
1 800 855 HOPE (trained teens, evenings)

There is always someone who can help you. If not your parents, then a teacher, relative, counselor, clergyperson, doctor, coach, social worker, someone. In an emergency call 911. Even if the situation is pretty awful right now, things can change for the better. Just as spring follows winter, good times are ahead. Honest. Life gets easier once you get the hang of it. And one of the great things about adulthood (besides not having homework) is that grown-ups don't care about popularity and don't usually tease or pressure each other.

Remember too that Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You is loaded with good advice and more q and a's, as is my "Dear Carol" column in Girls' Life magazine and at girlslife.com.

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