in which I attempt to solve your problems
My inbox has been flooded with pleas, problems, and polemics for the last several weeks, and I’ve taken it upon myself to advise those of you looking for guidance. After reading every submission and consulting my most trusted friends and colleagues for second opinions, I’ve prepared a selection of responses covering a wide variety of topics, which I can only hope provide some level of perspective to both the inquirer and my broader readership. In this special epistolary blog post, we cover virginity, social media, dating your cousin, becoming a nun, and more. Thank you to everyone who wrote in! My general advice to pretty much every person that wrote in is “make a new friend and then go bowling with them.” Each response also comes with a bit of a homework assignment, a movie or song or any sort of cultural object that should provide some form of solace.
Submissions have been edited for length, clarity, and anonymity.
Greetings from California! We have beautiful redwood forests and dutch crunch bread and terrible wealth disparity and great art all up and down the coast—come visit sometime :-)
I am young, which as you know, is a problem in and of itself. I am on a gap year, and at the end of it, my girlfriend and I will go our separate ways. She to a nunnery for a few months, and then to volunteer with disabled folks at a traditional village, and I to college. She wants 0 contact following the end. I love her desperately in that awful way that teenagers do.
This would be the first truly painful breakup of my life. How can I cope with 0 contact? Or worse, how do I cope if she Becomes A Nun? It's a very real possibility. She's very spiritual and thrives in quietude. Why does that possibility bother me so much?
Dear Piously Pining,
It’s wonderful you have been able to experience an intense, intimate relationship before your university years. Not many people have this! And it will certainly grant you perspectives on your relationships going forward. But beware: having perspective on our emotions—thinking about our feelings—is not the same as feeling them.
This very definitive break-up may be just what you need. I received a handful of letters from people unsure if they should continue old relationships once they begin university, and my advice is unilaterally the same: break up! And break up distinctly and conclusively. You are right in predicting that this will be painful, but there is nothing for you to do except feel your pain. When you begin university, you’ll be joining a brand-new climate, one which really does demand your full attention. You’ll want to be able to focus on what’s right in front of you, which is particularly difficult when your heart is somewhere else; even in cases where the relationship itself is fine, the cost of maintaining that relationship means removing yourself from campus. After all, some of my closest friendships began as failed first dates.
It seems like your girlfriend has a strong sense of purpose and spiritual identity. I think this staunch sense of self might be what’s frustrating you as you work to discover your own passions and values. On the chance that she takes up the veil, first and foremost, you should be leveraging this for social and romantic desirability—it is a great opener at parties and in classrooms, which will make you look very cool. At the same time, I find it very admirable that she is so driven and so sure of what she wants. College is the exact time to find what calls to you, whether it’s scripture or sociology or supporting disabled people through public policy initiatives. Use the space that she once occupied to find yourself; I can’t think of a greater honor than being the catalyst for another’s self-discovery.
Of course, you can reject all this advice and continue the relationship, which is a perfectly teenage thing to do. If that’s the case, then refer again to my earlier advice: try to live in your emotions, not above them. When it sucks, allow it to suck. When it’s great, allow it to be great. When you regret missing a club meeting or a party because you stayed in your dorm to talk on the phone (or when you regret missing a phone call for a club meeting or party), feel it out first, then reflect on your emotions. Most of all, watch lots of movies and listen to lots of music, make friends your first semester, realize you hate them, make better friends that will last a lifetime. Eat as many french fries as you can.
Charlie (Further reading: “Untitled God Song” by Haley Heynderickx)
i have a lovely boyfriend, who does his best to cater to my needs and see to it that i am happy. the trouble is, i don't think i'm attracted to him. at all. please advise.
Dear Non-Ferrous Lover,
Break up with him. Sorry!! :( It seems like you can be happy with him, but could he really be happy with you, knowing (or if not knowing, then suspecting) you aren’t attracted to him? He deserves better, and you deserve a relationship that feels passionate and magnetic.
Break up with him, and lie when you do it. Say anything other than “I’m just not that attracted to you.” This is the perfect time for an “it’s not you, it’s me.” He will likely know this is not the case, but the lie itself is the gesture that demonstrates you care about his feelings.
Charlie (Further reading: Seinfeld S5E6, “The Lip Reader”)