Chris Listens: Sparkler Friends and Undeclared Majors
Here we are, ankle-deep in Y2KX, and not a whole lot has changed compared to Y2K. We still don't have flying cars or affordable jetpacks. I still have to make my own sandwiches because no one has invented a machine to accomplish this task for me (c’mon, NASA!). And there are still no easy solutions for quagmires related to families, boyfriends/girlfriends, online/offline friendship, school, religion, and dozens of other issues that range from mildly irksome to entirely life-changing. I guess this is a good thing, because otherwise I’d be out of a job and you’d be sending emails to Listenbot4000 Model 17-A Featuring New Lifelike Ears. So read on to find out what timely and timeless issues are confuzzling Sparklers in this brand new decade.
Ok, so my mom says I can't go out with a boy until I'm sixteen. Right now, I'm fourteen and I would really like to have a relationship. But I can't seem to get past the "friends" stage; I don't know how to flirt, and I don't know how to get boys to think of me in that way. For all I know, they might think I don't want a relationship. I really want a boyfriend (I know that sounds sluttish), but I love my mom. However, she won't talk to me about why I can't date, so there's no way I can reason with her. So I guess I have three questions: 1. How do I flirt with boys and make them get that I want to go out with them? 2. How do I deal with my mom? 3. Is it unreasonable to want to experience a boyfriend before I turn 16? I know it's kind of a lot, but I would really appreciate it being answered.
It is totally reasonable that you would want to experience a boyfriend before you turn 16. As you may have noticed, I’m not really a huge fan of arbitrary rules (on the day you turn 16, will you suddenly be ready for a relationship?), so perhaps you should try again to talk to your mom about why she has imposed this restriction. I know you said she doesn't want to discuss it, but that doesn’t seem very fair. Maybe you can explain to her that you want to have a civilized conversation, and that since this is an issue that directly affects your life, you should have some say in the matter. She is probably being protective, and maybe she wants you to focus on things like school and friends instead of getting wrapped up in romance, which is a valid argument. But it’s certainly possible for you to have a relationship and also manage your schoolwork and social life. In any case, even if you can't get her to relax her rule, you should definitely try to get her to open up about her rationale, as that would at least allow you to have a healthy mother-daughter dialogue. It's fine to have rules, but it's unfair to keep someone in the dark about why those rules exist.
Now, even if you’re not allowed to date, you can still flirt with boys. Tried-and-true techniques include making generous amounts of eye contact and showing a lot of interest in what a boy is doing/saying. You can be pretty flirtatious just by talking to someone: ask a lot of questions, laugh at things that are funny, and smile. But try to be sincere and don’t fake enthusiastic reactions just to please someone else. In my experience, boys like girls who are comfortable with themselves and who don’t try to pretend to be someone they’re not. Furthermore, you can consult the latest post from Auntie SparkNotes, who is right now presenting her very helpful How To Flirt series.
Finally, for the record: Wanting a boyfriend isn’t sluttish. It sounds like you're pining for one dear true BF. You’re just looking for a deep connection with another human, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So this feels like a minor problem compared to many others, but it's still a problem to me, so here goes. So a lot of Sparklers became friends on Facebook after the Dan Facebook chat thing. I'm friends with 3 different Sparklers and I noticed that they seem to talk to each other and other Sparklers quite a bit. So what I want to know is, how can I become better friends with them? One girl has made an effort to talk to me a few times, but I'm really bad at carrying on conversations, especially online. They seem like really nice people, but I'm really shy and awkward and I don't know how to interact with people. So do you have any ideas on how I could get to be better friends with these Sparklers, and maybe other ones on Facebook? I know it seems small, but it constantly bothers me.
Yes, you are right, Sparklers are really nice people! In fact, I think niceness is a requirement to be on the site. If you’re not a natural socializer or social networker, you need to practice. But since you’re probably not going to set up a fake Facebook-style website where you can hone your skills, you should just put yourself out there and see how it goes. You know, trial and error. You don’t have to wait for people to talk to you—reach out and start some conversations. And instead of just saying, “Hi… what's up?,” it may be helpful to have some specific topics at hand. Fortunately for you, SparkLife is full of them! You might ask for someone’s opinion on Dan’s newest jokefest or see if they have any out-of-control celeb crushes. Of course, you need to have your own thoughts on these matters ready, since there are few less gratifying online replies than, "Ummmm, IDK." You might even share your feelings first, as a way to initiate the conversation. This is your chance to get over your shyness and awkwardness (if you want to), because you can interact with people without worrying about the tricky in-real-life obstacles such as eye contact and uncomfortable silences. Of course, you also need to be respectful and tactful. Be aware that when you contact someone online, you may be interrupting them, so you shouldn’t necessarily expect an immediate response. Nor should you get offended if you aren’t paid a ton of attention. People tend to multitask a lot on the computer, so they may be distracted, which is no reflection on your potential value as a friend. My advice is to go for it and see what happens. Maybe our loyal readership will have something more enlightening to say about this issue in the comments. How can this Sparkler become friends with other Sparklers?
Hey Chris. I'm in a bit of a dilemma. I'm a senior in high school, and there's kind of a problem. I have no clue what I want to go to college for. I know you can have an undeclared major when you first start college, but I feel like I should know what I want to do later in life. All of my friends already know what they want to do, and I feel like I'm the only person who still doesn't know. The issue is more than not knowing though. I know of a bunch of different things that I would like to do. I just don't think I would be able to do them. I really like Psychology, but it has to do with Social Studies, and I'm not very good at Social Studies. I love writing, but I only really like creative writing. I don't enjoy writing essays, plus I'm not very good at writing them either. And how many authors make it big, anyway? I like music, and I like singing, but I doubt I could do anything with music because I can't play instruments well. For some reason they just don't come easily to me. I like photography, but how do I know if I'm good enough to become a successful photographer? I've never even taken any photography classes before, I'm just an amateur with a small digital camera. Throughout my life, I've always liked doing these things, but I've never felt like I was good enough to be able to do them for a living. I like them, but I'm just good at them, I'm not great at them. I don't have a favorite out of all of these things, either, I love them all equally. And this worry isn't just about right now, either. If I say my major is undeclared, I'm afraid that I'll feel like I won't know what I want to do when I have to declare a major. I guess it's just part of my personality, I'm always indecisive. But even if I do decide on one, I don't think I would be good enough to do it for a living. So, is it okay that I don't know what I want to major in yet? If I end up picking something, what if I'm not good enough? What if I can't decide on anything? Please help me.
Yes, it’s perfectly fine to not know what you want to major in yet. That’s why liberal arts colleges were invented: To give you the chance to take classes in a wide range of different subjects (you might even be required to take a wide variety of classes) and declare your major at the end of your second year. And don't worry; even when you do select your major, it doesn’t mean you are stuck in that field for life. Plenty of English majors have gone on to become investment bankers, and plenty of economics major have ended up teaching history to elementary school students. In fact, this is one area where your indecision might be a benefit. It might be better NOT to know what you want to do right now, because you'll have a chance to explore some academic subjects a bit more deeply. It would suck to go to college with engineering in mind and then find out that you totally despise engineering classes. As for your current path, I think it's great that you like so many different things. Try not to worry too much about making it big in any of those disciplines—just continue to develop your talents, and success will come. If you enjoy doing them, that’s all that counts right now. I encourage you to keep trying different things and explore all of your interests. The great thing is that you don't have to commit to anything at the moment, so take advantage. Perhaps you’ll become more passionate about one activity over time and you’ll decide to focus on it in college, or maybe something new will come along and capture your attention. Your academic career should allow to pursue the wide range of things that interest you. You don't need to restrict yourself by considering only engineering programs and nothing but engineering programs (unless, of course, you decide that your true destiny is to be an engineer, in which case, go for it!)
I have a bit of an odd family life. My parents divorced when I was seven, and that has always been all right with me. The dilemma in my life is that my dad is gay. He has had a boyfriend for 9 years now so my dad and James are practically married. I've grown to pretty much accept this also, they are always thoughtful about my feelings and I now realize that they love each other. The problem is that I don't know if other people will accept this. It has been nine years now and only my two best friends know about this. It is hard because I don't want people to be judging him or me and I never know if I can trust someone. Another problem is I have never had an outright conversation about how I feel with my dad. He is always wondering why I don't invite people over to his house. It is hard to have relationships with friends and guys because I feel they only really see half my life. I don't like to introduce my boyfriends to my dad because I am scared that it will be awkward. This isn't exactly a question but do you have any advice?
It’s great that you accept your dad, but you're right that it’s a little hard to predict whether other people will feel the same way. Some people will accept him, and some probably won’t. But homosexuality is not the taboo subject it once was and if your friends are openminded, it’s likely that they will not have an issue with it. The fact that you are treating your dad’s sexuality like a secret might make it seem like a bigger deal than it actually is. If your dad is open about it, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t feel comfortable letting people know. And if you don’t make a big deal about his being gay, there’s less of a reason for anyone else to think twice about it. I wouldn't go out of your way to announce to your friends that your dad is gay, but in the future you shouldn't make any efforts to hide that fact. Also, it sounds like it might be helpful if you share your feelings with your dad. If you’ve never talked to him about this kind of important stuff, it might be good to have a frank conversation and air your emotions and concerns. You could open the discussion by saying something like, "I love you and James, and I want my friends to love you, too. Recently I've been worried about how some of my more close-minded friends may react if I tell them you're gay." It may not be an easy subject to talk about, but you might feel better afterward, and it may help you figure out how to proceed with your friends. You can also get your dad’s perspective on how to deal with his sexuality—considering his past, I'm sure he has some insight when it comes to people's reactions. I’m sure he wants you to be happy, so I bet he’d be glad to meet your friends and boyfriends. I hope you'll talk to him soon!
What's troubling you this year? Mail your vexations to firstname.lastname@example.org.