Major bummer alert: J.D. Salinger, the author of bona fide literary classics such as The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey, died yesterday at the age of 91. It’s sad when anyone dies, and especially when a great writer expires, but for me, this felt like a personal loss. I read Catcher for the first time in 8th grade (many subsequent encounters with Holden Caulfield followed) and my first reaction was, “Wait a second, you mean to tell me that writing can be like this? If that's the case, writing is what I want to do with my life.” Salinger was the first author to show me that literature can be stylish, cynical, rebellious, and, above all, really funny. He also taught me that sometimes it’s OK to unfurl really long sentences. Feast your peepers on the doozy that begins Catcher: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” If you haven’t read any Salinger, I encourage you to get to your local bookstore and pick up his entire body of work for about $30. His words will repay you many times over. R.I.P. J.D.
Hello Chris. How do I deal with guys that flirt with me? I'm taken and really happy, but there's always a guy that flirts. I usually just ignore them and haul butt (discreetly though). They're usually guys that I don't know and probably won't see again.
Hello there. What a great problem to have (provided the flirting isn't obnoxious)! If you are dealing with guys you won’t ever ever ever see again, like not even once, I think ignoring them and discreetly hauling butt is a safe strategy. You could also be polite to the flirter before you haul butt, but that tactic makes more sense if you know you will have to see the person again. The problem with politeness is that while it’s proper etiquette and all, some guys may misread it and think you are flirting back, which is probably not the situation you want to be in if you are taken and happy. You could also try to deflect the flirting by changing the topic to something unrelated to you or him. Switching gears gives you the chance to ignore the flirting but not ignore the flirter, if you know what I mean.
Final suggestion: Keep a sandwich in your pocket. When the flirter approaches, say “Geez, you look hungry,” and hand it over. By the time he finishes eating and returns his attention to you, poof, you’re gone.
Recently, and completely by chance, I came across an interesting personality disorder called Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD). I don't believe in DIY diagnosis—that's why we have doctors and psychiatrists—but after looking over the symptoms carefully several times, I am absolutely convinced I have it, to the point where I would be willing to bet my life on it. To save you some time, these are the symptoms Wikipedia has listed (yes, I double-checked them): hypersensitivity to criticism or rejection; self-imposed social isolation; extreme shyness or social anxiety in social situations, though feels a strong desire for close relationships; avoids physical contact because it has been associated with an unpleasant or painful stimulus; avoids interpersonal relationships; feelings of inadequacy; severe low self-esteem; self-loathing; mistrust of others; emotional distancing related to intimacy; highly self-conscious; self-critical about their problems relating to others; problems in occupational functioning; lonely self-perception; feeling inferior to others; in some more extreme cases—agoraphobia; utilizes fantasy as a form of escapism and to interrupt painful thoughts. I tried talking about it to my mom, and she laughed in my face. No, really. She actually started laughing. Now, I was kind of expecting that from her, seeing as she told me I "just wanted attention" when I told her I was suicidal this past summer, but I was shocked when my dad told me I was trying to use AvPD as an excuse to stay in my room all the time, because he's the "understanding parent." I desperately want to get a proper diagnosis so I can work on at least lessening my troubles before I go to university next year in a completely different city. I've already messed up my high school years; I don't want to screw up my university years, too. Can you give me any advice on how to tackle this issue, especially since my parents aren't taking me seriously?
Whoa, you’re breaking your own rule! If you don’t believe in DIY diagnosis, then by all means stop diagnosing yourself. While some AvPD symptoms might seem to apply to you, that doesn’t mean you have AvPD. You could have one of many other minor or major disorders, or you might be totally normal and just going through a rough time in your life. It may be tempting to drill down on this one condition, but before you start comparing your own feelings to a long list you found on Wikipedia, please make an appointment to see a doctor or therapist.
Regarding your parents’ reactions, is there a reason they are taking your claims so lightly? Do you think they feel you might be overreacting or dramatizing the situation unnecessarily? In my opinion, you need to be persistent with them. Just because they rebuffed you once doesn’t mean you should stop reaching out to them. Maybe it will take a few conversations before they take your concerns seriously, in which case I encourage you to talk to them again ASAP. They should be your first resource in getting help, and going through them is the easiest way for you to connect with a mental health professional. If they absolutely won’t listen to you, you’ll have to try another path: a relative, a school counselor, a teacher, a friend’s parent, or the school nurse. But make sure to approach your parents a few more times. Hopefully it won’t take multiple efforts, but hang in there and try not to freak out too much until you speak with a doctor.
Basically, I used to be (used to be, note), very slightly less PG-13 than some of the people I knew. I would drink every week, smoke some stuff, etc. not at all hardcore, and was in no way addicted and in any case that was never my problem. But I had changed enough to alienate myself from some people that I would have once considered to be good friends. I usually held it all together—I wouldn't mention to anyone if I had a hangover, and I was basically the same—but my friends knew otherwise. Anyways, I toned that kind of thing down after I had an incident that was embarrassing to say the least. So, that was about 6 months ago, and now I'm having problems because after reconnecting with some of my older friends I've realized that they don't quite seem to think of me the same way they used to, and occasionally might make reference to stuff I've done in the past. It just makes me feel that little bit less considered. I just kinda want them to realize that I never changed very much anyway and that I'm very much the same person that I used to be, albeit older and wiser. Any advice?
Well, short of jumping into a time machine and going back to refrain from the slightly-less-than-PG-13 things you did, I’m not sure there’s any way to make your friends see you as that same old person. Because let’s face it, you’re NOT that same old person. You’re a newer version that has lived and grown and had experiences, some of which you regret, and that’s life—it happens to everyone. I don’t know what you did—you mentioned smoking stuff and hangovers, so I assume you are talking about illegal activities—but do you think it’s possible that you did some things that rightly caused your friends to see you in this new light? I get the sense that maybe you are trying to downplay the events simply because you feel you always held it together, but that might not be how your friends saw you. The next time someone references something from your past, maybe you should take that opportunity to have a frank conversation with them about it. How did they see you at that time? How does it change the way they see you now? It sounds like you did change in some way, and I hope you’ll work to accept that and move on instead of trying to convince people (yourself included) that you are the same person you were before. It may not be easy to come to terms with this, but it’s something you’ll have to do if you want to re-establish a healthy relationship with your friends.
Also, I really hope you’ve quit all the less-than-PG-13 activities. Depending on what you were doing, you could get into pretty serious trouble with the law or damage your body beyond repair, and I don’t want that to happen to you!
When a normal high-schooler is introduced to another average high-schooler, how should we act? It seems awkward to offer a handshake when we aren't officially adults yet (I've tried it and they just give me a weird look usually), but what else are we supposed to do? Hug? Stare? Smile? Tackle? Walk away? Stand there looking like an utter freak? If you could give me some advice on the proper etiquette of meeting another teenager, that would be much appreciated.
You’re close—the proper protocol is to tackle, and then walk away. I don’t think a handshake between teenagers is that unusual, but if you are worried that you might weird someone out by extending a hand, you could go for my favorite: the tiny hip-high side wave combined with a “Hi” or “Nice to meet you” or “Hey, how’s it going?” (even though this last question is generally meaningless during a first encounter). You could throw in a little smile too, but unless you are actually happy at the moment, I wouldn't fake it. You’ve already combined words with a gesture, and that should be plenty to confirm that YES, WE HAVE NOW OFFICIALLY MET. If any Sparklers have suggestions on how to greet other teens, I’d love to hear them!
Have you ever found yourself in a uniquely Salinger-esque dilemma? Send a note to email@example.com and we’ll work it out.
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