You Asked It

Just Wondering

We’re getting closer to figuring everything out.

I’m in love with my best friend, but he doesn’t feel the same way about me. It’s hard for me to hang out with him because of my feelings, but we’ve been best friends since middle school, and he’s always been there for me, so I would hate to lose our friendship. Should I stop hanging out with him, or is there a way I can stop liking someone that I’ve liked for five years? —Gab, Seattle

This is a tale as old as time, depicted in a million movies with a million squirmy conversations and endless heartache. Your best friend is a great guy, you clearly get along, so WHY AREN’T YOU IN LOVE WITH EACH OTHER?! It hurts, I know.

I have no idea what your BFF’s feelings are about this whole thing, so I can only talk to you about your feelings. A life where hanging with your best friend is painful is no good. My advice for you, in a nutshell, is to do a combination of both of the things you suggested.

You see, sometimes a crush can take on a life of its own and become this thing that has little to do with the person you’re crushing on. You crush on him because you’ve always crushed on him, and because he’s there, and because it’s less scary to love someone silently from the corner rather than engage in the sticky messiness of being in a relationship. If you nurse an unrequited crush for a long time (five years!), it can grow to epic proportions, and your fantasies of what might can completely block out any possible reality.

To get some perspective, you need space. This guy, while he may be your best friend, isn’t the only dude in the universe, but if you keep hanging out with him as much as you do, all you’re going to see are the ways in which he’s perfect for you. (Also, it’s worth noting that some people act very differently around their friends vs. around boy/girlfriends, so it’s not as if dating him would be exactly like being friends with him + making out.) If he doesn’t return your feelings, you can’t wait around for the chance that maybe he’ll change his mind. That basically only happens in movies.

What I would do is have a little chat with him. Let him know that you need some time to get over your crush on him so you guys can stay friends. During that time, do new things: hang out with other friends, flirt with other dudes, start volunteering somewhere, take a class, get into a sport. Fill your time. Live your life. The tough part here will be trying to keep your mind occupied with pastimes other than hoping your friend will miss you so much that he’ll suddenly realize that he loved you all along. (Again, only in movies.) How long of a break should you take? As long as it takes for him to become smaller in your mind—not as a friend, but as an object of love. If and when you manage to see him as just a guy among the many many guys in the world, rather than this mythical creature that you are destined to be with, then you can pick up the phone and see if he wants to hang out.

The bad news is that your friendship might not make it through this. He might have a hard time dealing with the fact that you can feel multiple ways about a person at once, just like you might have a hard time realizing that friendship and true love are two amazing but separate things. If this happens, it will be a shame, but you can’t go on being friends with someone who causes you heartache. That’s not being fair to yourself.

Give yourself some distance, and shrink your Prince Charming back into a best-friend frog. —Emily G.

My mom constantly tells me that I should practice a sport, but I hate sports. The idea of competion and exercise and physical suffering isn’t very appealing to me. I like art, reading, and fashion. But if I don’t get any kind of exercise, I’ll probably gain weight and be unhealthy. Help? —Jeanne, Brussels

Hi, Jeanne! First of all, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying life’s many sedentary pleasures more than you like moving around. And there’s nothing wrong with gaining weight, either—being overweight doesn’t mean being unhealthy. But working some physical activity into your life is important for the health of your body and your brain. It dosen’t have to be a lot. You don’t have to go to a gym or join a team or become a jock. If you find something you enjoy, and do it a few times a week, that’s enough—and you’ll probably feel better, and have enough time to read and look at art and stuff.

How do you figure out what you enjoy, though? To give you some ideas, we consulted our staff, who offered a variety of options for the athletically disinclined.

  • I like to work exercise into my daily routine. My mantra is to keep moving. I bike instead of driving, I take the stairs instead of the elevator—and I live in a high-rise, so that’s a lot of stairs! If you spend a lot of time sitting down, see if you can do some things while standing up. It might not seem like much, but even just standing up does great things for your metabolism. Seriously, it’s science! —Rachael
  • I was never really into sports, and I’m also not very good at them. I somehow managed to go through my life without ever having to take P.E. But this summer, after being in a real bummer zone for longer than I would’ve liked, I joined the gym and immediately loved it. One of the people who worked there taught me a simple routine to follow (a mile and a half each on the treadmill and elliptical), and then he taught me how to use a few of the other machines. After I became more familiar with everything, I switched some things around and just did the elliptical. This is not what everyone should do, of course, but it worked for me, and I think the real reason why I love it so much is because I get to blast music on my headphones and completely tune out the world. I am not looking at my phone or checking my email. Plus, I know I’m doing something that’s good for me, which makes me feel even better. –Laia
  • My mom got me this Tracy Anderson workout video, which I use when it’s not nice enough outside to go running. Don’t let her tanned abs and yoga pants turn you off, because the workouts are good, and the dance cardio is fun when you choose your own music. It’s kind of expensive at $90, but compared to a gym membership, it’s nothin’. And if you check it or another video out from the library, it is literally nothin’. (I don’t condone the diet suggestions that come with the videos, because they are aimed at severe weight loss.) Even if you don’t use this particular video, working out at home saves time and money, and it’s less intimidating than going to the gym by yourself. —Dylan
  • I have tried all sorts of exercise (sports, gym, classes, etc.), but what ultimately worked for me was walking. I walk to work and school. It’s about three miles, and I do it a few times a week. I try to keep it nonchalant: no schedule, no obligation to do 20 miles per week. I just walk whenever I feel like it! Sometimes I bring my iPod, sometimes I just listen to the sounds of the lake (I live near a lake). I feel really good, and it gets me outside on a regular basis. —Danielle
  • I think it’s important to find a way to make exercise fun, so I take dance classes. I’ve done ballet and Zumba. I wasn’t awesome at either of them, but I had a blast and didn’t realize I was working out until I was sore the next day. But a friend of mine found the ultimate workout motivator: she did a 5K, obstacle-course race in which she was chased by zombies! ZOMBIES! The race, which is called Run for Your Lives, is not a serious marathon. People of varying fitness levels participated, but it got my friend to work out regularly. She got soaked and covered in mud, but she did not get turned, and she had the time of her life. –Stephanie

If none of those ideas appeal, here are some more: Blast music and dance around in your bedroom. Or go out dancing at an all-ages club. Join a roller-derby team. Do some simple yoga at home. Ride a stationary bike so you can read while you’re exercising. Even more ideas here.

I’m not really interested in having sex, which most of my friends find weird, because I’m a teenager and I should have all these uncontrollable hormones that make me boy-crazy. I’ve never had sex, but whenever I imagine what it would be like, I feel like I would just lie there and wait for it to be over. I’ve never had a boyfriend, but I think I want one; I just don’t necessarily want to have a sexual relationship with him. Am I asexual? And if I am, is this something I should tell guys I’m interested in right away, or should I wait until we’re serious? –Anonymous

Generally speaking, an asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. No one can tell you if you’re asexual—it’s something that you figure out about yourself. In the asexual community, we like to say that the word asexual is a tool, not a label. If it’s useful to help figure yourself out or describe yourself to others, then use it. If it ever stops being useful, stop using it.

Sexual orientation is a way of understanding and expressing how you want to connect with people. If right now connecting with people isn’t about sex for you, that’s awesome, and if that never changes, that’s awesome too (I know it’s been awesome for me!). If it does change, guess what—also awesome. Because figuring out what gives you pleasure and what makes you happy is never a bad thing.

It sounds like you’re still figure that out. Maybe right now you call yourself “questioning.” Not that you have to call yourself anything at all! Understanding who you are and what you want is always more important than finding the right label for yourself.

As for telling guys: It sounds to me like you feel cautious and unsure about sex right now, whether or not you decide to identify as asexual. So no matter what, any sexual experimentation you engage in should involve a lot of open communication. Most asexual people enjoy deep emotional connections that aren’t about sex, and most of us also enjoy physical touch that isn’t about sex. Take the time to figure out what sort of sexual stuff you are and aren’t comfortable trying, and talk to your partner about it before anything goes down. –David Jay, founder of Asexuality.org

I am constantly surrounded by girls who are better-looking than I am. I know I shouldn’t be focused on appearances, but sometimes I get jealous that those girls get so much more attention than I do. Why are they more important than me? —Rachel, Chicago

When I was a junior in high school, this girl who modeled for Delia’s transferred to my school. Everyone freaked out; it was like a minor celebrity had landed. She was 5'10" and had beautiful blue eyes and long blond curls. Within days, she seemed to have made dozens of new friends. As for me, I was still clinging to the two friends I made in middle school. I didn’t know the new girl at all, but it seemed to me that people—boys and girls—were just so much nicer to her because of how pretty she was. It didn’t seem fair.

But then I realized something else: she wasn’t me. She didn’t have my personality, or my brain, and I was better at some things than she was, and who knows—maybe she envied me for some of those. Everyone has something different to offer, and the best thing you can do is focus on the qualities and attributes that you feel more confident about. The other thing to remember is that people who are really good-looking are never more important than you, especially not to the people in your life who really love you and care about you—the people whose opinions of you have actual meaning.

There’s a part in David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College commencement speech that I always return to when feelings of inferiority start creeping in and making me feel like I’m not good enough, or that I’m not being noticed, or that I’ve somehow been shortchanged. He said: “There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship…. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.” And then he says that the only way to free ourselves from the constant tyranny of feeling not-good enough is to be loving, compassionate human beings.

You know, the green-eyed monster rears its head in everyone. Even your friends who you think are better-looking than you have moments when they are thinking about the people they think are better-looking than them. There are almost certainly moments when people envy YOU and the attention you get for the things that you are good at. Take a moment to consider what those things are, and feel proud of yourself. I remember one time running into an old high school acquaintance who I thought was so much more popular than me, and in the middle of chatting with her, she suddenly drops on me that she always thought I was so mysterious and cool in high school, and she was jealous of how I managed to maintain that mystique. In my head I was like, Mystique? It’s called painful shyness and inability to make expressions with my facial muscles. The point is that everyone feels inadequate in their own way. That’s part of what it is to be human.

If these girls are your friends, I bet they’d want to know how you feel. Maybe sit down with them and say, “Hey, sometimes I feel invisible around you guys, because I don’t think my looks stand out.” I predict this will lead to an awesome conversation about all of this, and that you will feel how much your friends love you, and what they think is special about you, and they will feel how much you love them, because you trusted them with some pretty personal information. And maybe this communication will help override your insecurities.

But listen, girl: we all feel less good-looking—or less something—than someone else from time to time, and it feels really unfair. Don’t let that get you down, because there are so many reasons to be adored and admired and respected in life, and being pretty is the most fleeting of them. —Jenny ♦

If you have a question for next month’s Just Wondering, please send it to youaskedit@rookiemag.com.

20 Comments

  • Mads January 2nd, 2013 12:08 AM

    Jenny I absolutely loved your response!! So many people try to tackle the “beauty is skin deep” issue but this is the best argument for it I’ve read/heard. I especially love the last sentence.

  • momobaby January 2nd, 2013 12:15 AM

    I think Emily did a really good job figuring out both sides of the friend zone scenario. Sometimes the best choice is space, and that really make a difference.
    This happened to me once, and when I stopped idolizing him every moment, I was more easily able to move on.

    http://littlerebellia.blogspot.com

  • uuultraterrestrial January 2nd, 2013 12:32 AM

    I really feel resonance with the question about asexuality

    I felt the same way when I was a teenager and seriously thought I was asexual, because I was nowhere near as horny as my friends seemed to be and wasn’t attracted to any of the guys at high school. I never fantasized about sex or anything related to it…although I did want a relationship.

    Eventually in my twenties I did meet someone who like flipped my switch and I felt soooo incredibly lusty/horny and sexy and all of these things I’d never felt before and had awesome sex for hours on end which I never thought I’d do before. We are still together 5 years later, too.

    People definitely develop at different rates and just DIFFERENTLY. It might take a specific person/thing to stir that side of you. And maybe you won’t ever feel like having sex and thats fine too.

    and yeah, just wanted to pipe in and let you know that there are people out there who weren’t interested in sex as teens but were later on (or not)…Just don’t pin yourself down

  • Lillypod January 2nd, 2013 1:27 AM

    i lovelovelove the DFW commencement speech…definitely worth listening for so many reasons.
    I have totally had that feeling with some of my best friends – they are tall and gorgeous and all very unique looks wise — sometimes i can feel a bit overshadowed and even plain in comparision…then two of them mentioned how much they envied my appearance! and at the same time i was silently envying them.
    I think sometimes we stare at our appearances until all we see is the stuff we hate, whereas friends see the whole picture.

  • canadaaustin January 2nd, 2013 3:58 AM

    this is water shout out. love so much.

  • Elizabete January 2nd, 2013 5:45 AM

    When i saw there’s going to be a question about asexuality, i got quite excited. It’s something i am trying to figure out too, sometimes i get confused if i’m asexual or i just like girls or it’s because all guys around me are boring, but whatevs, i’ll try not to worry and will see how it is when i actually fall in love :)

    Also, Jeanne, may i suggest you trying aikido? It is a martial art, but not competitive and used for defense not attacking. It might be a little hard sometimes, but really fun, also everyone wears the same baggy pyjamas, so you feel comfortable and not too self-conscious.

    http://melodyfairitale.wordpress.com

  • shelley January 2nd, 2013 6:05 AM

    Gab, I just want to say that Emily s right, you need space for a bit but it can get better! My best friend is an amazing, funny brilliant person, but when he told me he had a crush on me it was awful. I just knew I wasn’t attracted to him but I wanted to be, just because we clicked so well. Once he realised things weren’t going to take a romantic turn, he text me saying he wanted a break from my friendship, I was absolutely livid, and I wasn’t very nice to him. But after a break of a few months, we are now back to how we were, and I know his feelings are gone. It was so, so hard but in the end it was ok! I read on here before that if you were friends before one of you started liking the other then you can probably go back. I’m sure in a few months you;ll be thinking wow you are fun but how could I have ever had feelings for you
    Good luck x

  • avisanti January 2nd, 2013 9:07 AM

    Exercise is also an instant mood booster! Whenever I feel down, I go out and run for a good 15 to 20 minutes (just enough to feel energized) and I will feel better INSTANTLY.

  • Blythe January 2nd, 2013 10:08 AM

    I think I am probably asexual but I don’t even care right now and I’m just like “I’m too busy with being newly disabled to deal with this bullshit and also there’s a good chance it’s because of my meds.”
    Although the fact that I consider sexuality to be unimportant bullshit does tend to tip the argument in favor of being asexual.

  • NotReallyChristian January 2nd, 2013 10:34 AM

    When I feel like I’m not as good as someone – not as pretty, or smart, or good at drawing or whatever – I listen to The Belle Brigade’s ‘Losers’.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0-HLG7Dxec

    “There will always be someone better than you
    Even if you’re the best
    So let’s stop the competiton
    Or we will both be losers.”

    You should totally ask Belle Brigade to do the theme song btw :)

  • wallflower152 January 2nd, 2013 11:16 AM

    Emily, just because your friend isn’t into you now doesn’t mean he won’t ever be. And is that something you would really want at this point in your life? High school relationships usually don’t last forever. If you feel that you need a break from him then do so. My advice would be to stick it out and stay friends with him as you are now, date other people, explore your interests, etc, and maybe one day far into the future you and him will be together.

    Jeanna, I don’t particularly like working out but I do it to keep myself feeling healthy and keep my energy up. Try an app called Zombies, Run! It’s a whole story that plays out in between songs on your playlist. You are a “runner” for Able Township. You collect supplies, run from zombies that come up randomly during songs and you actually run from them using location services. It’s about $8 but totally worth it! Also, if you are reading/making art all day set a timer on your phone for every 30 mins or hour and when it goes off get up and a different exercise each time.

  • Mary the freak January 2nd, 2013 11:28 AM

    Oh yeah.
    I have been in love with my very best friend one time. It took ages to realize and figuring out these strange feelings I had while being with him -like, I thought I could never fall in love with him. But I did, I realized that during last winter holidays. It felt so weird and I cried a lot. I kept my distance and did not talk to him much. A few months later, when the feeling was gone, he phoned me and after talking for hours he asked me for being his girlfriend. I said yes, called him two minutes later and we both weren’t happy, as it wasn’t love. We broke up without being together, and after we’ve been through this shit, we are best best best friends. You will figure this shit out.

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • Carissa January 2nd, 2013 11:58 AM

    i too love fashion and art more than working out. so there’s two ways i use this as motivation. i love dance, so i use dancey workout videos or take dance classes, and focus on the artistry rather than the exercise. or the stronger option for me is buying clothes to workout in. i used to buy brightly colored sports bras at target a lot, and then i couldn’t wait to wear them for my work out. and to push myself to take a ballet class, i planned out a few outfits to make me look like a dancer, and that was great motivation to go to dance class.

  • Sharon January 2nd, 2013 5:26 PM

    I was obsessed with one of my friends (who didn’t share the same feelings) and I was convinced we were star crossed lovers like some sort of trippy beatles song. It helps to listen to a lot of girl power songs, like missy eliot, beyonce, M.I.A (it was hip hop girl power, in my case). Also, Too Little Too Late by jojo. She just feels me.
    And I hate exercise too! But Just Dance 4 came out and its loads of fun esp. w/ others so..!

  • Simone H. January 3rd, 2013 6:10 AM

    CRAP, JEANNE, WE ARE ALIKE AND… AND WE LIVE IN THE SAME CITY (and in Belgium, right ? ’cause there are some Brussels in the state) !!! I thought I was the only one here… This made my day, thanks. *w* (btw, if you ever feel lonely and you feel like meeting up or anything…)

    • Simone H. January 3rd, 2013 6:10 AM

      *..in the U.S., not state, sorry.

    • Jeanne January 4th, 2013 1:54 PM

      It’s Brussels in Belgium!

  • Chocolatenfashion February 18th, 2013 8:27 AM

    I’m asexual, and I think that some day I would like to have a queerplatonic relationship with someone. No one really seems to understand the concept of it, so how would I even ask someone to be in that type of relationship with me? Also, if I ever do end up in one, how would I explain it to everyone?

    • Blythe April 24th, 2013 2:16 AM

      I’d say my best friend and I are borderline queerplatonic, although I’ve never really brought it up to her. I just call her my platonic soulmate, or life partner, stuff like that.