I have a close friend whom I’ve known all my life. Because we are so close, we’ve obviously picked up traits and interests from each other. But I can’t help noticing that when she exhibits a trait or interest that she got from me, she is praised for it, while no one has ever noticed those qualities in me. And when we do creative projects together, even ones I’ve initiated, our mutual friends tell her how cool and creative she is while they ignore me. I feel like I’ve been robbed—like someone copied a painting of mine and sold it for millions while my original is sitting at home, and no one’s buying. All of this has led me to start acting different from who I really am, because if I hide my real personality, no one can co-opt and benefit from it while I get nothing out of the deal. How can I deal with these feelings of jealousy and resentment? —Cass, 17, Malaysia
I know the saying is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I’ve totally copped styles and records and lipstick shades from friends I thought were THE coolest. I mean, haven’t we all been copycats at some point in our lives, on different levels, stealing bits of life inspo and advice from others? But it can be tempting to get mad annoyed by a “copycat” friend, and that’s not always a great line of thinking.
Of course, when it comes to being recognized for creative work you’re collaborating on with someone, it’s good to speak up if you feel like your name/contribution is being cut out of it. I know the feeling of having worked really hard on something which nobody gives you credit for, and it sucks—getting recognition for your work is really nice, and, if you put effort into it, you deserve it! There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I feel like I was a really big part of this thing we did together. Everyone thinks you were the only one who did it, and it hurts my feelings.” Sometimes, when someone’s being praised left and right, they can forget that they had help. In those cases, remind them.
What worries me here is that you feel like you deserve credit for things your friend does on her own that you see as “yours.” Are you looking for credit for projects you’ve worked hard on together? Or, are you looking for credit for having been a certain way before your friend (maybe you feel like you had an idea first, were into some scene first, etc.)? Because you can’t really expect people to praise you for your traits and interests, just like you can’t make art in the hopes that someone else will like it: No matter what you’ve done, someone’s probably done it before you, so you don’t get brownie points for having certain personality traits or tastes. Although it may seem like your friend is stealing them from you, it’s very likely that she doesn’t mean to. And, even if she is conscious of it, I doubt her intent is malicious—just like mine wasn’t when I thought my friend’s lipstick was rad and got some of my own.
Your friend isn’t a thief for having things in common with you, and I hardly think she’s stealing your entire identity. You’re just going to be similar to your friends sometimes, period. That’s part of what’s so great about them! If anything, you should celebrate the fact that you two are so much alike: That’s what friends do! I have LITERALLY copied my friends’ jokes (by accident!) because I thought they were funny and because I thought I had thought of them, because they seemed like something I’d say. When my friends call me out on stuff like that, their reaction is surprisingly not “Hey! Stop copying me!” It’s “Yeah, it’s totally funny, let’s recognize how awesome it is that our oh-so-great minds think alike.”
So I don’t think you should try to be different just because your friend is similar to you. Why force a personality, especially when someone else is invariably going to have things in common with whatever New You you come up with? You’re going to meet people again and again who are just like you in ways that might make you uncomfortable or even jealous. Realize that you can’t focus on being the very first person to be recognized for being A, B, and C, and these feelings will become easier to deal with. —Hazel
I cannot get myself off with my hand. Touching my clit basically feels the same as scratching my forehead, and fingering myself just plain hurts. I’ve masturbated through just plain friction for a while, but I’m worried that when the time comes that I actually want to do stuff with a real live person, I won’t be stimulated by any direct touching they do. Is this normal? —Olivia, 14, Illinois
I’m happy to be the wizard who appears when you think you need someone to save you, but who actually shows you that you already have everything you need to solve your quest. *waves wand, and your letter appears in the air*
OK, let’s break your question down into its constituent parts. First part: “I cannot get myself off with my hand.”
First, with regard to whether this is normal: Yessss, absolutely! A lot of people can’t orgasm with just their fingers. This doesn’t mean you’re an official failure at sex. I checked the book and you’re not in it. (JK, nobody is. Nobody fails at sex.)
You don’t mention whether you’re having orgasms when you masturbate via friction, but I assume it’s making you feel good, and that’s an awesome thing to know how to do to yourself. This factoid puts you in the advantaged position of understanding what you like before it’s called upon by a motivated person, quite possibly a naked one, who really wants to know. Nice work! Where you see “I cannot get off with my hand,” I see… *waves wand* “I can get myself off in another way.”
Part two: “Touching my clit basically gives off the same amount of sensation as scratching my forehead.”
*waves wand* “Touching my clit in this one specific way doesn’t work for me, but this other way does.” The clitoris you can see and touch directly is only a tiny external piece of the entire clitoral body, which is mostly internal. This means that your clitoris is probably what you’re stimulating when you masturbate in the way that you’re used to, just more indirectly. The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education’s “Guide to Clitoral Sex” has more on this and might be a good read for you.
The same advice can be applied to the third part of your question: “Fingering myself in this specific way doesn’t work for me, but other ways could.” If you want to try adding new and different techniques, take some time to learn and adapt your method on your own. This Scarleteen article has all you need to know on this front and on other kinds of touching that you might find interesting. If you just plain-long don’t like any of it, fear not: Plenty of people have if-everyone-knew-they’d-just-be-getting-high-fives-all-the-time sex lives without ever engaging in vaginal penetration, or any penetration at all, trust. And even if that were not true—even if it was just you—it wouldn’t matter one whit.
Which gets us into the last thing you asked about: “I’m worried that when the time comes that I actually want to do stuff with a real live person, I won’t be stimulated by any direct touching they do.” Great sex looks different for every person, and it’s at least a little different each time for the same person. You can incorporate the way you masturbate into your partner sex!Sex for you might not ever involve penetration. It might not even involve you receiving direct physical pleasure. You might be the kind of person who would rather please their partner, or not have an orgasm, or get off by yourself with a partner there.
Doing stuff with a real live person isn’t going to be a face-off between your “weird” sex map vs. their “normal” one. Even in the most casual encounters, people shouldn’t just be “having sex.” They should be having sex with EACH OTHER, specifically! You’ve got a certain way of getting off, and so will your partner. Every single person in this world gets off in a different way! When you get there, how will you figure out what your partner like, or help them figure out what you like? Talking about it, for one, and this is something you can read up on beforehand, too.
Finally, I will refer you to the goddess Cindy Gallop’s articles for everything you need to know in this department. Each one of them—especially this one and this one—will help you feel more powerful, savvy, and prepared for when you decide to go for it. This wizard is sparkling with joy for you, as she waves her wand a final time, showing you a 100 percent ready and willing sex partner who’s happy to try anything you want to try, no pressure, when you’re ready. This person is yourself. Get it! —Lola