You Asked It

Karen Elson Is Your Friend

Our oracle/pal is BACK with all-new ideas about how to live your life.


I’m 16 years old and I want to start taking a birth control pill. How do I tell my mom I want to do this without freaking her out and/or getting into trouble? —Katherine

Before I get into the issue with your mother: I’m not sure where you live, Katherine, but you may not have to talk to her at all to get birth control. In the U.S., for example, you can visit a doctor or a clinic like Planned Parenthood and get a prescription—but call and ask about their privacy policies first if you want to make sure your parents won’t be informed. The pill is covered by most health insurance policies, but this doesn’t really help you if you’re on your parents’ insurance plan. You can still pay for it yourself—most birth control pills cost between $15 and $50 a month, depending on the type.

Also, since the pill doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections/diseases, I hope you’re also planning on using condoms (which protect you from STDs, STIs, and pregnancy) as well. Anyone can buy condoms at the drugstore. Some clinics and even some schools give them out for free! These aren’t your only choices for birth control, either. Talk to your doctor about your options, and/or do some googling to find out what’s right for you (there’s a good list here).

But maybe you can’t pay for birth control on your own, or maybe you just want to maintain an open and honest relationship with your mom. Either way, I applaud you for being honest and responsible—and those are the two things you should focus on when you talk to her. I suggest you tell her you want to have a private discussion with her, and find a time and a place to talk where you won’t be distracted. Based on your fears of freaking her out and/or “getting into trouble,” I assume that the reason you want to go on birth control is that you’re becoming sexually active, and I know your sex life is a scary topic to bring up with parents, but the more articulate and informed you are, the better the chances are that your mother will listen. Trust me: Most mothers want our daughters to be honest with us, versus keeping secrets about things that can massively impact their lives as well as our own.

Once you’ve stated your case, give your mother a minute to get used to the idea that her daughter is going to be having sex (or maybe you are already). She will probably have questions and concerns—listen to these and answer them honestly, without getting defensive. If she hits the roof, take a deep breath, then explain that you want to be honest with her and responsible about your health, so you need her to calm down and listen. Show your mother you’ve done your research by learning some statistics. For example, the average age at which people in the United States and Europe become sexually active is 17, so it’s not too soon for you to be thinking about this and making decisions about your sexual health. Show her that you’re trying to make wise choices, and that you’re asking for her help and advice because you trust her and know how much she cares about you.

I hope the conversation goes well. Good luck!

My best friend has started dating a guy I hate, and it’s created bad blood between us. I’ve haven’t hidden any of my feelings from her: I think he’s a sexist dick, he’s mean to her, and I just get a bad vibe from him. She’s mad at me about this, which I understand and feel bad about, and now they’re MOVING IN TOGETHER (after going out for two months), and I don’t know what to do. I want to be a supportive friend, which I guess means accepting her relationship with this dude, but I also don’t want to lie to her by hiding my true feelings, BUT I also don’t want to lose this friendship! What should I say to her? —Donaldson, 18, New Jersey

It’s so frustrating to sit on the sidelines and watch someone you love being treated badly. And when that someone is in a committed relationship, you risk alienating her if you keep trying to force her to see what you see. You need a different approach.

You don’t have to be friends with your friend’s boyfriend, but you can make sure she knows that you’re still her friend, and that you’ll be there for her when the penny drops. Because, from everything you’ve said here, this won’t be a relationship for the ages—he’s already showing some controlling and emotionally abusive tendencies, and once the haze of new love and lust starts to fade, the reality of his behavior will likely become apparent to her. I know you wish you could just show her all this now, before she figures it out on her own, but you can’t. (However, if you witness any violence or anything else that makes you concerned for your friend’s safety, reach out to her other friends and her family and come up with a plan to get her out of what could become a cycle of abuse.) What you can do is let her know that it makes you sad to see the way he treats her, but that you understand that it’s her life and her choice, and you just want her to know that if she needs anything, you will always be there for her, in good times and bad. Then let it go—don’t keep telling her over and over how you feel about him. She knows. And as much you want her to be happy, you cannot make her do anything she doesn’t want to do. Even worse, her denial may be so deep that she will resent you for trying to make her confront what’s going on. When she is ready to open the door, welcome her in.


I love opera. I can’t get enough of it! I feel like the world has some beauty left when I hear Pavarotti sing. The problem is that when I tell people about my obsession, they seem to judge me as snobby and prissy, which I am NOT! I’m not about to change for anyone—I like myself like this—but how can I share my passion for opera with others without coming off as pretentious or condescending? —Katariina, 18, Espoo, Finland

Love opera with all your heart. Don’t be ashamed of your passion—embrace it. The internet is filled with people who feel the same way: Find (or start!) a message board or a blog, look into online and IRL groups and social events. I can assure you that people all over the world share your love of opera, and finding some of those people will make all the difference. You will no longer feel alone (because you’re not). And anyone who makes you feel prissy about your passion is intimidated by it. Be proud—you are amazing!

♥ Karen

Karen Elson is a musician, model, and all-around nice person. Got a query for her or any of our other advice columnists? Send it to! Please include your FIRST NAME/NICKNAME, AGE, and CITY. Thanks!


  • Kenz July 23rd, 2014 12:54 AM

    I am studying to be an opera singer, so I totally get how disheartening it is when people don’t understand how FREAKIN AWESOME opera is. My trick for talking to people about it is to find an aspect of the art form they can relate to, whether it be the gorgeous melodies, or the crazy lives of the composers. Opera is for everyone!

  • ElisabethGrace July 23rd, 2014 1:26 AM

    it’s kind of amazing that karen elson does these and not only bc i’m obsessed with her, but also because she gives such amazing advice. you go, karen!!

  • krystalavender July 23rd, 2014 4:04 AM

    Can’t believe Karen Elson contributes to rookiemag. So awesome. Also, I wanted to add that I work at the biggest opera house in Los Angeles and took lessons from L.A. Opera and I must say, coworkers and classmates make sure to complain all the time about it to assure everyone that they are NOT into opera so I totally get feeling weird about liking it. However, the shows are always sold out so there are hundreds of thousands of people into it in Los Angeles alone.

    On a side note, Karen Elson sang Geordie at the Orpheum last year and wish that she could record a video or something…it was so, so lovely but I haven’t heard it since :(

  • TessAnnesley July 23rd, 2014 6:38 AM

    can karen give advice about how to be a perfect faery princess badass musician queen of everything aka herself???

  • soviet_kitsch July 23rd, 2014 11:22 AM

    one of my friends is an opera singer (casually) and her voice is EXQUISITE. she literally sounds like an angel. opera is one of the coolest things around and listening to stuff like that opens your mind to different music and it really makes you realize how music is kind of all the same regardless of genre. project your opera love EVERYWHERE because it’s an awesome thing and it’ll connect you to other music fans in a very distinctive, interesting way.

  • ruby July 23rd, 2014 1:25 PM

    I don’t think a genuine passion for something can ever be pretentious. People who feign an interest in things to make themselves seem sophisticated are pretentious, but if you truly love something, be it opera, astrophysics, chess or whatever it just makes you an interesting and generally awesome person!

  • whiskeytangofoxtrot July 23rd, 2014 1:39 PM

    Katariina, you go girl! I love classical music, and what I have come to understand from people’s reactions to that is that it’s something they might feel ignorant or naive about, because it’s not popular, or seems esoteric, or they assume classical music is only for some sort of elitist club, so they get defensive or make fun of it. What other people think of it, though, really has no say in the matter of what YOU like or how a certain music makes you feel! Opera on to your heart’s content!

  • LarkAscending July 24th, 2014 9:02 AM

    Teenage opera fans of the world, unite! I am probably just as obsessed with opera as you, Katariina, and classical music and ballet besides. The best way that I have found of finding others my age that share my passion is getting involved in the art form in question. I personally found this by joining an orchestra, but you could equally join a choir or youth opera company (these are a little harder to find, but do still exist). Even if you have no previous experience of actually doing classical singing, there’s nothing to stop you joining a choir/company and giving it a go- anyone can sing! (if you want to have a classically trained voice you might need lessons though). There’s no stigma attached to loving classical music/opera in these environments and you could find people who love Pavarotti just as much as you. You might also find that you love the activity itself.

    As for all the others, I think that their reaction is often because they don’t know how to place you- people often judge others on their musical tastes, and they have no idea how to judge you! Just keep smiling, and let your true obsession with opera shine through, to show people you’re not just being pretentious. And listen to lots and lots of opera when you get back home.

  • Marmottone July 28th, 2014 8:59 AM

    It’s so wonderful that there’re teenage opera lovers out there!

    I’ve been one for way too long, and have started losing hope, constantly seeing blank faces of my friends, starting to talk to them about my passion.

    I’m absolutely HAPPY!!!

    It’s high time we, aficionados, connected and started something together!

    It’s always wonderful to find people capable of sharing this love!