Since my best friend started dating this boy, she’s virtually pushed me aside. I figured it would be a temporary thing while she learned to balance everything out with having her first boyfriend, but that has not been the case—they’ve been dating almost a year now. How can I ask her to pay more attention to me without asking her to choose between me and her boyfriend, and without seeming selfish and needy?

When I was in middle school, my best friend and I were obsessed with the Ouija board (stick with me here, I promise this has something to do with your question). The thing was, though, I was controlling the planchette the whole time. How did I know? Because every time we asked a question, the answer would always be exactly the answer I had in my head. Like if I asked, “How many boyfriends will I have?” the Ouija board would respond with the number “458.” I was always more boy-crazy than my friend and was usually the one who asked boy-related questions. She asked questions like “What kind of superhero will I become?” and I asked questions like “When will I have my 1000th kiss?” Once she asked the Ouija Board if she would ever get married, and I shamefully admit that the thought of my best friend marrying someone and being that person’s best friend instead of my best friend scared me, so I forced the Ouija board to say “no.”

In college, whenever my friends started dating someone new, I was mostly happy and excited for them, but there was always a little part of me that felt really sad, like I had lost something. And in a way, we do lose a little something when our friends start up serious relationships. Sometimes it’s just the little things, like a friend who used to text you 50 times a day might text you just 10 or 12 times a day. Or maybe your friend who used to be free every weekend to hang out is suddenly free only every other weekend or every other other weekend, and even then, when you finally hang out, it might not be just the two of you anymore. The thing that bummed me out the most was the thought that once my friends were in serious relationships, I would probably no longer be the last person they spoke to or thought about before bed, because that privilege would probably now go to their new significant other, and that felt so sad.

The point is: you’re not selfish or needy for wanting to spend time with someone you love and care about. It’s normal to feel that way. In fact, it would be weird if you weren’t at all upset about your best friend’s spending most of her time with her boyfriend and not making time for you.

I’m someone who generally feels awful when I try to I bottle things in, especially when they’re important things. And wishing I could spend some time alone with my best friend definitely ranks as A Very Important Thing. If I were you, I would probably just try to have a conversation with her, and tell her sweetly, but honestly, how I feel. It can be scary being vulnerable and laying everything out there in the open, but every single time I’ve done it with someone, I’m always glad afterward.

I would tell her how happy you are that she’s found a great boyfriend and that you know she’s really busy juggling everything she’s got going on, but that you just really miss her. And you especially miss hanging out one on one with her.

I’m going to say something so corny that it’ll make you want to throw tomatoes at me, but you should just tell her what’s in your heart. If she’s a good, true friend, she won’t mock you or judge you or think badly of you if you tell her how much her friendship means to you.

Chances are, your friend has probably been so wrapped up with her boyfriend, that she probably doesn’t even realize you’ve been feeling this way for almost a year now. And chances are, if she’s a good friend, she’ll be so glad you told her. I know I would. —Jenny

Why is being skinny so important to so many girls? Why is it portrayed as such an amazing thing in the media? —Ava, Minnesota

Hi Ava! There are several answers to the “skinny” question. And all of them are, in my opinion, pretty ominous.

The first answer is this: If people can get you to worry about how skinny you are, they have already taken away a substantial chunk of your time and energy. Seriously. Look at how many “solutions” there are to the problem of girls not being “skinny enough.” Are you doing yoga? Are you running? Are you swimming? Have you gone vegetarian yet? Have you gone vegan yet? Have you tried eating only meat? Are you using diet pills? Are you drinking diet shakes? Are you wearing slimming clothing? Have you tried fasting? Have you tried surgery? Have you tried spinning around counterclockwise while saying “I want to be skinny” backwards 300 times? You’re not trying hard enough! Try harder! Be more skinny!

Oh my god, it is TOO MUCH WORK. Exercise is nice, and you should definitely do that, and healthy food is really super, too. But I also like to, you know, read books, and go to movies, and learn things. And all of that is stuff I would not have time to do if I worried full time about being skinny.

But this relates to another unpleasant fact, which is: if people can get you to worry about being skinny, they can get you to buy things. They can get you to buy books about how to be skinny, and magazines about how to be skinny, and clothes, and exercise equipment, and gym memberships, and all the rest of it. “You should be skinnier” is the core premise of an entire industry. Not a small industry. So if you are really focused on being skinny, you are ideally funding someone’s summer house in Florida, and he is going to go run over a manatee with a jet ski or whatever, and do you know how grateful he is to you, for buying his jet ski with your subscription to his brand-new diet plan that will finally get you skinny? Not a lot! That dude runs over manatees! He’s a jerk!

Which relates to part three: if you worry about being skinny all the time, and buy all the things, you are never actually going to achieve magical “skinny enough” status. If you take this to an unhealthy level, you can get really physically sick and die. So you can be both “not skinny enough” and “too skinny,” literally. But no matter how much weight you lose, you are always going to turn on the TV or open a magazine and hear the message “Be more skinny!” Even if you work on being thin like it’s your full-time job, no one ever shows up at your house with a trophy, like, “Congratulations! You did it! You can stop worrying and feel good about how you look, because you are now skinny!” So it never ends. You keep buying things, and you keep worrying and wasting energy you could be using on becoming a Supreme Court Justice, and it lasts for the rest of your life, except that after a certain point people also start selling you fancy moisturizers because it turns out you are now “aging.”

I think “skinny” is portrayed as an amazing thing in the media, and something girls should aspire to, in part because it is very rare. The people who are best at “skinny” are people who have a genetic predisposition to it, and who are also models or actors that literally work on their appearance as if it is their job. Which it is. (And, even they get Photoshopped to death. Nobody’s a winner here.) That means a ton of the women we see as “sexy” or “fashionable” are living a lifestyle that we will never live, and have genetic gifts that most of us don’t have. And we see them, and we see that everybody knows who they are, and that people are constantly sending all this love their way, and they’re rich and go to fancy parties and hang out with our favorite movie stars and have cool jobs, and we think, wow. How much more people would love us, how much happier we would be, if we were skinny! It’s not about being “attractive.” (People typically find different things attractive. Those whose personal definitions of “attractive” exactly fit the most popular definitions are people who completely lack imagination, or who see girls as “trophies” rather than as people. People like this are, universally, bad dates.) It’s about the idea that looking a certain way guarantees happiness and security. It doesn’t. Look at Lindsay Lohan. But this idea—that all of the richest, happiest, most loved people are very skinny—puts us in a position where we become poorer, less happy, and less likely to love ourselves. And guess who benefits from that? Two teams: the one that wants girls not to reach their fullest potential, and the one that makes money off of girls buying things. Girls think it’s important to be skinny because rich adults profit from girls’ thinking it’s important to be skinny. And that is how it is. That is not, however, how it has to be. Save a manatee; eat a burrito. Is my lesson for you today. —Sady

How do you get over body issues if it seems everyone is constantly sizing you up and criticizing you? Like, how do you define your body as your own?

You really…kind of just do. I think at some point you just say to yourself, “This is my body and the only thing that matters is how I feel about it, so screw everyone else!” All my life I have been a li’l chub. The worst experience was when I was in elementary school, because kids LOVE to say mean things to you.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I became comfortable with my body, but I think it was when I started dancing. I took a dance class in the fifth or sixth grade. Later, in high school, I was the leader of our dance team and on drill team, where I had to wear short skirts and do high kicks on the football field. I also performed a lot during college. Having to constantly be aware of moving my body and using it as a tool to express myself made me become best friends with it. Nobody could move it (shake it!) like me. It was mine.

Although I stopped dancing (my life’s regret!) I think that comfortableness with my bod stayed with me. I started going to the gym, doing yoga, and doing Zumba this year, and it’s made me become best friends with my body again in a different way. I want to be healthier and I want my body to be stronger than ever before. But everything I do in my life and how I feel about myself is for me and not for anyone else. You just have to ask yourself, whose life are you living, anyway? —Marie

Does growing up ever get easier? I’m 15 and I’m so terrified of every aspect about growing up: going to college, getting a job, living on my own, having kids, and it goes on and on. Do you ever feel comfortable with it, or even excited about it?

Yes, it does get easier. And no, it doesn’t. The wonderful thing about getting older is that it happens incrementally. By the time you’re a senior in high school, the idea of going to college will still be a little bit scary, but you will also be ready to do it. And then you will move into a college dorm and be surrounded by so many exciting new people that you will forget within a week that you were ever afraid. Everything else is light years away—think about a newborn child, who goes from not being able to hold up its own head at birth to talking and walking by two, going to school by four. Those are big, big years. You too are having big, big years right now. I met my husband when I was 22, and told him I was going to break up with him in six months. Instead, six years later, we got married. Things change over time, and those things include your fears and your dreams. The key is to tackle one thing at a time, the next thing on the horizon, whether it’s taking the SATs or deciding what to do this summer. The other things will happen when they need to, down the line, so don’t worry about them now. You may not end up doing all of them, so why freak out about having these kids who might never exist, you know? When you do begin to feel scared, which you will, know that it’s OK, and totally normal, and an important part of the whole enterprise. After all, if you never get scared, it means you’re never doing anything new, which doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

Love, Emma S.

If you have a question for a future edition of Just Wondering, please send it to [email protected].