How do I get over an unrequited crush? I’d hate to be pining for eternity. —T.

In kindergarten, I loved a boy named CAR who held my hand on the way to lunch even though there was often dried-up nose snot on it, and I thought we were in love. I told my mom that I was going to drive a car with CAR when I grew up and she was like, “What are you talking about?” and only later did I learn that he only held my hand because our whole class was required to walk in a double line, hand-in-hand, to the lunchroom, and Car was assigned to walk with me because our last names were both at the end of the alphabet. When I realized he didn’t love me, I gouged my stuffed Minnie Mouse’s eyes out and used her as a butt pillow for weeks.

In fourth grade, I loved a boy named Daniel Moon, and he made fun of my crooked teeth and told me my voice was squeaky like a mouse and he “went out” with this bossy girl who gave him “Korean massages” which were just really hard slaps to his back, and three years later, on my way home from middle school, I saw him standing in front of a Toyota dealership, waiting to get on the same bus I was on, and for months I waited for him to kneel by my feet and say, “Jenny! Be my girlfriend! I love you!” but he never acknowledged me once! I threw my Ouija board in the garbage because it had promised me that Daniel Moon would be my first kiss and also—um—my husband.

In ninth grade, I was obsessed with this boy in my computer class because he told my friend Carine that I was “a really intelligent girl,” and when I saw him holding hands with another girl, I thought, WAIT WHAT ABOUT ME, THE REALLY INTELLIGENT GIRL?

In tenth grade, I was in love with my friend’s older brother, and for years I honestly thought that we would build a cabin in the woods together and start a family and live like creative recluses in love. That fantasy cost me many, many nights of flinging myself on my bed and crying and writing really awful poems about the depths of my despair because the one I loved did not love me back.

Each time, I swore that THIS was the boy for me, that I had found him and there could be no other! Ever! But guess what? THERE ARE OTHERS. There are so many others. And every single time when I thought that I would never recover and I would never get up and I would always be pining away forever—every single time, it always always ended, I always always got up, and I always ALWAYS recovered and moved on. You have to know it and you have to believe it.

I bet deep down inside, your rational, logical, sensible self knows that you’re not going to pine for this person forever. But how do you get yourself to believe it? Ask yourself what you like about your crush. Why do you want to be with her or him? Do you really think you would be compatible with each other? Unrequited crushes thrive on fantasy and shrivel up and die when confronted with reality.

A few months ago, I was crushing on this dude that I barely knew. We spent less than a week getting to know each other and I was crazy about him. When I realized he had a girlfriend and probably wasn’t going to move across the country to start a life with me and learn to speak fluent Mandarin so that we could raise our future babies bilingually, I had to start the painful process of bringing myself back down to reality. Because, you see, in my mind, he was the perfect boyfriend, but in reality, I hardy knew him. In my fantasy, we shared everything in common, but in reality, I sometimes didn’t laugh at his jokes and occasionally had cruel thoughts about his taste in books. In my fantasy, he was the best listener in the world, but in reality, he kind of just didn’t have that much to say. In my fantasy, he was the finest booty around, but in reality, he was kind of vain and obsessed with working out. And yeah, I spent a couple of weeks drowning in my own misery and dramatically leaning against trees every time I stepped outside because it feels good to act out when things aren’t so good, but in the end, I made myself lie down on my bed, take some deep breaths, and just really think about this person that I was crushing on and whether I really thought he was the guy for me, or if I just wanted him to be that. And anyway, how could he be the guy for me if he didn’t think I was the hottest, smartest, funniest, most interesting babe in the entire galaxy-universe-space of the world? Tell me that, T., and ask yourself that about your own unrequited crush.

The next thing you need to do is TREAT YO SELF to some space. Absence may make the heart grow fonder in the case of two people who are already in a relationship, but in the case of unrequited love, trust me when I say that distance will make your heart grow stronger. If you want to stop thinking about your crush, you will need to take a break from communicating with her/him. This means de-friend or block them on Facebook so you don’t have to see where they’ve checked in or what their friends are writing on their wall. When I was in the throes of my own unrequited romance, I would guiltily browse my crush’s Facebook page and try to look for clues: Was that girl he had his arm around in that one photo his girlfriend? How come I haven’t seen any photos of her lately? Does this mean he’s dumped her ass in preparation to pursue ME? How come she wrote on his wall but he didn’t “like” her post? Does this mean they’re fighting and maybe by this time next year they’ll be broken up, and hmmn, I better make sure I’m single when that happens. This kind of ass-backwards sleuthing comes with a lot of anxiety, and it only prolongs the agony because you’re gathering fuel to keep your fantasy of your crush warm when what you need to be doing is icing it the fuck out of your life. Don’t indulge in what could be, because you are NOT waiting around for this dude or dudette.

If your crush is in your phone, then you need to (at least temporarily) delete them. Don’t text or call them or respond to their calls and texts. If you feel like that’s harsh or like you owe them a reason why, just say, “Look, it hurts me to talk to you, so I need to take a break.” If your crush is a good person, they’ll understand, and if they aren’t—well, all the more reason for you to dump this fantasy crush out of your life.

And lastly, flirt like the confident, cute, shy, sassy, irreverent, badass babe you are. Flirt with people who you think are cute and flirt with people who you’re on the fence about and flirt with people who have a great sense of humor and, most important, flirt with people who flirt back with you. Flirt with boys and/or girls who make you feel interesting and confident and comfortable. Just flirt and feel good about being able to have fun with people who maybe won’t be your next great love, but at the very least can provide you with your next fun, flirtatious exchange, and isn’t that a million clean butts better than the next disappointing, sad exchange with your unrequited crush?

All of this stuff will seem obvious one day when you’ve chased the fantasy of your unrequited crush out of your head and replaced it with the reality of this brilliant, unstoppable, perfectly flawed world! One day, you will see your former unrequited crush and realize that you feel NOTHING for them, and you might even wonder how you managed to get so worked up over that person…then you’ll turn the corner and you’ll see just how many cute, adorable, funny, interesting, creative humans there are out there. And guess what else? The best ones are the ones who crush back. —Jenny

I am a feminist. I am also (brace yourself) a Mormon. Most people of my religion are incredibly accepting of my feminism, and many of them agree with me. I actually feel more judged by people within the feminist community, about my religious background. I wonder if people of religions different from my own sometimes have the same feeling. Do nonreligious people think that religious people are less feminist-y or more simpleminded than we are? If so, how do I keep that from bothering me? —Jenni

So, that last question is really the main one here—it’s smart to realize that people are how they are (judgey, stereotyping) and that, unfortunately, it’s on you to patiently deal with it. How do you do that? Do you know the saying amongst evangelical folks, “You might be the only Christian they ever meet”? It’s about reminding people to be ambassadorial for their faith. You might be the only Mormon feminist that these judgey feminists ever meet, so you have the burden of being the cool example. You might have to educate them a bit to dispel them of whatever they think they know from watching the first season of Big Love or whatever. You might have to come up with a few very simple, coolheaded explanations to counter their harsh assumptions. Simply sharing with them about how other Mormons in your life are really supportive of your views might be a bit of a mindblower to them. “It’s rad, my parents are super supportive of my personal politics” is probably the last thing they might expect. You can also turn it around on them: “Did you grow up in religious home?” is a way that you can start a conversation and subtly drive home the message “I am not the stereotype you think I am.”

You would think that feminists would be psyched that women from all faiths and all walks of life are uniting under the banner of feminism. I’m a feminist, and my biggest problem with feminism is that most feminists are constantly policing each other on what is or is not the right way to be a feminist—which is just downright macho. It can be incredibly alienating, especially since we are all in this struggle together. I think all the judgment that we feminists put out towards other women is a side effect of the fatigue that comes from constantly resisting patriarchy, feeling besieged by a culture that doesn’t value girls or their lives/bodies/brains—you default into a defensive posture. The whole world becomes your enemy. Including, unfortunately, other feminists.

I think that the best way to defuse these sorts of issues is to root our feminism in love and compassion for all people and their struggles. As a woman of faith, you are likely working on that on a daily basis. That said, if anyone comes at you with some truly ignorant shit, you are not indebted to give them a kindly feminist answer—you can also tell them your faith is none of their business and to fuck right off. —Jessica

I kind of want to hook up with my friend. If we were to hook up, I don’t think either of us would get emotionally attached to the other. But I think he’d be fun to kiss. Is that OK or no? —Anonymous

The only person who would really be able to answer your question is YOU. First you gotta be real witcho self. Are you sure that you don’t have any crushy feelings for this friend? Is it purely the HORN speaking? And what about him? Do you think he might be harboring secret romantic feelings for you? Maybe you don’t even fully know the answer to these questions, but consider for a moment whether making out is worth the risk of a potential change in the dynamic of your friendship.

The thing with casual sexytime with a bud is that sometimes one person starts to develop feelings while the other does not. We humans can’t help it, especially if the makeout object is hot/sexy/nice/cool and you have a good time with them. That’s how people end up liking each other, right? Then there’s that whole theory about oxytocin, which is a chemical that is released when people kiss, have sex, give birth, and even just look into their DOG’S EYES (now I understand why I have such strong feelings when I look into the big ol’ eyeballs of Mr. Shankly). That chemical increases bonding and empathy, so it supposedly makes people want to trust others more and/or get close to them. Again, the true effects of oxytocin are still vastly unknown, and even though this “powerful drug” might be released after a hot makeout sesh, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be all Love Potion No. 9 and you’ll get dicknatized. Still it’s a fun thing to think about. OUR BODIES AND BRAINS ARE AS MYSTERIOUS AS OUTER SPACE!

But enough of that scientific tawk. Let’s just go back to what you should do. I have personally taken the risk of losing a friendship for casual hookups a few times me’self. Most of the time, the *fun* ended up putting a lot of strain on my friendships—sometimes destroying them—while other times it was totally fine. People are diverse and every situation is different, you know? If you decide to get together, I think the best thing to do is to always be open and honest with each other and yourselves. Being respectful of the situation and having good communication can help retain your friendship, no matter what happens.

So I guess what I’m saying is think about it, and make sure you’re not risking anything you don’t want to. If you feel like you’re in the clear, go for it! And have fun! —Marie

I’m really into sketch comedy, and I want to be on Saturday Night Live when I grow up. Whenever I tell people what I want to do, they say seem skeptical. I know I can do it, but sometimes I get nervous that I won’t be able to get there. Any advice? —J.

There are two separate issues here. The first being how to deal with skepticism, and perhaps condescension, regarding your dream profession; and the second being your own apprehension about whether your dream will come true. Unfortunately, the two often go hand in hand.

For the first issue, there is not much of a solution. Any plans to enter entertainment—especially comedy—will be met with the “really?” response from your peers. It makes sense—unlike the law or medicine or aerospace, there’s not a set way to climb the humor ladder. But there is an upside: other people’s questioning will keep you constantly questioning. Questioning if it’s worth it, if you’re good enough, if you’re not good enough but fuck it you’re trying anyways. There’s nothing wrong with any of those questions—and questioning is LIGHTYEARS away from doubting. I’m a comedian, and I’m constantly asking myself, “Is this good? Am I happy with it?” I question my work, but never do I doubt myself.

And that’s where the second issue comes in. As far as I can tell, the fear of never succeeding is one everyone, everywhere deals with. You’re NEVER going to know if you’ve made the right choice. It’s a good idea to have a safety net. I know this is what your doubters tell you, but I don’t doubt you, and I still think it’s a good idea. Make sure you have a way to make money to support your passion, until the day when you can make money from your passion. And if you really are passionate about the craft, and happy just being a part of comedy, “success” will never be a worry. Just doing it = success, you know?

All of this skepticism and worrying is a good reminder that what you want to do is HARD. Like, REALLY hard. You’re allowed to have setbacks, or feel down about how it’s all working out. And even though I think other people’s skepticism can be valuable, don’t let it drown you. Calmly inform the doubters that yes, this is what you want to do, and that you know it won’t be easy, but you’re gonna make it happen. Anyone helpful will respect that, and anyone else will eat their words when you have your own “Best of…” SNL compilation. Because the most important thing to remember is this: Fuck them, girl. Follow your dreams. Every kiss begins with a “’kay.” —Shelby

My parents have always been interested in me working out. Like, very interested. When I quit volleyball my dad was ALL over me; when I got my driver’s license they made a deal with me to work out with them three times a week. They’re always slipping into conversations that I need to work out, or that it’s healthy to work out often. I understand that they just want me to be healthy, but all it does is make me obsess over my weight and hate myself for failing in their eyes. After all, if my parents can’t even accept me at my weight, who will? I’m too scared to admit how much I hate myself and ask them to stop. What should I do? —Halle

Parents often work under the assumption that they’re doing the right thing. They usually have good intentions, but their methods of execution can sometimes lead to the direct opposite result that they were hoping for. The fact that you said that you hate yourself twice in your letter makes it pretty clear that your parents’ methods aren’t helpful at all, and are actually harming your self-esteem and self-worth.

The best thing to do is to be completely honest with them. I know it’s scary, but like I said before, parents sometimes think they’re doing the right thing, and they probably have no idea that they’re actually making you feel bad. I think you should sit down with them and tell them exactly what you told us: that you understand that they mean well and want you to be healthy, but they’re actually making you obsessive about your weight and afraid that you’ll disappoint them, which is leading you to feel really bad about yourself and your body.

I don’t have all the details here, so it could also be that your parents want you to work out for non-weight-related reasons: they could just want you to get into healthy patterns that will benefit your heart and your mind, or to have a type of after-school structure like the volleyball team offered you. Maybe a good compromise would be to find a type of exercise that you enjoy, and not one that your parents force you into. And your parents could probably benefit from reading a few books on body acceptance and body image.

Most important, if you’re already feeling like you “hate yourself” and you’re obsessing over your weight, it might be beneficial to talk to a licensed dietician or social worker who has experience with eating disorders. This is not to say that you have one. It just means that you might benefit from talking to someone who understands how these kinds of pressures can lead to feelings of self-loathing and worries about food. And your family might benefit from a group-therapy session, as well. Having a non-biased observer in the room to moderate between you and your parents could help all of you see where the other side is (or, in your parents case, thinks it is) coming from, which could lead to a healthier and happier environment for all of you.

Finally, you asked this question: “After all, if my parents can’t even accept me at my weight, who will?” You, girl. You. The world will always be filled with people who think they know better—advertisers, so-called “friends,” even parents—but you’re the only you there is, and you’ve gotta love yourself. Believe me, I know how hard that can be, and that it’s an ongoing process. But if you love and accept yourself, there will always be others who love and accept you too, and even admire you for your confidence and the light that seems to shine from within you. There will always be jerks, too, because the world is kind of stupid that way at times, but once you get to the point where you know who you are and you love that person, the jerks tend to lose their power, because you know that whatever they have to say isn’t true—they don’t know you, they don’t make you, and they can’t break you.

So speak up, be honest, be open, and ask for help if you need it (the fact that you wrote to us is a great first step!). I wish you much luck and many happy things. xo Pixie

I really like singing and music, and I think it would be so awesome to join a band. The only problem is, I have no idea where to start! Do you have any advice for helping me find a band who needs a singer? Love, Hayley

This is wonderful news, Hayley. One of the hardest things for a band to do is find the right singer, so being a singer makes you a hot commodity. That said, finding a band can be tricky.

Sometimes your best bet is to put a band together yourself. Do you have any friends who are as into music as you are? Do any of them have rock-star dreams? Do you know anyone who plays guitar/keyboards/bass/drums? Start asking your friends, seeing if they have friends of friends who might be interested. Are you in choir or a school band? Do you know anyone who is? There might be a girl that plays flugelhorn in the orchestra but is a secret shredder on guitar at home. You have to put the word out. Mention you interest to your music or art teacher (if you have one) or the cool teacher that other kids actually like—she or he may have a suggestion.

Do you ever go to shows or concerts? Strike up a conversation with whomever you are standing next to in between bands. Lots of serious music fans are often musicians themselves. Mention that you want to start a band. You can also stake out open-mike nights, especially teen open-mike nights, battles of the bands, or garage shows. If you like someone’s music, go talk to them. You are trolling for connections. Maybe you loved how the guitar player played, and maybe they want to start another band. Maybe you jam with a bunch of them until you find the right band. Maybe you just work on your songwriting with someone. You may not be able to assemble a full-on rock band right out of the gate, but any start is a one in the right direction.

You need to put yourself out there. Work on two songs (covers are fine) that really let your voice shine, and then hit the open mikes, ask to open for someone’s next show in their basement, join a choir at school or church or synagogue, post some videos of you singing on YouTube and pass the links around to your friends. There is a good chance that someone wants to write songs that go with your voice. You just have to present yourself to the world so your future bandmates can find you.

Another option is to be your own band—go solo. You + ukelele = band. Hell, you + spoons = band. There are a lot of easy-to-use recording programs (Garage Band) and apps (again, Garage Band) you can use to play and record songs.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get a band together right away, or if all you can find is a bassist. Most every band I was in between ninth and 12th grade was a short-lived shambles, just goofing off with friends and playing super-fun shows in basements to 11 people, tops. All practice is good practice. Good luck! —Jessica

Is it OK for me to address my question to Sady, specifically? If so, here goes: Hi, Sady! I’m a 20-year-old trans woman (girl?) in the Philippines. I’m a big fan of yours—your blog, Tiger Beatdown, is what got me into feminism in the first place. Before that, I believed that all feminists were hysterical, paranoid, largely unnecessary…and transphobic. You made me realize that that’s not always the case. So, a big hat tip to you for my feminist awakening. The problem I’m experiencing now is that I read about feminism and trans issues on the internet a lot, and it seems like the war between feminists who include transgender people in their movement and those who exclude us has reached a fever pitch. It is emotionally draining for me to read attacks on my personhood and politics, and it sucks to be told that the two things that define me the most—that I’m a trans woman, and that I’m a feminist—are mutually exclusive. So…how do you disengage from these arguments? I don’t want to give up feminism, and I cannot give up being a trans woman. But it kills me to know that at all times, someone, somewhere on the internet, is saying hateful things about people like me, in the name of feminism. How can I remain committed without losing my mind? I just want to make cookies without questioning whether doing so is an endorsement of the “gender binary”—please help! Thanks, Y.

Oh my gosh, Y! Thanks so much. I am a little embarrassed to answer you, because I am not the world’s leading expert on how to engage without getting upset, because, you know, I get upset, too. A lot. HOWEVER. Almost everyone I’ve ever spoken to, about engaging with feminist and social-justice issues on the internet, has confessed to me that it is an emotionally intense, draining, often painful thing to do. Which is the first important thing to recognize. You have a right to be hurt, here. Anyone would be. Prejudice hurts. Conflict hurts. But you also have the right to relieve your own pain. Sometimes, the best way to do that is to acknowledge that you can’t change the world all on your own, and you definitely can’t change people, and you are allowed to opt out of any painful situation.

You don’t have to read every blog post. You don’t have to engage in every argument. And you especially don’t have to seek out, read, or argue with bigots. I, personally, make a distinction between bigotry and ignorance. There are some people who do, say, and think transphobic things (and/or other prejudiced things) because they don’t know better—they’re ignorant. But people with good hearts seek to understand what they don’t know, especially when they can see that they’re causing pain. Those people, you actually can talk to, if you feel like it. (And sometimes, you just don’t feel like it, and that’s OK, too.) But then, there are bigots. Bigots have heard all the arguments against their prejudices, and they’re not changing. And arguing with bigots does nothing but make you feel like you’ve spent the past 24 hours slamming your head against a wall. Such people don’t care whether their behavior hurts you. You can say “this hurts” nine million times, and they won’t stop. A ton of the transphobic feminists out there are not ignorant; they are bigots. That’s sad, but it’s also true.

So, what do you do, Y? You start taking care of yourself. You talk to the people who care about you, instead of the people who don’t. You ask yourself what is most painful—certain people, certain patterns of engagement, certain websites or arguments—and you limit your exposure to those things. You write about what you’ve learned, if that feels safe, and you think about what you’ve learned, to the extent that you can. And then you eat some cookies. Because cookies are delicious, and anyone who tells you not to bake them does not have your best interests at heart.

It’s intensely painful to recognize that some people simply hate what you are, or who you are. But trying to change those people’s thoughts and opinoins through conflict or confrontation often increases the pain. You don’t control those people. Sometimes they’ll even punish you for trying to have a say in how you’re treated. But being the best version of yourself—which includes taking care of yourself, and trying to be a happy, well-loved version of you, rather than an insecure, angry, sad version that feels constantly besieged—can change minds, all on its own. —Sady

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