I met a guy through quiz bowl last year and developed a massive crush on him. It never turned into anything, which is fine—the problem is that quiz bowl is starting again soon and I’m still crushing hard. I want to be able to focus on the season and make normal conversation with this kid, but I feel super awkward when I see him around school. How can I avoid turning into a stuttering mess at every practice? –Crushing Hard, Hardly Working

This is going to seem counterintuitive, but if you straight-up want to get these woozy crush feelings out of the way, I think you need to tell him directly and to his face. Not through a friend or his BFF or over chat or text or Snapchat—to his actual human FACE. Something like: “I have had some crushy feelings for you for a while, but I really want to focus on quiz bowl and make the most of this year without distraction.” Outing your crush kills that energy, because part of what fuels your swoon-y feelings is the idea of the unsaid and the unknown. All of that stuff gives the fantasy fuel, especially if the other person is reciprocating. Putting it out in the open might come as a total surprise to him, but this is about you doing you and being on your academic grind. There’s a chance he will be like, “I lust you, too,” but he too might want to put quiz bowl first rather than take it to the bone zone! I know because I’ve personally gone through this process several times when inconvenient crushes have come up (work friends, wrong time in my life), and it can actually become a solid basis of a friendship, because you’re taking the sexgenda off the table.

Speaking of which, befriending your crush can often work too, especially if he is unaware of your affections. He’s not gonna peacock around you once he’s friend-comfortable with you, so you’ll get a real, unvarnished sense of who he is. It might totally eliminate your crush when you find out what he’s really like, warts and all…or, you know, it might not! You might fall into deep, passionate L-U-V and become quiz bowl champs together and it will just be a whirlwind. Either way, you need to get all these feels out of the romantic ether and into the world. Take the reins, girl. You can do it. –Jessica

I’m an 18-year-old college freshman who lives at home. While most people my age are out past midnight, I have to follow my parents’ strict rules, which are basically the ones a 13-year-old would have: My curfew is 9 PM, I can’t go out without permission from BOTH of them, and they always have to know who I’m going out with and what I’ll be doing. My mom says as long as I live under their roof, I have to abide by their rules, and I know they mean it; even my 23-year-old sister has to follow them! I LOVE going out, but it’s impossible to hang with anyone at night because I end up being the party pooper. Is there any escape from this? –Caged-In Explorer, CA

I’m not even going to pretend this situation doesn’t suck, Caged. Your parents almost certainly have your best interests in mind, but making you come home so early is completely unreasonable. There are a couple of ways you can handle this, and since you are a grown-ass woman, none of them will involve shimmying down a drainpipe or lying about where you’re going.

If you absolutely have to live at home, start your partying earlier in the day. Darkness covers a lot of sin, but you can still tear it up in the middle of the day and be home in time to satisfy your parents. This works well if you’re hanging out with one or two people, or with a group of friends you’ve known for a while, but it’s only meant to be a stopgap to my next piece of advice, which is what you should really do.

You need to move out. You need to be free, and your parents need to let you go. I know that living on your own might seem daunting at this point since you’ve been locked up like Rapunzel for so long, but I’ve lived on my own and supported myself since the moment I turned 18, so I’m here to tell you it’s not only possible, but WONDERFUL.

First, make a plan. I didn’t have one when I moved out, but the world is much crueler now, and a little advance planning probably would have saved me some strife anyway. Your plan can be simple, but it should include three crucial details: (1) a firm date when you will absolutely move out, and (2) how much money you need to get out of there safely, and (3) how you will get #2 by #1.

Pick a date within the next six months and hold yourself to it—it will give you motivation as well as HOPE, which I’m sure you need right now. Once you have set your move-out date, keep it to yourself! Don’t tell anyone about your plans until you have your suitcases by the door.

Next, think about where you could live. Since you’re a student, you probably qualify for on-campus housing—you might have a roommate or two, but they won’t care when you come home. Go to your college housing office TOMORROW MORNING and find out how to sign up. Get your name on a list—and make sure the contact info they have is yours and not your parents’! If you’re worried about cost, ask them if the school offers financial aid for room and board, and what you need to do to qualify for it. Also ask if you can see one of the rooms, to get an idea of what your new digs might look like. Look at off-campus housing, too. Do you have three or four friends who would move into a place with you? Can you ask friends in class if they know of any roommate situations that might be available? Chances are that you won’t be able to afford living alone right now, so rally the troops and pool your resources.

It doesn’t sound like your parents will be willing to help you pay for housing (and you might not want to be dependent on them for this in any case), so start thinking about money. Do you have a job? You need to get a job. It can be any job: babysitting, Taco Bell, mowing lawns, whatever. This is not a time to be picky—you need MONEY, not prestige. Now that you know how much housing costs, work out a plan to save. If your parents pay for your food and clothes, you should literally be saving your entire paycheck. Open a bank account in your own name, and have both checking and savings. You’re 18, so you don’t need your parents’ help or permission to open an account, preferably with a credit union, which most schools have an affiliation with. You can just walk into any ol’ bank and say, “Hey, I’m 18 and I want to open a checking and savings account—let’s do this.” Look at your first paycheck to see how much money is taken out for taxes, because the remainder is the actual amount of money you will have to spend on your apartment. Count how many paychecks it will take to get you there. Start marking the days off on the calendar. DON’T SPEND ANY OF THIS MONEY. Every dollar you spend gets you farther from your goal of independence. What you’re saving for is: your portion of the first month’s rent and the security deposit on an apartment, the general cost of one month’s utilities, a food budget for the month, transportation costs (subway, bus, gas for your car), plus a few extra things like movies, pizza, and going out with your friends. It sounds like a lot, but your freedom is worth it. Be sure you have enough in your savings account for a little bit of a cushion, just in case you have a gap in employment or your parents disown you when you move out. On average, with a couple of roommates off-campus, you will probably need around $600 to live pretty lean for a month, depending on where in California you live.

Once you’re ready to go, tell your parents that you’re leaving, but DO NOT ASK THEM FOR PERMISSION. This is non-negotiable! You’re moving out! It’s happening! Present it as a statement, not a question: “I’m moving in with a friend at the end of the month to be closer to campus.” BOOM. You don’t want to stir any animosity, but you also don’t want to leave room for them to quash your plans. Worst-case scenario is they don’t speak to you for a little while and you drown your sorrows in midnight ice cream like the rest of us, but best-case scenario is that they come to their senses, let you stay out as late as you want, and now you have six months’ worth of partying cash saved up! (Although that probably won’t happen—they do sound pretty strict.)

You can do this! Your parents have the right to set the rules for their house, but you have the right to get on out of there. —Danielle

I was making out with a guy recently and he felt me up under my bra (after making sure I was OK with it). I feel excited when I kiss him, but his touching me that way just didn’t feel special. When someone touches your boobs, is it supposed to feel good? Does my not being being excited by it mean I don’t like this guy as much as I think I do? And finally, how do you tell someone that you don’t like something they’re doing without killing the moment? –Confused About Love, 15, San Francisco

As far as whether it’s supposed to feel good when someone touches your boobs, it all depends. As a general rule, the more turned on we are, the better being touched anywhere feels. So when somebody touches your boobs when you’re not yet that hotted up, it can feel pretty much like somebody touching you on your arm in terms of sexiness: not all that sensational (and not at all indicative of whether you like someone or not). But once you’re really getting into it and becoming seriously turned on, it can feel like every nerve ending in your boobs is springing to life, and—shazam! It feels amazing. So it’s all about having him touch your boobs when you’re feeling good and ready to have them touched.

Another reason I say “it depends” is because–and I could be totally wrong here–being felt up under your clothes can be a wee bit uncomfortable if you’re wearing a certain kind of bra. If your guy is having to wiggle his hand into something tight-fitting involving underwiring or some such, it might not feel that good for either of you. I’d suggest getting really comfortable with this guy (this also goes for any person you really like), doing lots of kissing, getting well and truly turned on first, and, if a time comes when you feel like you’d love for him to pay some attention to your boobs, abandoning the bra so that you both have skin-on-skin contact and freedom of movement and touch. Hopefully, extremely nice sensations will ensue.

And it is definitely possible to address not wanting your boobs (or whatever other part of your body) touched without killing the moment. My personal tactic is to very pleasantly say something along the lines of, “Please don’t touch me there until I’m begging you to touch me there,” while gently but firmly hand removing my partner’s hand and placing it in a preferred area of contact, followed by something like, “And I absolutely love it when you touch/kiss me here…” Works like a charm! —Cindy

My boyfriend of six months used to smoke weed, but he stopped when I asked him to—or at least he said he did. I recently discovered he’s been smoking again and lying to me about it. I found out by reading his texts, which I know is wrong, but it’s the only way I can get the truth. I don’t know what to do. I love him, but I don’t know how long I can stay with him if he carries on this way. –Anonymous, 17, UK

Have you ever noticed that if you sync up Pink Floyd’s The Wall with a soundtrack of constant lying, it sounds EXACTLY like a not-so-great relationship? Look, I’m kind of kidding, but I want to stress that your boyfriend’s dishonesty AND your snooping around in his private correspondence are both dealers of the number-one most harmful drug known to relationships: a lack of communication and trust. I know I sound like an aging guidance counselor with one MAJESTIC ponytail right now, but really: Much like the habitual usage of many mind-altering substances, once you’ve started lying and snooping, it can be difficult to stop, and that can have permanent negative effects on a romantic partnership. I’d examine that before I would your boyfriend’s propensity to get stoney bologna. Like, if these are your respective ways of addressing disagreements, there’s a solid chance that this isn’t a good relationship, drugs or no drugs. But, as your letter states, you love the shit out of him, so let’s try to figure out if there’s a way to see through this particular smoke shield and get you two on the same wavelength, maaaan.

I want to ask you why you find his drug use so troubling. I understand that his being stoned around you would obviously make you uncomfortable, and he should respect that, but it sounds more like he’s limiting his usage to times when you two aren’t together. That in itself isn’t necessarily a ginormous issue as long as he’s being responsible and safe, or, at least, as responsible and safe as you can be when using illegal substances (and here’s how to tell if that’s the case). I understand your annoyance, though, if he has an issue with smoking WAY TOO MUCH. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons I ended my nearly four-year-long high school relationship, so I can tell you that if he does, you’re valid in harshing his mellow, dude—you have a right to not accept his staying high 24/7, which I wish I had realized earlier as a teenager.

For you, a staunch non-pot-smoker, ANY amount might seem like an excessive one, so here’s a three-step guide to what actually constitutes how much is too much: Is he prioritizing pot over his responsibilities/other interests/you? Does every bit of his cash money seem to magically transform into bud-stuffed baggies? Finally, are his eyes regularly bloodshot at times when it’s inappropriate or even self-destructive to hazily discuss the finer points of Spongebob Squarepants, like at school or important events? If you’ve checked yes on any of these, then tell him that he needs to either slow his roll or, failing that, go roll it up elsewhere. (And I have to say, the fact that he’s already lying to you about his drug use is a red flag here.)

Keep in mind, though, that you can’t really change another person—you’re only going to make yourself miserable trying. Note that I mention my relationship was four years long, meaning I have a lengthy history of misguidedly thinking I could convince my ex to not get blazed before family dinners. I couldn’t, and it sucked (and not only because he always hogged the dinner rolls). No one with a substance abuse problem is going to “choose” you over their drug of choice, no matter how lovely you are (and I’m sure, darling head, that you are super duper lovely).

If he’s not smoking excessively, you’re facing an ideological difference that might be too big for you guys to work around. Namely, he likes smoking pot sometimes, and you super don’t. You can either accept this reality for what it is and work with it, or, failing that, break up. If you’re open to the former, have a conversation with him about that that isn’t accusatory or ultimatum-y. Let him know that he can’t show up to hang with you after a few hits, but that you’re not going to judge his high times as long as he keeps the rest of his life from going up in smoke (whoa, my guidance counselor ponytail just grew three more inches), and as long as he promises to stop lying to you. But that last part goes both ways—you have to promise to stop snooping, too.

If you’re too uncomfortable with drugs to tolerate his using weed recreationally when you’re not around, which is a completely fine way to feel, it’s probably time to call the relationship quits rather than be the Weed Police—the regular police have pretty much got that covered anyway, my friend. —Amy Rose ♦

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