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 [email protected]! Please include your FIRST NAME/NICKNAME, AGE, and CITY. Thanks!