Illustration by Maxine Crump.

My male friend and I are neighbors. We hang out a lot every day, are in the same friend group, and get along really well. I know that he used to like me about a year ago, but now we’re both on the same page. Problem is, our friends are not. They are always joking about us going out or hooking up, even when both of us are there, which is especially uncomfortable. I see where they’re coming from in that we get along well, have similar interests, and spend a lot of time together, but neither of us are into the other in a romantic way. How do I react when people say stuff like that without making it into a big deal? How do I ask my friends to stop without misleading either my other friends or the guy about our friendship? —16 in Laguna Beach

Hey, 16-in-Laguna-Beach! OK. So I’ve been in similar situations myself, and I get how frustrating it can be when your friends tease you about a crush—or in your case, what they perceive to be a crush. I really doubt that your friends mean any harm by these jokes, but that isn’t to say that you have to be OK with them constantly bringing it up. When I’ve been in situations like this, I’ve laughed it off whenever it was brought up in conversation. That’s sometimes easier said than done, but the more people can tell a joke bothers you, the more they poke fun at it. It sort of serves as fuel.

Here’s something else to think about: If you’ve told your friends over and over that their comments make you uncomfortable, they’re not really being good friends by continuing to bug you about this. Always keep in mind that good friends respect your boundaries! Communicate your boundaries to your friends. If they’re crossing a line, talk to them about it.

If they still insist on poking fun—distance yourself for a bit. You know what your friendship is with your neighbor, and you don’t need to convince anyone else otherwise. You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can control how you take care of yourself. I hope this helps! —Zoé

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