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Decar Caral - answers questions on relationships and family

Dear Carol

Lately, my mom seems so busy and preoccupied. This might sound dorky, but I miss hanging out with her. Should I tell her?

Miss My Mom

Decar Caral - answers questions on relationships and familyDear Miss

Why not? The key is to find moments when she might welcome a little company. If she's racing to a meeting or talking on the phone, you might not get her full attention, but that's not because she doesn't want to hear about the party or your history grade. When she's folding laundry or driving you home are probably better times to give her the long version of what's going on in your life. Picking the right time (and tone) makes all the difference. While you're at it, make plans to spend special time together--even if it's just grabbing a bite out or taking a walk around the block. Then maybe use those times to ask about what's keeping her so busy.

Dear Carol,

I just found out that before my mom married my dad, she was dating some other guy. It turns out my mom was already pregnant with me before she met my dad, and he has always known about it. What should I do to keep this from bothering me.


Dear Shocked

Wow. I don't blame you for being shocked. On the other hand, it's good your parents have been honest with each other and are finally being honest with you. The man you call "Dad" is your dad. He's been your dad from day one, and your relationship does not need to change. But it's OK to ask questions. Your curiosity and confusion are completely natural. Since your parents have shared the truth with you, talk openly about your feelings. In fact, you should have many conversations about this, not just one, because it's tricky to get used to the fact that something you took for granted is not what it seemed. Remember, though, that the bond you have with your dad, the man who has always been in your life, is as strong and real as it ever was.

Dear Carol,

I have a boyfriend, but he lives in a different state. I talk about him a lot at school, arid my friends are getting annoyed with me about it. I'm too nervous to call him, and he's never online. We have been going out for three months, but I haven't seen him for two months. I'm kind of sad all the time. Do you have any suggestions about how I could get happy again?


Dear Unhappy, It's better not to have a Valentine at all than to have one who's not there for you. Some long-distance connections survive through e-mails, calls and letters. But if you and this boy hardly communicate, what's the point? You can find the courage to write or call, or you can decide this. pain isn't worth it and that it's time to step away. When you're under a boy's spell, it's not always easy to break. But it is doable. Be independent, talk to your buds about other topics, get more involved in the here-and-now, and you'll soon be your cheerful self. Besides, there will be other BFs in your future, I promise. Even ones in your own state!

Dear Carol,

I danced with my crush at a school dance. My crush's best friend has a crush on me, and he saw us dancing. Now their friendship is ruined, and I feel like it's my fault. My crush won't talk to me until his friendship is fixed, which might take a while.

Double Dilemma

Dear Double Dilemma,

You did not ruin their friendship. You danced with your crush. That is perfectly OK. It's nice that your crush cares about his friend's feelings, but your crush didn't do anything wrong either. It might feel awkward at first but, when you see your crush's friend, act relaxed and friendly-- not flirty, but not guilty or apologetic either. Meanwhile, there's no reason you and your crush can't get to know each other better. Now, I have a question for you: Do you know any girl who has a crush on your crush's friend? Maybe you can encourage her to say "hi" to him.

Dear Carol,

I dumped my BF, but we're secretly back together. I don't really like him, though. I just feel sorry for him and don't want to hurt his feelings.

Too Shy to Tell Him

Dear Too Shy,

It's good to be considerate of a guy's feelings, not good to date someone out of pity. Tell him you're sorry if you've seemed a bit flaky lately but that you really feel you two are much better as friends. Be nice, but be clear. It's important to overcome your shyness so you can be up front with him.

Dear Carol,

I don't know how to say this, so I'll just say it. My best friend is not nearly as developed as I am. Sometimes I feel self-conscious about it because I wear a bra. But, more than that, I'm worried that she feels bad about herself because she doesn't need one.


Dear Concerned,

Everyone eventually hits puberty, but some girls get there long before others. Friends don't have to be on the exact same timetable or end up the same size! They just have to like each other. If your friend expresses concern about her slow-to-develop ways, talk together about your body-morphing anxieties. You'll probably realize you have more in common than you thought. But if your friend doesn't seem concerned with her bralessness, why should you be? Let it go. Before you know it, these changes will be behind you--and years of friendship will still be ahead.

Dear Carol,

My parents got divorced, and now my mom asks me what she should wear on dates. I feel like we've switched places. She goes out, and I stay in.


Dear Homebound,

No law says both you and your mom can't have a social life. If you want to do something on weekends, invite your BFF over or go to a movie with the gals. As for watching your mom get ready for a night out, it's natural that this stirs up mixed emotions since you probably wish your parents had stayed happily-ever-after. But you can't change that, and your mom has the right to a personal life. Still, it's OK to say, "Mom, I'm happy for you, but it's a little weird for me to see you going out on dates." Clearing the air beats sitting home and feeling crummy.

Dear Carol,

My legs are very hairy, and I secretly shave my legs but my mom doesn't know. All my friends shave, and they also pluck their eyebrows. I am way too embarrassed to talk to my mom. Can you help?


Dear Embarrassed,

It's possible your mom has noticed your smooth legs and decided not to say anything. You could keep shaving and not worry about getting an official go-ahead. Or be brave and find a time when your mom is relaxed and say, "Mom, I've been shaving my legs. I hope that's OK. Have any tips for me?" As for eyebrows, you might not need or want to pluck at all. Many girls don't.

Dear Carol,

I'm really close to my sister, but she is away at college. I miss her, and I'm worried about her. How can I get through this? Lone Sister

Dear Sister,

It's great you and your sister get along so well. Can you talk to her on the phone or online? Do you send her letters and care packages? Set up visits during school breaks? She'll be your sister forever but, since you miss her right now, make more social plans with your friends. If you continue to feel scared, talk to your parents about it so they can help ease your fears. And next time you're on the phone with your sister, remind her not to walk alone at night. She might tease you for acting like the big sister, but she'll appreciate your concern and it could give you some peace of mind.

Dear Carol,

I'm bad at math, and I get taunted a lot. A girl who sits next to me in class teases me and calls me "stupid" all the time. And my dad has been doing my math homework for me.

Feeling Dumb

Dear Feeling Dumb,

You're not dumb--you're just not a math whiz! Lots of people get thrown by. math, so don't be so hard on yourself. At least you're a good person, unlike the mean-spirited girl who sits next to you. As for your dad, it's one thing for parents to lend a hand with homework, entirely another when they do it for you. See if your math teacher can give you some after-school coaching, and talk to your parents about hiring a tutor. If that's too expensive, some high school students volunteer to help kids study for the stuff they've already mastered. Good luck!

Dear Carol,

After the holidays, I was so busy that I didn't send thank-you notes. Should I write everyone now, or should I just forget about it?

Didn't Do It

Dear Didn't Do It.

I hope you're not expecting me to let you off the hook because I'm a big advocate of thank-you's. It's obviously best to whip 'em off ASAP, but "better late than never" applies here--especially for people who didn't get to see you open their gifts. Think about how pleased your grandpa will be when he gets your unexpected, belated thank-you. Right now, dash off some letters that start with a line of apology about your lateness then move on to how much the gift means to you. You'll feel fighter and less guilty once those notes are sent. By the way, maybe you can double your thank-you notes as Valentine's Day cards.