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Ask Weezy Highlights – Materialism

by Louise Palanker

Cover Art by Graphic-Styles

I host a safe and friendly teen social network, ios app called Our Place. Each week, thousands of questions pour into the community. Kids share with one another and I personally respond to 15- 20 questions per day in a teen advice column called Ask Weezy.  Here are this week’s top five questions.

Question 1
It’s hard to live in a materialistic world without materialistic things. It’s hard living in a world by yourself, seeing others with their iPhones and iPads, with their big beds and big TVs.

If you still don’t understand what I’m talking about let me give you an example. It’s like having two planets and putting EVERYONE on one (lets call the spoiled planet ‘A’) planet and putting one person on the other. Now place both planets beside each other. I’m on the other planet. I can reach as far as I want, but I still won’t be able to reach it. I can smell planet A, I can see it and everyone with their latest technology hanging out having fun, I can hear planet A.

Now collide both planets together. I’m on the planet now. But I won’t EVER be able to actually be in it. It’s hard being in a world that I can’t touch. Now you understand where I am. And it sucks.

Weezy
I love the way you write. It’s very powerful. Here is what I would like to say about materialism and kids: If you see a kid with a new gadget, he or she did not earn the money to purchase that gadget. His parents did. This kid just wound up in a family that can buy her stuff. How does that make her superior to you?

Even imagine it’s two adults. Adult number one is a powerful attorney who makes a lot of money. Her job is to defend people who have committed crimes or big corporations. She can afford lots of cool stuff. Adult number two is a teacher. She works in a difficult part of town with underprivileged kindergartners. She has a flip phone.

Which person is more valid or more heroic or “better?” I don’t know. I don’t know them. They are hypothetical. They may both be awesome Moms, sisters, friends, parents, humanitarians. Or one may actually be a kinder more noble person. But their worth is not measured by their gadgets.

What I’m saying is that you can not assess the merit of an adult via possessions. So, how could you possibly use this means to measure the value of a child? I know you may feel isolated or lacking. But use this energy for good. Become a better person. When you can earn, save and buy your own iPad, you will feel outstanding. But until then, let no person ever allow you to feel that your planet is not as worthy.

Question 2
Hi! Okay, so when I was in third grade, I pecked my girl friend on the lips (I’m a girl). However, I do not have romantic or sexual feelings towards girls. What does this mean?

Weezy
Nothing at all. There is all kinds of same sex fun and affection that goes on between kids, all the way up through college, and beyond. Wrestling, hugging, pecking on the lips, snuggling, etc. etc. It means nothing, unless or until you are romantically In Love with a girl.

For example: If there is this one girl that you just can not stop thinking about and you long to hold her in your arms and know everything about her and share your deepest secrets with her and if your heart goes pitter pat whenever she comes into a room… you may be gay or bi. If those feelings are happening for a boy, you are probably straight.

Question 3
My mom and dad are divorced and they always argue with each other when they’re on the phone and around me and my sister

Weezy
That is not OK, and since they don’t seem to remember that it’s not OK, you can remind them. Say, “When you argue with Dad or with Mom, it absolutely shatters me. Can you please not do that?”

Every adult knows that you NEVER argue in front of your children. It is as well known a rule as “Never drink and drive.” However, some parents get very caught up in their own pain. You know how upsetting it is when you have love life issues. It’s maybe 100 times worse for your parents when they have attempted to build a life together, raise a family, be happy and it’s not working out. The stress and the heartbreak and the sense of failure and loss that they are feeling is very overwhelming. It can cause well meaning grown ups to forget that they are NEVER supposed to argue in front of their children. Gently remind them.

Question 4
How do you build your confidence? make people love you and wanna hang out with you?

Weezy
You can’t “make” people do anything. A general rule of life may feel very counter-intuitive, but it is this: Whatever you need, give it away. If you need a friend, be a friend. If you need confidence, compliment somebody. If you need love, show love. People will be drawn to a person who shares a lot of love, laughs, compliments and positive energy.

Question 5
How do I get a boyfriend that doesn’t think I’m creepy or weird Weezy???

Weezy
You start with a friend who doesn’t think you are creepy or weird.Or a friend who loves that you are creepy and weird.

You have used interesting language and sentence structure to pose your question. It sort of places you under attack and then dares anyone to love you.

You need to start with self love. If you re-frame your position and say, “Hey, I am awesomely unique. How do a find a boyfriend who gets me?” then we can have ourselves a constructive conversation.
Join clubs and activities full of interesting people like yourself. Start with friendship and as life unfolds, so too will romance.

Eddie_Izzard_by_humbugle

Ask Weezy Highlights – Cross Dressing

by Louise Palanker

Title Art by Humbugle

I host a safe and friendly teen social network, ios app called Our Place. Each week, thousands of questions pour into the community. Kids share with one another and I personally respond to 15-20 questions per day in a teen advice column called Ask Weezy. What are today’s kids thinking about? Here are this week’s top five questions.

Question 1
Is there anything wrong with a guy wearing women’s clothes in the privacy of his own room?

Weezy
No. None at all. However, this may be one of the last lifestyle biases to topple. We don’t see cross dressing much, unless it’s in a comedy sketch. But there are entire subcultures of men who cross dress. Many of them are straight men. They just enjoy women’s clothing and the idea of going out in public and passing as a woman is very exciting to them.

I do not know a ton about it but I had a friend who cross dressed. (he has since passed away) So what I know is based on what he told me. (he was straight) and also on a documentary I watched. It may have been this one:

The straight men who cross dress have a difficult time finding a woman who understands this activity. In some countries it is more accepted. For example there are two British, male comedians who cross dress in their acts and they are widely loved and respected. They are Eddie Izard and Dame Edna. Here is a clip of Eddie Izard:

and here is Dame Edna:

There is nothing wrong with what you are doing. Love yourself and know that the world is rapidly evolving in terms of who and what we accept and embrace.  You will get to be a part of changing hearts and views.

Question 2
Hi weezy. A week ago, an old elementary school friend decided to friend me on Facebook.He started messaging and it was all friendly,  and then he started saying I still look cute and I said thank u and brushed it off.

At this point I told my boyfriend of 5 years.  Honestly, my boyfriend is the best and trusts me so he doesn’t mind me talking to the guy. But lately the guy’s been calling me cutie a lot and now he has my number. It’s starting to get a tad awkward because I like talking to him but I know that as soon as I say I have a boyfriend he will stop.

My boyfriend’s advice is to continue being friends if that’s what I want and if it ever comes up, say I do have a boyfriend. But I don’t like the feeling of some other guy calling me flirty names. How do I go about this situation without being mean? And what should I do in your opinion? Thank u so much.

Weezy
I think it is always wise to have your relationship status listed on Facebook. Social networking is often used to look up old friends and see if they are single. It is an easy way to reach out to a past crush. So, if you do not want this, list your status on your profile.

Being truthful, you are inviting this guy to continue and you need to be honest with yourself about that.  Why does he now have your phone number?  Your boyfriend is a gem.  If you love him, be very careful.

Anytime you meet someone who begins to flirt and you are not available, it is your responsibility to mention the words, “My boyfriend,” in your next sentence.

I know that you know that those words will wound. But it needs to sting now or it will hurt more later. You don’t have to announce, “Please don’t call me Cutie,” yet.  You can simply say, “Oh, gotta run. BF and I are making dinner.” That should do it.

Yes, you may loose this friendship.  But to keep this guy in the dark about your availability because you enjoy the conversations is frankly selfish and it is harmful to three people.  Your boyfriend, this guy and you.

If the guy continues flirting with you, say, “I like that we found each other again, but please don’t call me flirty names because I am in a relationship.”

Every friendship must be based on truth.

Question 3
Dear weezy, Yesterday I was supposed to go to a theme park with my boyfriend. We ended up not going because we got there late and the park would soon be closing. My boyfriend’s apartment was in that area so we decided to just go there instead.

I had fun because I never get to visit his home.  We stayed there  until about 10pm. The problem is that I had to lie to my parents about it because they would have made” negative” assumptions.

But when I got home they were questioning me a lot about why I wasn’t wet from the pool and why I got home so late. I am almost 21 and they still don’t fully trust me and they would think badly of me if I said I hung out at my boyfriend’s apt. all day by ourselves till 10.

Weezy
It is, frankly, none of their business. The more they press you for personal information, as you continue your journey through life, the less they will receive. I hope that you are thinking about moving out and gaining more independence soon.  Lying is a very bad habit to acquire.

While you still live at home, you can say things like this to your folks: “You two have raised me beautifully with excellent morals, values and judgement. I have a boyfriend. He is a wonderful guy and we respect each other. I hope that I have earned your trust. Can you maybe just ask me if I had a good time and leave the rest to me? The less you ask and judge, the more I am likely to share.”

Question 4
There is this girl I like and I can’t get over her. She says she loves me as a friend.  But I want to be more than friends. I think we are meant for each other and we have a special connection. But she doesn’t want to date. I want to, though and I don’t want to make her mad/upset. What do I say! Please help!

Weezy
You need to hear what she said to you. She wants to be your friend only. Since you would like to date, there is an imbalance in your expectations. You each want different things. Staying close and hoping the other person will change to your liking is going to place undue pressure and anxiety on both of you.

If you can totally accept that she is just your friend and you are able to look elsewhere for love, then you can remain friends. That, however, is a tough putt.  My advice is that you pull away so that you can give your heart a chance to mend.

Question 5

I’m a boy and I have two younger sisters. I have always wished for an older brother because all of my friends have brothers. This year I followed a friend of a friend on Instagram. He’s 20 and I’m 15. We started chatting and when I told my parents they got mad and shouted at me.

Three months later, my friend introduced me to one of his friends who is 17. I told my parents about him and they didn’t have a problem. Then recently, I wanted to go hang with this guy and they shouted at me because I didn’t tell them.

They said I disappointed them and that they lost trust in me. They don’t want me to be friends with anyone. I think they are overprotective, I’m starting to hate them and i don’t trust them any more and I don’t tell them anything because they don’t understand me. It’s like they were never teenagers!

Weezy
They were teenagers in a time before the personal technology that we all enjoy.

Let’s cut to the core of the problem: They worry about your safety.

When you say they yelled at you, I need to ask you, what words were they yelling?  Volume does not help a kid get the true message.

That message is probably something like this: “We don’t want you to talk to older kids you do not know in real life. Here is why… Those kids may have alcohol or drugs or fast cars with fast girls in those fast cars or guns or gangs or grenades (or whatever fills your parents’ worst nightmares) and we do not want you off on some wild spree and in way over your head.”

That’s it. When your parents yell, you can keep your voice calm and say, “Please explain the rules so that I can make sure I understand. Was it OK for me to chat with that 17 year old kid but just not OK to make plans with him when I haven’t met him in real life and you guys don’t know him? Is that it?”

You just need more clarity. Your parents are actually not being over-protective. It would just be great if they could remain more calm when they speak to you about their expectations.

A good way to start a really productive conversation is to find a quiet moment and ask them to tell you what they were like when they were your age.

Richard Cowsill

Goodbye, Richard Cowsill

By Louise Palanker

I spent about eight years of my life documenting The Cowsills. Who are The Cowsills? They are the real life family band that inspired The Partridge Family. That is the most efficient means of explaining this group.  Yes, they are a real family.  Yes, their mom was in the band.  But their actual story is a lot darker than a sit com and it is far more twisted. For example, can you imagine if there were a Partridge kid who was not allowed into the band? The Cowsills can. Their brother, Dick was not all that interested in music as a young kid.  He surfed and built forts.  But as his family became more about music, he tried to find a spot for himself in the group. He could dance. He certainly had more rhythm than Tracy Partridge. But his father, Bud Cowsill, boxed him out.

Bud exercised some sort of personal vendetta and Dickie was the lone Cowsill kid who was not ever allowed to join his siblings on stage. He watched from backstage as the rest of his family performed on all the top network TV variety shows like Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, etc. The Cowsills became teen idols and entertained before stadiums full of screaming kids. 

The Cowsills
The Cowsills in 1967. Front: Barry, Bob, Dick. Back: Paul Susan, Barbara, Bud, Billy, John

Dickie loaded gear and then stood, quite literally on the sidelines. But why? Why would one kid be singled out and excluded from the primary family activity? There are a few theories. Chief among these are:

Dick reminded Bud of himself and Bud did not like himself.

Dick was ADHD and too much of a hothead to comply with a “Bud’s way or the highway” dictate.

It’s still a mystery.

Adding further intrigue and heartbreak to a disturbing scenario is this detail. Dick was Bob Cowsill’s twin brother. Bob was as bright a star as any in The Cowsill constellation. Perfect grades.  A good athlete and a born musician.

Bud Cowsill may have felt that he was helping the family band remain focussed by keeping his troubled son out of their way, but the price has been steep.

Ultimately, as the kids’ hit records were topping the charts in 1968, Dick and Bud came to blows and Dick, at age 18, was taken directly to the recruiting office and ultimately, sent off to Viet Nam. The guilt and the sense of responsibility for their brother probably did not hit his siblings until their pop idol star came crashing back down to earth and Dick returned from Viet Nam, a heroin addict.

I had been a huge fan as a kid. In fact, The Cowsills play a key role in my childhood memories. I would allow their happy harmonies to fill a room while staring into an album cover and attempting to wish myself into the photograph.

We fans were told that Dick had chosen the military.  This little factoid felt especially confusing since my dreams found me born into this musical family and adding my voice to their gorgeous blend. Why would anybody turn away from it? That never quite added up, but I quickly dismissed the doubt and turned up the next track.

Right around the time I was naturally outgrowing my teen band crush, The Cowsills disappeared from view. By age 16, I would only occasionally give them a passing wonder.

That is until we all stumbled into cyberspace and started daring each other to google childhood crushes, teachers and pop bands.  I fired up my AOL browser and found myself on a site called Cowsill.com. They had a guest book and I began typing.

My entry included something like: “Thank you for helping me grow up.” I had just lit a match to the kindling of a big adventure.

I received an email from a fellow Los Angeles area fan, Caren Oldfield. She invited me to The Pickwick Pub in Woodland Hills, CA, where Bob performed, thus launching an odyssey which led to a documentary I made called Family Band: The Cowsills Story.

Richard, Susan, Paul and Bob Cowsill
Richard, Susan, Paul and Bob Cowsill

What I discovered in The Cowsills is an an intricate, multi-layered, compelling and captivating story within which Dickie factors prominently. And so, for the first time in his life, Dick’s voice is added to the mix.

Richard Cowsill likes to talk. He had a lot to say. He was starving to be heard. To the point where it could be overwhelming. But if you stopped listening, you missed something.

I know this well because the filmmaker does not just hear something once. She pours over footage and she hears that something  repeatedly. Much of what Richard said was all about his need to talk. But often, I mean really often, he nailed a point just so solid.

The guy had genuine insight. And he was brutally smart. He saw layers and nuances and intricacies. But he could be so loopy on government prescribed meds that not everybody got how much he actually got.

Very sadly, we have reached the end of Richard Cowsill’s life. He died last week of lung cancer.

That loss is requiring me to hold myself accountable for the role I played. Did I do OK by him? Did I hear him?  Did I help him tell his story?  Did I fully get him? I’m not sure I  did.

Here is what Richard got that I didn’t get until after he died. When he would compare his experience to that of his siblings, he would say that they had music to connect them to each other and that this made their childhoods easier.

They would disagree and tell him that he has no idea how hard it was for them to grow up in the public eye, pretending that everything was OK when it wasn’t.  They each made valid points.

But there is a major difference: When they spoke of their childhood anguish, they got to say, “We…” Richard had to say, “I…” For that, I ache. I am sorry I didn’t hear you better, Dickie. You taught me so much. It was an honor to know you.

bullies_by_payero01-d4u03lv

Ask Weezy Highlights – Bullies Beware

by Louise Palanker

Cover Art by Payero01

I host a safe and friendly teen social network, ios app called Our Place. Each week, thousands of questions pour into the community. Kids share with one another and I personally respond to about 20 questions per day in a teen advice column called Ask Weezy. What are today’s kids thinking about? Here are this week’s top five questions.

Question 1
How do I deal with people saying negative comments about my appearance? Please don’t tell me “oh you’re beautiful.” You don’t know what I look like, and I already believe I am.

I just get frustrated because it’s not just what people say, it’s how they say it over and over and over… What do I say to make the bullies  stop? I’ve tried being mean, ignoring it, and getting other people on my side, but nothing works. Please help? Thank you so much.

Weezy
Almost everybody is picked on about their looks at some point along the road of life.

I don’t know what they are singling out regarding you, but generally speaking, what happens is that one kid notices something specific about your appearance and then everybody jumps on that bandwagon.

So, let’s say you have big feet. Oh well. You have big feet. I am not trying to dismiss the pain it causes you when somebody mentions your feet. Rather, I am encouraging YOU to take on that “Oh, well,” attitude.

My nephew Jake has great advice on this. He says that if somebody were, for example, to call him a geek, he would say, “And your point is…?”

I love this because it completely diffuses the intended impact of the insult. They are trying to get to you. If you simply agree and then ask why they have raised this point, the wind drops from their sails.

You say that you have tried everything and I completely believe you, but now try agreeing with them and asking them to clarify why they have time in their day to bring the obvious to your attention.

Question 2
Hey, weezy I live in a city that has no place to walk around. It sucks. The places it does have I’ve been to 100s of times. I’m not old enough to drive yet, but i want to do new things. Places to hang out and go. How do I find places in my area?

Weezy
Try googling, “teen activities” plus your area. You may be surprised to see how many churches, synagogues, mosques and non-religious organizations have events and clubs for teens.

Remember, that you do not have to join a religion to take part in a youth activity.

Also, try: Boys and Girls Clubs, The YMCA, The YWCA, Kiwanas, Elks and other service organizations.

For example, every Monday, I teach a free teen comedy class at the Jewish Community Center in Santa Barbara, CA. You would not know about it if you were not looking for teen activities in Santa Barbara.

So, do some hunting and let us know what you find.

Question 3
So last time i had a girlfriend was in 5th grade. I am now 17. I just moved to ****, Ga about 7 months ago and have been looking for a girlfriend but nobody seems to stick.

I’m always very quiet around people I don’t know. More so around girls. And when I do talk to a girl, I tend to overthink things, and think of everything that could go wrong. How can I become more confident? Plz help!

Weezy
You just need more practice talking to girls. Get this practice by conversing with many different girls. Exercise that muscle. Tell yourself that almost every girl with whom you speak will not become your girlfriend. They are mostly just friends.

Getting to know them enriches your life and theirs. Girls need practice talking to boys too, so these conversations are fun and helpful to all concerned.

The more you talk, the easier it gets and eventually, a connection will begin to form between you and somebody special. Don’t force it. Wait for it, be open to it and allow it to happen.

A relationship is not just something that you need. It is also something that you offer. You will be a gift to someone wonderful.

Question 4
I look like a guy and I’m shaped like one. What to do? Well I have broad shoulders and long arms that stop to my knees, seriously… I cross my arms so ppl wont notice it. I wear a sweatshirt so people wont notice my shoulders either and for summer I wear thin baggy sweaters. I was told about 2 times that look like a guy and told a million times I was ugly.  What should i do?

Weezy
You are not ugly and unless you want to look like a guy, you don’t look like a guy. You look like YOU, during your awkward, teenage years.

Dress in clothes that YOU like. Carry your arms in a way that feels comfortable and let Mother Nature take care of the rest. You are going to be just fine.

Question 5
Hi weezy! So today I got my period (not for the first time) and now it’s getting heavy.

I am a counselor at a camp this summer and am in the lake and water most of the day. When I have been inserting a tampon, I don’t feel it at all but my period still leaks. I don’t know what to do about it because I can’t wear a pad in the water! I don’t want my period to leak on my bathing suit that I am in most of the day! What should I do?

Thanks so much and sorry if this was a little gross :) Weezy

Weezy
Your period will only be heavy enough to leak through a tampon for about a day. Most girls just figure out how to get through that day and yes, it can be tricky if it’s a day spent on the water.

Some girls say, “I can’t swim today. Personal reasons.” Everybody just gets that. No more explanation is needed.

Some, may put a mini pad in their bathing suit. Sure it gets soaked with water, but it also sort of blocks leakage while you go from the water to the ladies room to swap out your tampon.

You will figure out what works for you. Always remember that every female gets her period. Don’t be shy about asking older counselors how they handle these situations.

Every month, you get a little bit better at strategizing around your period.