By Carolyn Hax
Monday, December 3, 2007

Adapted from a recent online discussion:


I don't drink because I have depression. My friends know this. When they go out, though, I often find myself being excluded from the conversation. I try to engage with them, but I always seem to get stuck at the end of the bar just sipping my Coke. When the night comes to a close, I feel worse than when it began. Nights out seem to be about the only time we spend together because we're all in the post-college, still-getting-settled phase, so a lot of other options seem to be off the table. What should I do?

Anytown, USA

I know it's natural to go to the depression and teetotaling when you're trying to figure out what's going wrong with your friendships, but it may just be that socializing in a crowd is against your nature. Some people just hate it, aren't good at it, don't get anything out of it -- and have a lot easier time admitting that to themselves because they're not struggling with an illness that makes them question themselves. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and try gradually to set up some things with people either one-on-one or centered on quieter things.


Any advice on how moms can survive their daughters' teenage years? I don't want to be too controlling, but I don't want to give too much freedom, either.

My daughter is 14 and in ninth grade. Should she be able to hang out with her friends for a couple of hours after school EVERY day? Am I being unreasonable to ask the names of the friends with whom she is "hanging" -- including their LAST names? Inquiring minds want to know.

Unsure Mom

Where is she hanging out, with whom, for how long, under whose supervision? Is her schoolwork finished when she does this, or is it getting pushed aside, or is she doing it later but well?

Having a rule where you must know these things isn't controlling her, it's doing her a favor. It's also doing your job. When all the requirements are met to your satisfaction, then she earns her freedom, which you can increase as she gets older and demonstrates her ability to handle it.

The mistakes people make, I think, are in setting conditions that can't ever be satisfied; in setting up conditions but not enforcing them consistently; or in not setting any meaningful conditions at all. So set high but reachable goals, reward her when she meets them, restrict her when she doesn't, and duck.


And, for the poor mom of the 14-year-old -- remember, she's 14. Her whole point in life is to push back and test her limits, often by yelling at you about how they're unfair! I know I did it, and Mom probably did, too.

Washington, D.C.

Isn't it great? Diapers, then you spend your school years in a losing popularity battle, then you spend your kid's school years in a losing popularity battle, then diapers again.

Sorry, I'm not giving up fat, sugar or caffeine for this.

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