(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

We have to fix our friend!

She is just so helpless on her own. We have to bring her out of her slump


Cary Tennis
August 27, 2012 4:00AM (UTC)

Dear Reader,

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday, Aug. 27 (which may be either today or tomorrow depending on when you're reading this), please feel free to come to The Marsh on Valencia Street between 21st and 22nd Streets to see the premiere of my first-ever solo performance, "Rainbow Drive," about my weird hippie teenage years in suburban Hollywood, Fla.

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Lots of 7's: It's at 7:30, it costs $7, and it's one of seven performances in the evening. The other six are intriguing, too. If you could make it, that would be cool. -ct

Dear Cary,

One of my close friends is a 20-year-old girl whom we'll call Kirsten. We've become friends over the past year, and I've realized that she has some very serious issues that need to be addressed.

One is her parents. She has an 8-year-old brother, and it appears as if her parents froze time when he was born. From what I've heard, they treat him like a baby and treat her like she's 12. It wouldn't even be that much of a problem if she didn't still live with them. She just graduated college (yes, young) and has no idea what she's going to do with her life, but she also has no plans to move out and wants to go to a local grad school. She doesn't seem to realize that her parents are the source of most of her troubles, but either way, the relationship is very strained, and they recently "grounded" her for getting into a car accident. It's absurd.

The second problem is her psychological issues. Anyone with an eye can see she has very severe depression along with extreme sexual frustration (she's never had a boyfriend). She continues to develop crushes on guys with whom she has no chance, four alone in the past year, and it hits her unbelievably hard every time one fails. When she gets depressed like that, it falls to me and our friend Meredith to deal with her pain. We're both busy with our lives and can't always upend everything to handle Kirsten's drama. The car accident was a result of Kirsten being so upset she couldn't focus while driving and rear-ended the person in front of her. I'm afraid it's going to happen that Kirsten will become depressed at a time when Meredith and I can't be there for her, and God knows how that could end up.

Lastly, there is the issue of age. Meredith and I are both 15, five years younger than Kirsten. Meredith's parents do not approve of Kirsten because of the age difference, and mine are ambivalent but wouldn't approve if they knew how close we are. By the way, no one else, not even Kirsten's parents, knows about her problems. Eventually she'll have a problem that will be too big for us to deal with on our own, and then we're both stuck. We need help, now.

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Emotionally Drained in California

Dear Emotionally Drained,

You may be the brains behind Operation Kirsten, but you are going to need some muscle from a Designated Adult. The fact is, 15-year-olds have not been granted by our society the economic and social power they would need to effect meaningful change. You must work through a surrogate.

Choose wisely. Your parents? I don't think so. A teacher or guidance counselor at school or some relative? Think it over. Confide in someone who is willing and able to help.

Look, if I were in your neighborhood, I would gladly sponsor Project Kirsten. It's so intriguing! But I don't think I'm in your neighborhood, nor your league, or even your cosmos. I wonder what neighborhood it is where young women get so smart so fast. Palo Alto? Hollywood?

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In order to make a credible presentation to your Designated Adult, you will want to prioritize. I won't insult your intelligence by explaining what prioritizing is. If you don't know, look it up. What is the one single most urgent problem that needs to be addressed? Is it her depression? Is it the fact that she lives at home? Is it her lack of a romantic life?

When looking at each problem, list the concrete things that are involved. With her depression, for instance, what is causing it? Is it organic or situational? Could she need some exercise and good food? Does she need a therapist? Do her parents mistreat her? Does she have a negative attitude toward life? Is she staying in bed all day? If she graduated college at age 20, I doubt she is staying in bed all day. She must have worked very hard.

As to the fact that she lives at home, she may have some good reasons for doing so. It may be that her plan to stay at home and go to graduate school is the most sensible choice, given the cost of school and other things, such as having an apartment. So while it may not be possible to persuade her to move out, you might consider what concrete things can be done to make her life at home better. Fix up her room? Negotiate with her parents? Get her a better car? Look into these things and report back to your Designated Adult.

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And what about this lack of a romantic life? Does she not have a sense of who an appropriate boyfriend would be? If so, what steps can you take? Do you have a list of appropriate boys for her to date? Do you think it would help to take her shopping? What about a makeover?

Consider all these questions carefully with Meredith. Make a list. You will need to make a credible presentation to your Designated Adult, who will no doubt ask you what, exactly, you intend to do. With your list, you will have a selection of choices. You will show that you have a plan.

All I can say is, I haven't been this charmed in months.

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Good luck with Project Kirsten!


Cary Tennis

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