Y’All Need Help #18: You Are Under No Obligation

Q: What is a date?


Hi! I’m a 17 year-old high school junior living in New York City. Recently, I started talking to this girl, got her number, got threatened by her sister, the whole shebang.

She’s a senior, and I’ve never really dated anyone before. Basically, I want to plan a date, but I have no idea where to start, and as an already extremely neurotic person, it has not been great for my mental state to worry about this. I really like her, and I want this to work out, but I’m worried it won’t even be able to get off the ground.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

A:

Hello! I put you right at the top because I wanted everyone reading to get really excited about the dating advice they’re about to share with you in the comments! Very proud of you for getting this girl’s number already. That was a bold move and very take-charge. GOOD, yes. I think that might actually be the hardest part? And you already did it!

For the first date, all you really need is a low-key place with a built-in quiet activity, like eating a food or drinking a drink (or putt-putting a golf ball??! I LOVE MINI GOLF IT’S SO WHIMSICAL.), and some questions you genuinely want to know the answers to. This is a casual situation with very low stakes! You should come at it with that attitude and expectation level: LOW-KEY, friend. You’re not planning your engagement, just grabbing some coffee at this place you’ve been meaning to try, while wearing your favorite outfit and asking some chill Qs.

Parts will be awkward, yes! That happens to everyone. It’s just that some people can glide past awkward a little more gracefully than others, which can totally be learned, or at least replicated to a degree of believability, which is all you really need for the first couple of months of any relationship, to be honest. Lulls in a conversation are fine. Laughing at yourself is fine. She is just a person, much like yourself, who also doesn’t really know what to do or say. Everything will be fine!

YOU ARE DOING GREAT. And now people will give you first date ideas! Please update us on this situation as time permits.


Q: I keep changing my major!


I’m a sophomore in college, and I’m on my third major. I applied as one major, then changed before coming to school, and changed again before my sophomore year. And now I’m at the point where I don’t feel like I can change anymore (plus I would have to stay an extra year). I think I want to be a journalist; I have taken classes in it and did well and love it very much. There is a 4+1 Master of J program I could apply to, but, every time I bring it up, my mother goes on about how hard it is to get a job and why would I want to do that when I could get a 4+1 in my ACTUAL MAJOR. I think I’ve boiled my “major changing” problem down to the fact that I like shiny new things and always think the next thing will be better (even though I never dislike the thing I’m doing), and I’m also very suggestible. Please help!

A:

This is all OK! You don’t really know exactly what you want to do — ostensibly for the rest of your life — and that’s perfectly OK and even good. It’s very rare and bananas that some people know what they want to be or do forever, and it’s cool and fine that you’re not one of those people. I don’t have to tell you that you can do 50 majors in your lifetime if you want to. You already know that. You also know that you could finish one major and end up getting a job or career doing something either mostly or completely unrelated to your field of study! The future! It’s wild!

I spoke with Yvonne about this. Her biggest advice is “just learn a bunch of shit, explore, make friends, be part of organizations and have fun in college. Being an adult is stupid and you’ll never have college again to just fucking explore things.” Being an adult IS stupid. She says her biggest regret is that she didn’t explore more outside her major. Taking varied classes, joining organizations and doing things outside of your major will give you extremely valuable experiences that will come to be of use to you later in life, probably out of nowhere. Learn about the things that interest you and if a rigid, specific major feels too confining, open it up to a more general one.

This is the best time to hand yourself over to your own imagination and try everything you want. You will never have as few outside obligations and responsibilities as you have now. Take advantage of everything!!


Q: Do I need friends?


When I was in university I was a student leader for a Christian church/student organization. As a student leader, I had to sign a code of conduct which included ban against homosexuality. This was the same time that I was figuring out I’m gay. It was a super fun time in my life.

I’ve been out of school for over three years now and just recently I’ve been contacted by three different friends from that church wanting to catch up on life. I haven’t heard from any of these girls in probably two years and just randomly they all want to talk at the same time. I was really good friends with them but my relationships with them are so tied to that church. Even if they never did/said anything homophobic around me, they are part of the institution that kept me in the closet for so long. I don’t know if I want to talk to them or not. They’re all really nice people but I just don’t want anything to do with that church.

A:

I absolutely understand wanting to distance yourself from a church and a time in your life that caused so much disorienting isolation and pain. You reserve the right to look out for yourself here and ignore their attempts to reconnect if that’s what feels right. It’s possible they’ve all recently realized how difficult that time must have been for you, and they’re reaching out with messages of love and support. You get to decide if it’s worth the risk of letting them back into your life to see if that’s the case. It might be that they’re looking for you to forgive them for any hand they had in that pain, which is a courtesy you don’t owe them. You don’t owe them anything, actually. You were a good friend to them at that time, and you’re under no obligation to have any more to do with them for the rest of your life.

Your subject line asked if you need friends. I think the flat answer to that is yes! But you get to decide who gets to be your friend and who isn’t worth it. If you decide to reply and see what they’re up to these days, you can let them know what’s up with YOU from the jump: you’re out, unashamed, and super not into that church they’re still part of! That’s not combative or rude, it’s the truth, which is the foundation of any decent relationship that deserves your time and energy. And if you decide to keep them out of your life, it’ll be because of a necessary and healthy line you’ve drawn for yourself that you wouldn’t let them cross.


Y’All Need Help is a biweekly advice column in which I pluck out a couple of questions from the You Need Help inbox and answer them right here, round-up style, quick and dirty! (Except sometimes it’s not quick, but that’s my prerogative, OK?) You can chime in with your own advice in the comments and submit your own quick and dirty questions any time.


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Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 789 articles for us.