Dear Sydney, I'm in my mid-20s. I have focused my career goals toward anything outdoors. I'm a trained climbing instructor, ski guide and wilderness guide. I've done extensive training and have worked in many capacities, including working with troubled teens at an outdoor-centered high school. My parents have helped me financially to some degree, although I've been predominantly independent. My problem is that my parents and extended family are dropping lots of unsubtle hints about me deciding on a career. It seems that they want me to commit to a schooling venture (college), and they don't have much respect for my processes or ideas. I'll be traveling to my hometown soon--how can I prevent any misunderstandings and keep my family relations sweet?--Unhappy Camper
Dear Camper: You are too focused and motivated to let your family's doubt drag you down! If you were working a low-end job, nursing a nagging drug habit and spending all of your free time watching Star Trek reruns, well, then I might counsel you differently. But it seems as though you know what you love and are motivated enough to pursue it. So what's the problem? Many people have looming familial expectations that they feel they do not live up to. This is just one of the down sides to having a family.
When you go to visit them, stop putting off the inevitable and bring those dropped hints out into the open. Do your best to listen, instead of becoming defensive and shutting them out. If your family feels that you are open to hearing them, they might be more receptive to hearing you. And, hey, there could be some good reasons for you to go to college, so don't rule it out, especially if they want to pay for it!
This is their way of trying to protect you. Listen to what they have to say, say thanks and then reassure them that you are quite capable of figuring out your own path, but that should your carabiner prove defective, you will not hesitate to let them know, and to ask for their opinions and help so you can keep from tumbling down that mountain.
Dear Sydney, you assure that there's "No question too off the wall." OK. In recent months, I've been experimenting with shaving my pubic hair. It feels good, it's exciting and I've gotten good reviews. My problem is that I've been shaving with an electric shaver all my life and it's obviously not the ideal tool for the job. I know there are all sorts of space-age shaving gadgets out there, plus lots of women who customarily shave. Any advice for a clueless male? --Razorphobic
Dear Razorphobe: Though an electric razor is capable of achieving the task at hand, it is certainly not the proper tool for the job. An electric razor doesn't give a close enough shave, and if you thought a five o'clock shadow could be a little rough on the cheeks, just try pube stubble. It's no fun. Go to your local drug store and purchase a high quality razor with replaceable blades. Don't skimp, go for the highest quality version with a little weight behind it. Pubic hair is pretty coarse, so change the blade often and, please, resist the temptation to go against the hair grain.
Now if you really want to understand the great lengths females have gone in order to achieve desired levels of hairlessness, then you should forgo shaving altogether, go to the beautician and get waxed. Just rip those babies right on out, by the roots. You'll stay smooth longer, and the hair will grow in softer than it was before. Sound excruciating? It is. But no one ever said beauty came easy, and if women across the globe are willing to get "Brazilian" wax jobs to keep their men content, why should you be afraid of a little ball waxing?
Dear Sydney, I like to drink. A glass of wine (or two or three) sure does go down well after a long day of work. When is it too much, though? I don't drink every single night, but most nights, at least a glass or two is normal, with the couple times a month a little over that. At this point no one has ever said they were concerned, and I am not too concerned, except I also don't want to be deluding myself. --Pleasantly Buzzed
Dear Buzzed: It is important to continuously evaluate your habits as you go, so that you are the one in control and not the other way around. Everyone has different limits and expectations when it comes to alcohol consumption, and there is no textbook formula for deciding exactly what is too much. The best way to ensure that you are in charge of the wine, and not the other way around, is to keep an open dialogue with yourself and with the people in your life. Every so often, check in with your partner or with the people you spend the most time with. Ask them what they think. If you're not embarrassed to ask, if it doesn't freak you out to talk about it and if you aren't afraid to look honestly at how much you drink, you aren't in denial, and that's a great sign.
Another great resource for self-diagnosis can be found online. Check out the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence self-test. Its website provides a list of questions that you can ask yourself. Keep on top of things. Addictions have a way of sneaking up on us so that by the time we realize there's a problem, it's often too late. If we were all perfect and completely in control of our lives, we would have no addictions or unhealthy habits at all--no alcohol, no caffeine, no reefer, no tobacco, no sugar, no empty carbohydrates--but most of us aren't. The best thing we can do is examine our crutches carefully, and moderate, moderate, moderate.
No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall.