My mom got a cat now that I'm at college. I don't want her to be lonely, but I can't help but feel replaced (plus, I'm so allergic!). I want to love this cat—it's so cute—but I'm jealous of it and it makes me sneeze. What do I do?
M: So on a Tuesday evening when you were living at home, who would you hang out with? Now who do you hang out with on weeknights? Not your mom anymore, right? Have you replaced her? The idea that you can replace someone presupposes that people are substitutable for each other—like negative one child plus one cat equals zero. But it equals two! Love isn’t zero-sum!
P: The Internet also tells us that if you draw a warm bath and enter it with said cat, you can acclimate your sinuses to its allergens, plus have a sweet hot tub time with a cute cat! No guarantees here, but maybe worth a shot. Alternately, try an over-the-counter allergy medication, like Zyrtec!
M: As Morrissey sang, all these years ago: “It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate.../it takes guts to be gentle and kind.”
Is all of my behavior one giant self defense mechanism?
P: I often feel this way. If all your behavior were really a self-defense mechanism—which maybe it is!—it would be hard to even see what in yourself you were looking to defend. But the problem becomes that there’s no easy way to dissociate what’s protected from the behavior protecting it. You are your behavior as much as you are anything hidden behind it.
M: It’s a lot like the end of Mulan.
P: Thinking only about what’s hidden behind your behavior, a secret self no one can see, quickly becomes self-defeating and exhausting. At a certain point, you have to let yourself act.
I have not talked to my sister outside of a familial context in four years. She's trying to reach out to me, and I think she's more mature, but I'm in a good place in my life and I don't know if I want to let her in. Should I prioritize family over my own anxiety?
M: Very little worthwhile occurs without risk. That said, mental health is the most important thing, behind maybe breakfast, so keep it real with that, too. Sometimes it takes passing a boundary to see where it needs to be drawn?
P: I often only learn about modern slang from talking to my little brother. Tapping four fingers together twice means hashtag.
M: There are also lots of lower-stakes ways of communicating these days—e-mail, for example, or Facebook messages.
P: Or Twitter. On Twitter you can use hashtags. My little brother uses Snapchat a lot, but if you’re just getting things going again that could be weird.
Should I make art or money?
M: How much money? Make enough money to make art!
That said...I think with most big, abstract choices like this, life doesn’t present them as clearly as they might seem in your head. It’s not like there’s this big post-graduation fork in the road you have to traverse. You can work for a while to pay off your student loans, and then go back to school, or whatever. You can work 9-5 and sculpt in the evenings.
P: Agreed, someone still needs to write the great American investment-banking novel. Start living your life as if it were art, money is art. Live and die art. Turn money into art and then sell out for bitcoin.
M: As Steven Patrick Morrissey (of The Smiths and Morrissey fame) sang, “England is mine,/it owes me a living.//But ask me why, and I’ll die.”
I'm a vegan who wants to integrate leather into my fashion scheme. Any advice for how to reconcile my conflicting desires?
M: Buy used! No new cows need die for you to wear dead cow.
P: Or try artificial leather! Try such fun-sounding varieties such as Birko-Flor, Kydex, Naugahyde, Rexine, Vegetan, or Fabrikoid! Most of these are weird plastic variants and be aware many aren’t biodegradable, so research wisely and/or pick clothing that will be hip forever. See example below.
Gimme a reason to get out of bed.
M: Feel you completely! You should get out of bed so that you can keep looking for a reason to get out of bed.
P: Listen to your favorite bands from when you were 16 until you feel you can move again. Maybe also be glad you are no longer 16 (and if you are, there’s always The Smiths).
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