Advice column by Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC.
Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.
I’m a 28 year old man with one sibling, a sister who is 16 and of course still lives at home. She is a straight A student and well-behaved, likes gaming and anime, but has taken up an interest in Lolita culture. From what I’ve read, it’s a lot of frou-frou dresses and girly pink bows and ribbons and harmless fashion. But, she has taken two part-time jobs and spends every dime she earns on these dresses. She has no savings, no car and is not even interested in driving. The only people she associates with are other Lolita girls, which is only about enough time to go to conventions for this stuff because she is always working to pay for it! I feel like she should be paying a bit more attention to her future than she is to some fashion crap but she is obsessed and refuses to talk about scaling back her purchases. This looks more and more like addiction to me, and wasn’t the book Lolita about a pervert who lusted after little girls? Should our parents be more concerned about her attending these conventions?
Hi No Lita,
I can suggest a good start for your approach; stop calling your teenage sister’s passions crap. That will never help. If this straight A, responsible teenager who also manages to hold down two jobs wants to parade around dressed like Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games then more power to her. She has earned this indulgence.
Any convention-going teenagers should be properly briefed on avoiding predatory adults, but that should be enough for such a mature young woman, and I also think you may be getting your pop culture lines crossed. Lolita subculture, popularized in Japan and based on Victorian-era clothing generally conveys modesty, perhaps as a reaction against so much skin showing in modern popular culture. Petticoats, corsets and long skirts are often accessorized with lace, knee socks, heavy makeup and fancy hats. The movement is linked to anime and manga and it has spawned various subgenres, including gothic and male versions. It probably has more to do with empowering women, whereby they reclaim femininity on their own terms, than sexualizing underage girls, despite the name Lolita unfortunately and unavoidably referencing Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel.
This may be reassuring to you, but I understand that will not keep money in your sister’s bank account. Perhaps you could make recommendations that are helpful without poo-pooing on her pretty puffy parade. She could start a cosplay exchange with kindred spirits online, or even take up the fading art of sewing, and you could even gift her a few lessons to get her started if a family member cannot teach her. A lot of cosplayers have varying levels of sewing skills for practical reasons. If she already knows how to sew and has an interest, encourage it and show your support. This could help her save a little money, and allow her to get even more creative with this innocent hobby.
Stress Eater Helper
I’m a 25 year old career girl who recently started a job in the medical field. I made friends with a coworker and we get along great but I discovered something really strange about her. At her place, there were all these promotional stress balls that we get all the time; no big deal, it’s not theft, but there were pieces missing from them. I thought it was her dog until I fell asleep on her couch while we were watching a movie. I woke up and saw her nibbling on one! I pretended to be asleep because I was so uncomfortable but a few days later she ripped off a chunk of one in her car and was just feeding herself little bites from it while driving. I confronted her about it. I know that there’s no ways that’s healthy, but she says she talked to her doctor and he approves. That can’t be true but I really care about her and enjoy her company, I’m just not sure what I can do to help her?
- Stress Eater Helper
You may already be aware that the disorder pica refers to compulsive eating of materials that have no nutritional value. It mostly occurs temporarily in childhood. Despite reality television shows’ flippant portrayal of adults suffering from this condition, there are indeed serious medical risks. Paint chips may contain lead or other toxins. Eating objects that cannot be digested, such as the foam rubber your friend fancies, can cause constipation or blockages in the digestive tract and bowels. Hard objects can tear the lining of the esophagus or intestines. Bacteria from these objects can cause infections that damage the kidneys or liver. In the long-term, eating non-food objects can replace eating healthy food, and thereby lead to malnutrition.
If you have a genuine friendship, a friendly intervention should be no threat. Involve mutual friends, family or whomever you know together. It is absolutely necessary for the sake of her health. If her doctor actually approves of her eating foam rubber- which I also doubt is true- she needs a new doctor or at least a second opinion. An immediate medical evaluation including blood tests and x-rays is most important, but behavioral intervention will also be necessary. Counseling may help her modify her behavior and reduce her impulse to ingest inedibles. Let her know that whatever treatment lies ahead, she will not be going through it alone.
Game But Gagged
I’m a happy-go-lucky lady, 29 dating this really good-looking guy I met at work. He’s so hot with a body that won’t quit, which I’m hopefully soon going to ravage for the first time but I can’t work up the nerve because he has the most revolting breath I’ve ever smelled in my life. We’ve kissed a few times and I had to fight my gag reflex; it’s something like a burned dirty diaper filled with Sulphur and it’s unbearable. I avoid him when he wants to kiss now and I think he suspects something, but I have no idea how to tell this being of absolute physical perfection that his mouth stinks. Do we have a chance?
- Game But Gagged
Halitosis can result from poor dental hygiene but may be a sign of other health problems. You did not mention smoking or chewing tobacco, but these are also obvious and easier to address. Designer mints or mouthwash in a fancy box could be passed off as an innocuous gift, but ultimately this will only provide a temporary fix.
You can try a quick, “Hey, your breath smells different. Do you need to see the dentist?” This will either fill in the blanks with a backstory- maybe he has poorly fitted dental fixtures, cavities and no dental insurance or a fear of dentists- or it will inspire him to make an appointment that should be happening every six months anyway. If gum disease is the culprit and it goes untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the gums and even the jaw. Dry mouth may be a side effect of various medications, saliva gland issues or constant mouth breathing, and it can cause bad breath when there is not enough saliva to wash away dead cells and neutralize acids. There are a lot of illnesses known to cause bad breath, including respiratory tract and sinus infections, diabetes, acid reflux, and kidney or liver diseases. A dentist can confirm or rule out a bad tooth or gum disease, in which case a primary care doctor would be consulted to further investigate the origin of this fetid face funk.
Good old fashioned observation may help, too. I do not want to rush things by suggesting you brush your teeth together, but you can observe him do this before you both go out in the morning or evening, and sneak in a couple of questions here and there. Does he brush twice a day, brush his tongue and stay well hydrated with water? All of these things contribute to fresher breath.
If he eats foods with strong odors like garlic or onions, then brushing and flossing and mouthwash will only cover up the odor briefly; it may only go away after the food completely passes out of the body. Getting to know his habits will help you pare down suggestions so they sound less critical, but if he is not getting the message feel free to put your concerns out there bluntly. After all, you care enough to be concerned for his health and you want to get intimate with him as soon as possible. If one of those does not motivate him, maybe he is just a pretty face… to look at, anyway.
Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.
Photo by Fotolia/taka