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Wednesday, December 19 , 2018, 2:01 am | Fair 46º


Louise Palanker: Jealous of Brother’s Success, Talking to a Boy, Drama and Lying

Question from Dana

I am extremely jealous of my brother. A few years back, I started doing theater, and my younger brother started right behind me. Since then, we have both been getting lead roles in most plays we audition for, and we have bonded a lot from being in so many productions together.

Last summer, we were both in Little Mermaid, him as Prince Eric and me as Scuttle. Then the director recommended him for a paid gig. From there, my brother got bigger and bigger roles, and now he’s in the choosing for the lead role in an independent film that’ll be shown in movie theaters nationwide.

Meanwhile, nothing is happening with me. I’m the one who got him into performing, I did it first. Now he’s doing all these big things and I’m not there with him. He’s being interviewed in newspapers while I’m sitting at home and I can’t take it. I want to be happy for him, but I can’t help thinking that he stole my dream. I wanted to be a performer and he just swooped in and beat me at it.

I’m so jealous that I can’t sleep. I don’t know how to stop being so angry at him. I feel like it makes me a terrible sister. What do I do??


What you are feeling is very natural. But cutting to the core, let’s see if we can remove anger from the equation of your emotions by remembering that your brother is not purposely doing anything to you. This is just happening and he is being swept up in it.

You did not get him into performing. You were just a child doing what you love. You have the same parents. He came along. It was happenstance that got him into performing. Right now, he is riding this current and it may not be the best thing for him.

The unfortunate truth for child performers is that if they catch a big wave too soon, they may take a tumble and do damage that makes it very difficult for them to catch their next wave.

There are a lot of child performers who were discovered by tagging along with an older sibling. I know that you feel very jealous right now. I don’t blame you.

But here is what I believe about child actors and singers. They could be peaking too soon. Yes, we all love to watch them perform. It’s adorable. But in this lifetime, you only get one childhood. You should spend it growing, learning, maturing, exploring and developing into the adult you are meant to become. A professional child actor does not usually get to do that. There are other pressing agendas that trump the care and development of that particular child.

Your brother will look the way he currently looks for a brief moment in time. If he becomes too well known and well loved as a boy, captured on film during that time, he may grow up to feel like a disappointment to everyone who encounters him. He will hear the whispers, “Wow, he used to be so cute.”

For a boy, this flash of fame is even more fleeting. Your brother’s voice will change and suddenly, he will be a gawky teen who really needs the unconditional love of his sister.

This acting business can be cold and cruel to children. Kids change every second. All of a sudden, your brother is not who they want. And it’s not because he isn’t good. It’s because they need him to be smaller or younger. Growing up is hard enough. Doing it while a team of professional producers, directors, writers and crew members wait for you to “get it right” so that they can all get paid and go home is a lot of pressure for a child.

Performing is just about the only interest a child can pursue that is potentially wage earning. But is this really such a good idea? The natural order of the household is challenged when a teenager can say, “Oh, I do think I’m going to that party because I bought the car and I just paid the mortgage.”

I trust that your parents are thoughtfully contemplating the choices they are making regarding your brother’s career, and one of the factors they should be carefully considering is what impact it is having on you. If it feels like your needs are not being addressed, say something. You phrased your thoughts beautifully in your letter to me. Start there.

How you are developing as a person is far more important than whether you are exactly what some director is looking for in a child actor at this current moment. Don’t allow yourself to get too caught up in who is getting what role. Focus on your original motivation. You are in theater because you love it. Continue learning and evolving as a creative person.

Your freedom to do this outside a professional atmosphere may very well be a gift. Embrace it. Be your brother’s best friend. He needs that. What is happening to him right now will not, can not last.

To learn more about the intentional or unintentional exploitation of child stars, click here to listen to this fascinating episode of the podcast, Reply All, entitled, “Why Is Mason Reese Crying?”

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Question from Rebecca

I like this boy ... and he likes me but we have never talked much in real life. He says we need to talk more in person. We are going to do a one-on-one talk but I don’t know how to start the chat! What should I say/do first?


You can start by acknowledging that you are nervous. Honesty can really break tension. Today’s kids are very accustomed to the safety of texting, but with this safety comes these huge walls.

Up until right now, your relationship with this boy has been severely handicapped. It is very difficult — in fact, almost impossible — to have a meaningful conversation via text. This form of communication is very limiting. Yes, it’s tempting because it is right at your fingertips and it keeps you in a constant state of suspense. This may in part explain its addictive properties.

But texting leaves behind enormous holes in understanding that, face to face, are filled through facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, etc. When you text you are consistently wondering what the person means or if you said the right thing. There is a delay between what you type and your receiving a response. It keeps your heart doing flip-flops and there is a rush that comes with the ding of your phone, but that does not mean it is strengthening your relationship with anyone.

So, this boy is doing the right thing. You do need to talk in person. Just sit on a bench and ask him some questions about the things he likes to do. As soon as he says something that reminds you of something in your own life, you can chime in with a story, until he asks you a question about you.

For example, let’s say he likes baseball ...

You: What position do you play?

Him: Second base?

You: I have heard that baseball players are superstitious. What are your good luck habits?

Him: I always touch home plate while I am running out to my position.

You: That reminds me of my mom. She always touches the cross on her rear-view mirror before she pulls out of the driveway. I don’t really believe in superstitions, but most people probably have something or other.

Him: Yeah, when I was little, I would not step on cracks. Now I step on them on purpose, just to prove that I outgrew that. I must step on every crack!

You: Hahahah. You are so funny.

So, that is how conversation works with a boy. With your Aunt Sally. With President Barack Obama. With everyone. Just arm yourself with some interesting questions, go to it, be yourself, listen to what he says and enjoy.

Here is a fun look at Texting vs. Talking from Frank Legend:

(Frank Legend video)

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Question from Jane

I have a tendency of getting involved in drama and lying :/ I want to change because I’m tired of loosing friends and having problems with school work because I’m worried about what others are thinking or saying about me ... :/


That is a very grown-up thing to admit. It means that you truly do want to change.

OK, let’s do an exercise. Pull out a piece of paper. Think back on the school year, and for each dramatic incident, draw a box. Inside every box title that incident. When you are done, go back to the top of the page and look at the first box. Let’s say you have called this incident: Pamela stopped talking to me. Underneath that title, write any lie you may have told and any gossip you may have spread that led to this turn of events becoming a box on your page. In other words, list ways in which you contributed to this particular drama.

Do this for every box. Now go back to the top of your page. Underneath your list of actions, write what you could have done instead. So, if in the Pamela box you wrote: I told Jimmy that Pamela kissed Kyle, and then I lied to Pamela and told her that Sierra told Jimmy that Pamela kissed Kyle, beneath that write: I could have stayed out of it.

Now cross out what you actually did so that all you now see is what you could have done. This exercise will help you realize how everything you do has a consequence.

I believe that our words and our deeds follow the laws of physics. Everything we do, in this world, bounces off of the world and echoes back to us. I also believe that we get caught up in certain behaviors because they feed some sort of emptiness in us.

You lie and stir up drama because you either want something or fear something. These are the two major motives behind behaviors that may feel right, in the moment, but will be very wrong over the long term.

Let’s say that you talk about Pamela and Kyle because you want to be the one who is important enough to have that information. That is never a good enough reason to say something. Before you speak, ask yourself, “What is my IN-tention?” If it is to get AT-tention, then that will get you nothing but the wrong kind of attention.

If, instead, your IN-tention is to make somebody feel better or to bond with a friend, you will find yourself doing more and more of the right thing and receiving more and more of the good kind of attention.

Always examine your motives. Why am I saying this? What do I want? Why do I want it? Are my motives pure? Are they selfish?

In most cases, when it comes to staying out of drama, use this rule of thumb: “If it is not directly about you, and if nobody is in danger, stay out of it.”

Here is more about The Science of Teen Drama:

(Stuff Mom Never Told You - HowStuffWorks video)

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Got a question for Weezy? Email her at [email protected] and it may be answered in a subsequent column.

Louise Palanker is a co-founder of Premiere Radio Networks, the author of a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel called Journals, a comedian, a filmmaker (Family Band: The Cowsills Story is currently airing on Showtime Networks), a teacher and a mentor. She has a teen social network/IOS app and weekly video podcast called Our Place, built around a philosophy of cyber kindness. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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