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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 10:58 am | Fair 60º


Louise Palanker: Kids for Gun Control, Looking to Find Real Friends, Writing About Feelings

Question from H.

Weezy, we adults have done a poor job of stopping mass killings. The latest shootings at a school have prompted something new: kids from that Florida school who are not old enough to vote have become activists. They are taking up the reins where we dropped them.

Have you any advice for that generation to help them stop the shootings, stop the easy gun sales and give our politicians some backbone?

Thanks, Weezy.

(Sign me) “Old and ineffectual”


The young people from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., are heroic, heartbreaking and entirely impressive. The confluence of their youth, their maturity, their eloquent voices and their amplified platform through social media may finally fuel the change we need.

As attention fades from this particular tragedy, it’s important that the kids from Stoneman Douglas and all young people who seek to sensibly reform our gun laws work together with a shared platform. Leaders will emerge who can be guided and mentored by gun control organizations that have an existing infrastructure.

Here are three reputable groups.

» Everytown for Gun Safety

» Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

» Americans for Responsible Solutions

Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to give certain politicians a backbone. They show us who they are and what matters to them through their actions once elected. If that is not a person you want representing you and fighting for your health and safety, then vote them out of office. Better still, organize, speak out and, most important, listen. And of course, when you are old enough, vote.

Gun laws exist in their present form for a variety of complicated reasons, many of which have everything to do with basic human wants, needs and fears. Amending these laws will require not just strength but also sensitivity and empathy.

Is the problem only rooted in the greed and the corruption of the National Rifle Association, the gun manufacturers and their political purchases? Or do people truly feel threatened and scared by the idea that the government could take away their guns? Every concerned citizen can research these questions and become better informed.

To me what matters most is the emotional and physical health and safety of children. I hate guns. I am biased in that direction. But in any heated dispute, it’s important to listen to the other side and find where your ground is common.

I will also warn young people not to become single-issue voters. Pay attention to how politics and policy affect all people. Speak out for causes that feel just to to you but that do not directly impact you. That will help you get out of your own head and better understand that you are strong and powerful and potent as a human voice.

What you say and do matter. A smile or a hug or a look of understanding are immeasurably powerful. Use your tools. Remain respectful. Become socially active. Work together. Be kind every day to everyone you encounter. Every generation can and must improve upon what they have been given.

(CNN video)

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Question from Justin

I want to gain some more friends. People at school often only befriend me because I’m smart. They often judge me, too. I really only have a couple of people I trust. I wear retainers and whenever I take them out to eat, people often say “ewww” or “gross.” But when I bring snacks they say they’re my friends. What can I do to gain some real friends?


I often say this because it works: Join clubs and activities. Here is the good news. If you are smart, you’ll be smart all your life. You will only be an awkward adolescent for a couple of moments. I know it feels like forever when you are in the middle of it. So, join clubs and meet like-minded people who are kind and talented and creative and intelligent, just like you.

A few tips:

» (And this comes from a former retainer wearer ...) Remove your retainer by placing your napkin near your mouth and subtly sliding your retainer into it. Nobody needs to see your retainer. Put the napkin with the retainer in your pocket or backpack. (Do not put it on your tray. I’ve thrown away a few retainers. Not popular with the parents.) Put the retainer back into your mouth while looking down for your backpack. Be stealthy. If someone does notice your retainer and makes a rude remark say, “Right? I sicken myself. But my teeth will soon be the envy of the seventh grade.” Or whatever. You get the idea. Joke about yourself.

» Kids who are not your friends do not get your snacks. Save your snacks for people who are already nice to you or eat your own snacks your own self! You can’t buy friends.

» Real friends will probably be the other smart kids. Go find them. You are growing up and growing into yourself and therefore getting cooler every day.

                                                                 •        •        •

Question from Sebastian

I don’t know if I still have feelings for a girl I used to like. It’s bothering me because I gave up on her, but I always find myself thinking about her at one point or another everyday. (I moved away out of the state she’s in.)

Even when I knew for sure I liked her, I knew I shouldn’t have and got rejected multiple times. IDK what I should do.

Side note: I’m trying to write a story and I was thinking about adding some of the stuff that happened to me during that time. Is that a bad idea? (Even if I don’t use her name?)


You should absolutely write what you know. All authors do. You have a right to write about your experiences. Sure, change the name but your life is yours, and if something interesting or gut wrenching or captivating happened to you, then writing about it will help you and reading about it will help others.

The space in your head and heart that is reserved for romantic emotions is usually going to behave like a vacuum. If there is no one in particular in there to fill your thoughts and dreams, somebody will take that spot. That someone could be a lost love or a celebrity, or somebody you don’t actually know. The less ready you are for an actual relationship, the more likely you will be to feel yourself falling in love with someone who is completely unavailable.

You can allow yourself to enjoy these thoughts and fantasies as long as they do not negatively affect the quality of your life. See these crushes as a workout for your heart. They help you learn how love feels and what qualities in another person are attractive to you.

But be available to meet and talk with people in your immediate life. Maybe even people who are not yet romantically interesting to you. One day when you are ready, the right person will be ready for you.

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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 (click here to view her documentary, Family Band: The Cowsills Story), a teacher and a mentor. She also hosts a weekly video podcast called Things I Found Online, and teaches a free stand-up comedy class for teens at the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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