WinWin Magazine Edition One WinWin Magazine Edition One

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(about life)

We don’t have all the answers but we might have some ideas.

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Lookin’ for (real, strong, healthy) love.

Dear WinWin,
In the romance department, I feel like I’m the odd duckling. I wasn’t sexually active like most girls were in high school and I’ve still never had a boyfriend.

When I turned 18 a few months ago, I joined Tinder because I felt like it was time I started thinking about boys. I talked to 200 and matched with 300 more! Sometimes I feel like the S-word, even though I haven’t ever met up with anyone, and am truly sad when I reflect upon it all. I’ve been to the club a few times to start experiencing adulthood life and see the hype. Boys there only disappoint even more.

I genuinely long for a real, strong and healthy love, but with every chat or encounter with a boy, I have lost a lot of hope, grown paranoid, and feel stuck in this cycle. It’s like the momentary attention or fling gives me such a high that I completely and stupidly dismiss the ramifications of my emotional health. What should I do?

~ K, 18

Dear K,
You are not an odd duckling. You are a cute fox. A cute fox looking for REAL, STRONG, HEALTHY love!

You have worked out that da club is not the place to find that love. Da club is loud and dark. Jam-packed. Airless. Windowless. This is exactly NOT the place to find love.

Science supports this: about 8 people in total in the whole wide world ever have found the love of their life in a nightclub*. Everyone else has found love in more brightly lit places. Less drooly and drunk places. Less… wolfish places.

It sounds like you are looking for a great partner. Your ideal relationship is REAL, STRONG and HEALTHY. Great! Stick to your guns. If by ‘S’ you mean you feel like a slut, you are not. There is no shame in casting a wide net! How else do we figure things out? (****While we’re on this topic, go have a read of our wonderful Ruby Karp piece on slut shaming****).

Let’s prioritise how you can enjoy all this a bit more. What hobbies do you have? Too much in your comfort zone? Is there something new you could try? Sailing? Ceramics? Landcare? A 5K running group? Birdwatching?

If you are looking to meet someone, it’ll be SO 👏 MUCH 👏 MORE 👏 FUN if you have a couple of random things in common.

What’s even more fun? Hanging out with a bunch of new people, making genuine mates and learning how to use binoculars (to watch the birds, not creep on people). Seeing people through a friendship lens first means you are doing yourself and them justice. If a prospective foxy fox comes along, that’s a bonus.

What I’m ultimately getting at is this: find a distraction away from ‘finding the one.’ Be a busy bee, following your interests. Because, for the love of all the wildlife mentioned in this story, you do not want to adopt an attitude that ‘I-only-joined-this-birdwatching group-to-find-my-one-true-love’. This would take the fun away. And NOT attract a fox. And that flock of yellow Crested Shrike Tits you just spotted will probably take flight, too.

*This is a wild guess. I didn’t do any research and I didn’t even Google it. Don’t @ me.

Friends without a single solitary benefit.

Dear WinWin,
My best friend of 7 years has changed recently. We were so close, like sisters, for so long. However, recently she’s been binge drinking every day, and has started seeing a guy who’s addicted to drugs.

She called me boring because I don’t drink or sleep around, and said that she’d rather be with her ‘friend with benefits’ than me. She also hasn’t replied to my texts and has been making up excuses not to see me.

On top of it all, she doesn’t seem to care that our friendship is dying; she’s been out partying with a bunch of nasty ‘mean girls’ who have been encouraging drinking and so many bad decisions.

I feel completely dumped and like I don’t know the person she has become, but at the same time I’m heartbroken at losing the closest and most meaningful friendship I’ve ever had. Help!

~ Chava, 17

Oh Chava,
I’m sorry. I know what this feels like and it utterly sucks. You’re talking about 7 BLOODY YEARS that you’ve cared about this friend. It is totally ok to be really upset and to take some time to mend your heart. Heartbreak can be worse with friendships than romantic partners.

It sounds to me like you are worried about her. Does she know that? If you think at some point she might have thought you were being judgey, it is a good time to clarify things. I’m not saying any of this is your fault, but we all know that nothing pisses people off more than having their decisions judged, right? The alcohol, drugs and boyfriend issues are problematic to you, but she might not agree and if she feels like you are attacking her choices, she will shut down.

There are often complicated reasons when people start behaving differently. This is something you could talk to her about, separately from the alcohol, drugs and boyfriend stuff. As her friend, you can offer help and support, but only if she is willing to accept it. If you think she is in danger, it is time to talk to a trusted adult about the situation. This could be a simple chat, starting with “I’ve noticed my friend has started acting very differently and I’m worried about her…”

Listen. You and your friend are working something out and redefining your friendship. There’s toxic stuff going on. The drinking and her type of dude are not what you want for yourself, and you don’t want to get in with a bitchy crew (excellent choice, btw).

Without any advice from me, you’ve already made two decisions:
(1) that your direction is different to hers, and
(2) that this friendship is important to you.
Those ideas may seem a bit contradictory but they make sense when it comes to the complicated mix of two different people. Can you find a way to simply and clearly tell her those two things? Avoid emotions, accusations, guilt and history stuff. And do it when she is sober.

If you are really worried about her, you could try
“Is everything alright? I’m here for you if you want to talk.”

If she isn’t in defensive-mode, you could say something like
“I will help you find help if that’s what you need.”

But ultimately, you can’t control this. It might be a bump in the road or it might be the end of your friendship; you don’t know yet. If she comes around, some of this hurtful stuff might be hard for you to let go of. So finally, if you are certain that in 5, 10, 15 years you want to be in her life, perhaps think about that old phrase ‘if you love something set it free.’ You’ll know the right words to use, but hold your head high and try something like
“I miss you. Our friendship is here for you if you want it.”

If you’re worried about a friend’s dangerous behaviour, drinking or drug-taking, find some great resources online by Reachout, here.

To meat or not to meat?

Dear WinWin,
How do u get over the guilt of no longer being vegan?

I have tried to be vegan but I was often very bloated, in pain, constipated, dizzy and my face had broken out and gone pale etc. Not being vegan lessens these problems. And yes, I did know how to eat a vegan diet correctly, I ate mostly whole foods and took iron and b12. But it’s difficult to move on from the guilt of having to kill animals for food. Lots of people are trying to go vegan and sometimes when it doesn’t work for them they have a really emotional time eating animal products again.

~ Jess, 17

Dear Jess,
This is SUCH a great question on a topic that can be really polarising. By responding here, I anticipate a few angry notes. The humane treatment of animals is extremely important, and food is a very personal thing. Mix ‘important’ and ‘personal’ and KABOOM! My inbox just exploded!

You’ve been dealing with a tough choice between ‘I really care about animals’ and “I really need to look after my body.” A quick google will bring up a load of search results talking about veganism as ‘kindness’, ‘pure’, ‘clean’ and a ‘lifestyle’… along with words like ‘cruelty’ and ‘abuse’ towards animals.

Those words – or values, actually – are very strong, about something that is deeply personal: what you put in your body.

You found a vegan diet had a negative impact on the way you felt, and you decided you need to look after yourself. Well done. At 17, you are probably experiencing a bunch of changes in your body related to hormones. Together with the bloating, pain, constipation, etc. that you mention… I reckon you’ve been feeling really gross. Others around you might be able to simply switch their food choices, cut foods out and experiment freely without a bunch of side effects, but not all of us can. I certainly wish I could, but I can’t! Our resident nutrition expert Camilla Ferraro agrees: “Veganism isn’t for everyone and it’s important to do what’s right for your own body.”

Being a true vegan is cutting all animal products from your diet and life. Is there a different balance you can try? An approach that isn’t so black and white? Camilla points out that not being vegan “doesn’t mean we can’t still prioritise eating more plant foods as part of an omnivorous diet.” Making informed and careful decisions about the food you do eat is a clever, sensitive and mature thing to do.

Have you experimented with what foods work for your body vs. those you can eliminate vs. those you can reduce a bit? Chat to a nutritionist or GP about a plan to work through these diet adjustments. At the same time, ask your doc about supplements. You have been taking iron and B12, but there might be options/brands/dosages with less side effects like constipation.

When you do eat animal-based foods, do some research and figure out how to find true free-range, ethical and certified organic options. Before y’all inbox me, I am not saying that this is the same as avoiding all animal products! But I agree with Camilla when she states, “there’s no place for guilt when it comes to food.” If Jess knows a bit about where her food comes from, she can move on from the guilt and be more comfortable in her decision to look after herself physically.

I’m thinking of all this – the right combo of food, the supplements, the strong values, the expert advice – as a series of dials that you can adjust to find the right ‘pitch’ for you. This is a privileged position to be in.

There’s some work involved, but over time I hope you arrive at a wonderful balance of what you do and don’t consume, that works for you and the animals that you care so much about.

Project readiness.

Dear WinWin,
I really want to lose my virginity because everyone says how great sex is but I’m scared because I overthink about everything that could go wrong.

~ S, 16

Hi S,
I remember when I was at school the girls-who-had-sex talked to each other about mysterious things with a lofty look in their eye.

At some point I became a girl-who-had-sex and I’ll be honest with you, if I ever had that look in my eye I suspect it was more of an awkward twitch brought on by the desperate need to please-can-we-stop-talking-about-this-now-thankyou.

If the people around you were ready for sex – and by ‘ready’ I mean happy to do it, having fun, protecting themselves – well then good for them. GREAT! High-fives ready peeps!

You mentioned that you’re worried about over-thinking things, so let’s try and make all this ‘thinking’ more productive.

Sex is a personal thing and our sex ed columnist Zoe Dee says ‘readiness’ starts with yourself. She recommends asking yourself a series of simple questions: “What turns you on? What kind of person do you want to have sex with?” Remembering that not all sex involves penetration, Zoe asks: “What kinds of sex do you want to have?” and in fact “Do you want to have sex at all?”.

Then, get to know your body. “Touch yourself, masturbate, get to know what feels good,” says Zoe. If thinking about being with someone else, what are your boundaries? “You can create a want/will/won’t list to help you think this through,” she adds.

Then, of course, be prepared. Stock up on what you need. Absolutely, definitely wise-up on contraception options to protect yourself from STIs and unwanted pregnancy. You might also like to have lube and toys on hand.

Finally, says Zoe, when you’ve found someone you want to have sex with, “do lots of talking. Tell them about your boundaries (and listen to theirs), the sex you want, get some enthusiastic consent on both sides and start experimenting!”

All this being ‘ready’ might seem like a lot of info and work, right? And perhaps it all seems a bit unsexy? Well it’s not.

There is so much more chance of sex being spontaneous, fun and enjoyable when you are comfortable with yourself and you are prepared… and when you are with someone who is invested in you both having a great time of it.

A final point. Readiness isn’t a permanent thing. You might be with someone and feel super-dooper ready. Or, you may feel very unready with someone else (in which case, don’t do it)! If you lose your virginity, you are under no obligation to be ready to have sex every single time thereafter.

Lots of us feel the need to ‘lose our virginity.’ But to be frank, the decision of who, how and when you have sex is not a one-off. It is something you will be doing for a long time to come.

Got a life question?

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An important note (with love) from WinWin
The more support the better, right? If you are having trouble, or if talking about your question or issue in this form raises any concerns for you, there are SO many excellent places you can go for free help.
For free and confidential info and advice:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
Butterfly Foundation: 1800 33 467
You are never alone!