Things to know

Regularly read by 50,000+ readers in over 140 countries around the world, "Dear Bro Jo" is published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (with occasional additional posts, too).

This is column is just one guy's opinion, and while he does his best to keep what he thinks, says and writes in-line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Bro Jo is not a spokesman or authority for the LDS Church. (And Sister Jo thinks you should know that he's sometimes wrong, and often way too opinionated for his own good.)

Nothing here is meant to take the place of talking with parents, leaders, or Church authorities. Please, if you need serious help, talk to a trusted adult, leader, and / or professional counselor.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Readers' Note: This Week - Guys and Girls Can't Stay Close Friends

Readers' Note:  All this week I'll feature letters along the theme of Guy-Girl friendships.  I know, I know, it's the subject that we'll likely go on about forever . . .

I welcome your comments, whether here or on the original Facebook Discussion Page - "Men and Women Can't Be Friends".

Enjoy!

- Bro Jo

Friday, February 26, 2010

Flirting

Dear Bro Jo,

I am so excited to have found this blog. This is exactly what I need!

I am female, 15 years old, 16 in three months. Confession: I had a serious boyfriend from ages 13 to 14. I was really open about it and nearly everyone in my school knows and remembers. No immorality, but it was still stupid. My parents are really nervous about me reaching the dating age and have even mentioned not letting me date anyway (I guess I deserve that). I've made a serious commitment to keep away from girlfriend-boyfriend situations until afer high school, and my dedication to the church has grown exponentially, but I guess my parents and classmates aren't fazed.

Now here's my problem. I am, by nature, extremely talkative, friendly, and enthusiastic. Also, I grew up entirely with boys/men so I'm perfectly comfortable with them. I don't often flirt intentionally but I guess it comes across that way to a lot of guys. Which would be great, if I were older - but whereas I'm 15, have no interest in a boyfriend, and am still (sigh) remembered as a girl who has dated steady... it creates problems. I've had to turn down several requests this year, requests that I totally didn't see coming. Strangely, guys don't seem to take "No, I promised God I wouldn't" as a rejection. I worry that this problem is going to get much worse after I turn 16 and (maybe) start dating.

Maybe it's a stupid question, but I'd like some of your guidelines - what's flirting? What isn't? What's appropriate for someone who doesn't want a serious relationship - especially for someone in the casual dating stage? How can I be friendly and still send a polite "not interested" signal?

Thanks a bunch, I'm really looking forward to getting some answers!

-The Accidental Flirt


Dear Flirt,

Exactly what you need?!? So you say now, but we'll just see if you stay "excited" . . .

Whew! You've given me a lot to cover here, but I'm glad you wrote.

First of all, I'm glad you've recognized the value of Casual Group Dating (as opposed to the Boyfriend-Girlfriend Thing) for people your age. Very smart.

Secondly, Sister Jo says that knowing how to talk to guys is a skill that every girl should aspire to learn, so Be Grateful! (I get letters constantly from sisters who need and want to learn how to do that which you already know; all of them will say that having to turn guys down for dates is a blessing, not a curse).

Third, guys can be persistent, either because we're dumb or because it works. No excuses here, just know that it's a reality. Keep using the "promise to God" line, though, eventually that will become your new reputation, and it's a good one.

What is flirting?

Anything you say or do that illicits, or trys to illicit, a favorable attractiveness response, whether you intend it to or not.

Too clinical?

OK.

Here's the list (you'll notice a lot of similarities across genders):

Bro Jo's LIST of FLIRTING DO'S and DON'TS for ALL AGES

Pre-teen Guys and Gals (13 and under)

No amount of flirting is a good idea.

Don't touch, hold hands, or hug non-relatives.

Do dress modestly. Be aware of what your clothes reveal and hide (you should have parental approval on everything you wear).

Don't say anything trying to be sexy or suggestive. You may be inviting trouble you definitely don't want in your life.

Do say nice things, use kind words.

Don't compliment another person's body, facial features or body parts.

Do compliment someones attire or over all appearance. "That's a pretty dress" is OK for guys to say; "I like your new tie" is OK for girls to say.

Don't stare at body parts.

Do look people in the eye when you speak to them, as best you can. Be nice and be conversational.


Pre-Dating Age Girls (14-15)

Do go to dances at School and Church (I'm not a big fan of those dances held for teens+ at clubs, recreation centers, fair grounds, etc; the behavior of those in attendance is often much less than respectful.)

Don't hint that you're looking for a boyfriend.

Do practice talking to guys, meeting new people, expanding your circle of friends.

Don't reveal too much personal stuff; you don't want to hang all of your laundry out there for everyone to see.

Do be a little flirty; smile, compliment (in a non-sexual way); that toss-the-hair thing can be very powerful if you can learn how to pull it off.

Don't gossip about who's with whom. While gossiping can get you attention it never earns respect.

Do Be Clean and Smell Good. Sister Jo calls that flirting without much effort.

Don't steal his stuff and get him to chase you to get it back; too juvenile.

Do ask to look at his hat or jacket and try it on. Ask him how you look. We guys eat that stuff up.


Pre-Dating Teen Age Guys (14 -15)

Don't gawk. I know girls your age are starting to be more revealing, and starting to have more to reveal, but don't stare. If she glances your way way you want her to see your eyes, not the top of your head.

Do go to dances, and ask all of the girls to dance. Pay attention to the girls who don't get asked much and even the girls that everyone wants to dance with will notice you.

Don't swear. I know many of you do this, even LDS guys, to try and gain some kind of acceptance, but girls notice, and many of the best ones will put you and your potty mouth on the NO list.

Do play sports. I'm a coach, trust me, even those of you that don't think you're athletic can succeed in one of the many sports out there. Girls like guys in good shape.

Don't skip the shower. Not after PE, not in the morning. Look clean, smell clean (bad smell is the number one complaint I have from girls your age about guys your age), be clean.

Do learn to converse. Learning how to go up and talk to girls you don't know is a skill you'll use until you finally propose.


Casual Dating Age Girls (16 - Adult)

Do look your best; do the best with what you've got. Clean and pretty works wonders.

Don't be a downer. Find a way to be positive. No one wants to hang out with a downer.

Do the flirty stuff: the hair swish, the smile, the look at him and look away . . . I know lots of you practice this stuff; if you don't, you should.

Don't turn down lots of dates. Find a way to go and go with any guy that's not scary. If you earn a reputation as a "no goer" you'll become a "why bother to ask".

Do start to use those "you should ask me out lines" that we've talked about here and on the Facebook page. Practice makes perfect, so start practicing.


Casual Dating Age Guys (16 - Pre-Mission)

Do go on dates; regularly. I know it's not easy, and I know you may get shot down a lot, but learning to ask and learning to deal with the Nos (and the Yeses) will be very valuable training that will not only prepare you for missionary service, but also put you on the right track for when you come back.

Don't become a video game addict. Put down the controller and slowly back away. Even girls that like video games (or pretend to for your sake) want to go out and do stuff, they want guys who live in reality.

Do be respectful. Open doors. Sure, I get comments from girls who say they don't like it, but the list of girls who want to date my boys because they're polite and chivalrous is very long.

Don't whine. Man up. Girls like guys who don't make excuses.

Do have plans. You can change your goals a lot, but girls are attracted to guys who have an idea of where they're going.

Don't be a wall flower. Get out and socialize. Make a commitment to dance every slow song at every Church dance. Don't hesitate to ask, set the tone.


YSA Women

Do NOT announce that you're "tired of the whole dating thing". Even if you are, once you take yourself out of the running it's very difficult to ever get back in.

Do go to institute. Mix up whom you sit by. Talk to everybody. Focus on them, ask guys about themselves. It's time to interview.

Don't get "focused on only your career". Even if you have a great one lined out, guys want to know that they'll fit in there somewhere. We men need attention, too, you know.

Do pour it on. Now's the time! Hand touch, laugh at his jokes, dress nice, smell good, toss your hair . . . all of that stuff. Now is the time, Little Sister, don't wait.

Don't turn down dates or require a chaperon. Your entire teen life you dreamed of having a boyfriend, of going on romantic one-on-one evenings; this is it.


YSA Men (post Mission)

Do date. All the time. A return missionary should be trying to go on 50+ dates per year. Stop whining, it's doable.

Don't make excuses. "I don't know her well enough yet" - what exactly do you think dating is for? "I don't have much money" - be creative! "She's dating so-and-so" - no ring = open game.

Do be physically fit and involved in stuff.

Don't hide. You've got to get out there!


SA Women (30+)

She who can flirt a little wins. You need to give strong consideration to invading his personal space bubble, and if you're ready to be kissed, you better be clear; a Good Guy may not pick up on you being too subtle.

Do touch him. Arm, hand, shoulder. That's how you'll let him know that you find him attractive.

Don't talk about the ex. You may need to spill your guts, but until he's emotionally invested no guy wants to hear it.

Do dress nice.

Don't over make-up or perfume; let him know that you're the real deal.


SA Men (30+)

You brethren in this category need to be very careful not to cross into what's called "The Creeper Zone". No matter how good looking you may be, most girls in their young 20s just think of you as "old". Sorry, but it's true. So . . .

Do be kind and conversational. At your age women want a man that will LISTEN to them. Figure out how, or be prepared to be single for a long time.

Don't talk about your ex-whatever, not until you've reached a point in the relationship where the deepest secrets are coming out. And NO, that's not in the first three dates.

Do be gentlemanly. She wants to be on a pedestal. Don't worship her, that's going too far, but do treat her like a queen.

Don't move too early to initiate physical stuff. You'll want her to be relaxed and comfortable, so if she's not leaning in or fiddling with the keys, hold off.


Married People (any age)

When it comes to Flirting with your spouse, just about anything is OK in private, and most stuff is OK in public, too!

Sisters, remember that your husbands need to feel appreciated and attractive. Touch him, compliment him, thank him. Any wife should be able to get her husband to do anything she wants with gratitude and physical contact.

Brethren, never admire any woman more than you admire your spouse.  Become in tune with when she feels dumpy and when she's put a lot of effort into her appearance, and compliment appropriately.  Realize the many things she does for you and Be Grateful.

Flirting with someone who is not your spouse is not allowed, and an overall selfish, creepy, and dumb idea.


Like all lists, it's a work in progress; I look forward to everyone's input!

While we're on the subject of Public Displays of Affection (PDA) you may also want to check out "Bro Jo's LIST of KISSING APPROPRIATENESS"


 As far as Flirting goes, I wrote a note you may want to check out on the Facebook Fan Page, called "Bro Jo's HOW a GIRL CAN GET a GUY'S ATTENTION"; it's a good place to start.


If you're worried that someone is going to get the wrong idea, back off. Get your flirting in control. Don't be mean, but don't be over friendly, either. Like so much, Honest Communication is the key; be prepared to say "he you're a great guy, but I'm not interested in dating you". Just be careful that you're not burning a bridge you may later want to cross.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

17, Dateless, and Teased

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm a 17 year old young woman with, I guess I'll just spit it out, NO dating experience whatsoever.

No young man has ever shown an interest in me before except for young men that, to be completely honest, are WAY CREEPY! Now I'm a fairly outgoing person, I get along with everyone and I've had some Sisters in my ward come up to me and ask me to marry their missionary sons returning home (they were only joking!...I hope...).

I hold the Church very high up there and have a strong testimony and yet...there is no knocking on my door. I'm definitely not the kind of person who asks a guy out on a date, and apparently I'm not the kind of girl that gets asked out on a date. I'm not expecting a boyfriend or anything.

The sad thing is, EVERYONE in my ward knows that I haven't dated. The Young Men tease me about it (mostly just teasing. I mean they are boys) and even my Young Womens leaders point it out sometimes (not in a rude way) during the dating lessons. I just feel like something's wrong with me the reason no one has asked me on a single date. I'm not a socially awkward person. I go to most of the Church dances and all of the Stake activities.

My friends have tried to convince me that the Young Men are just scared of me because I'm so confident blah blah blah and I know I shouldn't be worrying about this but I do. It's not like I'm a hag either. I'm decently attractive! It's not like I reek of garlic! It just hurts when all my friends are talking about their weekend dates and I think of the movie marathon awaiting me Friday and Saturday night. It drains my self-confidence just thinking about it. And we both know that it's easier to get rid of self-confidence than it is to replenish it.

I just hate being alone all the time because my friends are busy with their own dating lives. I know you're the advice guy so have at it advice guy because I REALLY need it.

Confused and Lonely



Dear Lonely,

I hear ya.

But know this: some of the most attractive, best Future Spouse Young Women I've ever met dated little or not at all in High School (and this includes Sister Jo - who, let's face it, is H-O-T, and a heck of a wife), so your leaders are right, you really shouldn't worry about it all that much.

I understand that may not bring much comfort, particularly with some of the insensitivity you're having to deal with from some of your Church peers (sorry about that, but at the very least I hope you learn not to be that kind of person - and teach your kids too). I'm a much ornerier person than you are, so every time somebody said something I'd take the opportunity to turn it around on them.

With guys I'd say "Well, smarty pants, you have more control over that than I do. If you're a decent guy you'll stop picking on me and finally get the courage to ask me out."

And I'd tell the girls "That's great you had such a good time. Sadly I don't have any friends who are nice enough to suggest that I be included on their Group Dates."

To soften that, if you want, you can follow it with a smile and a wink, letting them off the hook a little.

I think we do ourselves and the people around us a spiritual disservice when we allow them to get away with teasing us and others.


- Bro Jo

Monday, February 22, 2010

Things a Girl Can Be (That Will Attract Him Later)

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm fourteen, turning 15 two months and I’m crushing on the stake president's son. He's a really cool guy and he's really nice, but the problem is that he turns 16 TOMORROW and I don't know what to do. As is stereotypical around my area, the authority's sons are always the hottest and all the girls go for them. I know that "Person" will have girls all over him, but i really want to impress him. And I know if I were only a year older I wouldn't have to worry because we have a lot in common, and I do mean A LOT. What should I do about my whole predicament?

Thanks so much!

-Crushed By Age


Dear Crushed,

The best thing you can do at this point is . . . (wait for it) . . . (wait for it) . . .

Be Nice, but not Too Nice. You want to be friendly, but you don't want him thinking of you as a Little Sister or a Pal.

I probably need to clarify the "not Too Nice" . . .

I'm not giving you license to be snotty, and while I think a little flirting is Good and Healthy, I'm certainly not advocating that you become slutty or aggressive. What I'm saying is Be Careful not to get caught in what Sister Jo calls "the Buddy Trap" (my classmates and I always called it "the Friend Zone"). Sister Jo says that a little mystery is a very good idea; that'll be tough because you like him so much and you want to be around him all the time. If you give in to that impulse to much or too often you'll either smother him or find him placing you on reserve.

How does a girl know if she's wandered to far into the Buddy Trap?

He starts talking to you about other girls.

When that happens, Get Out!

I always advocate being blunt, so I suggest something like "Let me stop you for a second; just exactly why do you think I want to hear about you and other girls???" And, if you're courageous enough, you'll add "Let me give you a piece of advice: no girl wants a boy she likes to talk to her about the competition". Follow that with a wink, arm touch, or smile and then Walk . . . A . . . Way.

Pull that off and he'll have to have the fishhook surgically removed lest you real him in.

Fourteen months from now you'll be old enough for him to date; for now you should just be you: the nice, understanding, not-yet-available-for-him-to-date-no-matter-how-much-he-may-want-to Young Woman of Virtue and Value that you are.

Sure, he may (and should) date other girls. Sorry. That's just a fact of life.

Look at it this way: in a very short time you'll be old enough, and hopefully by then he'll be a better dater and better prepared to appreciate dates with you.

And, because I sense you may need to be reminded, No Boyfriends or Exclusive Dating until you graduate!

Lastly, even though I don't believe that girls need more ammunition than the Good Lord has blessed them with, here's a quick list:

"Bro Jo's THINGS GIRLS CAN BE to IMPRESS GUYS"

Be Modest. Yes, guys notice girls who are immodest but trust me, it's better to have him impressed than to picture you undressed. Dress up, too; wear nice clothing (clean, pretty, well kept).

Be Clever. In conversation, in action. I dated more than a few girls that were pretty but . . . well . . . dumb (or at least they acted dumb); it's a huge turn off. Sister Jo is and has always been a knock out, but I married her because she's smart.

Be Clean. Smell is big for guys (girls, too, so I've been told). Shower as needed, and if you want to go that extra step, find some of that good smelling lotion or hair stuff. And, not just smell, but be clean in speech and thought, too.

Be Respected. Do what's right, hold to your standards, and respect yourself. Not to be premature, but you need to know this eventually: No Man Can Love a Woman He Doesn't Respect. You can take that to the bank.

Be Positive. No one likes a downer.  Always look for the bright spot in things.  Laugh.  Smile.  Lift the Spirits of those around you.


That's probably enough for now. We don't want you driving him TOO crazy . . .

- Bro Jo

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Follow Up - Moving On

[Readers:  The following letter is a follow up from the writer of "Moving On".  Read the original letter and column HERE.  - Bro Jo]


Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you so much for your wonderful advice.

In the meantime of you writing me back.... He came home for Christmas break and I took him to a dance. I know you probably wouldn't agree to taking college guys to high school dances and that this doesn't adhere to your "let him pursue you" advice but I didn't realize it at the time and I had asked him a long time ago and I was still unstable haha. We had an amazing time together. My guy friend told me that when the guys in our group were with each other he told them all... "A tip for all you guys, don't take your ex-girlfriend on a date, you'll just wind up falling in love with her again." To sum it up we ended up getting back together (keep reading :) ) and these past two weeks have been two of the happiest I’ve had in a long time. He was so sweet to me as always. I felt so taken care of. And I got to spend part of Christmas with his family and cute little siblings whom I'd missed. I just felt whole again.

Well through my happiness I knew it wasn't right. I prayed and fasted what was the right thing to do but I didn't seem to be getting an answer. Now I know that I was just blocking out the answer that I didn't want - that now isn't the right time for a serious relationship. Too late for that haha. So two days ago he came to my door in tears. He told me that although he's been so happy it just didn't feel right and that he'd been praying but that he wanted it so much he didn't want the right answer (sounds like me). So we broke it off and it feels like I'm starting over. All these questions about lines and boundaries. So you're advice helps so much. I know I was bordering on if not falling into annoying last time haha and I want things to be different. I just wanted to be there for him and let him know I still care blah blah blah but I think I can make it work this time. It's not about me. It's about his mission. And i get comfort in the fact that I'm doing the right thing and being obedient.

So there aren't really any questions in there haha just an update i guess. Now I'm just focusing on being happy and trying to look at things in an eternal perspective - taking one day at a time. I have my family who loves me and great friends and I still have his friendship. I got it pretty good :)

Thank you again for your advice and if you'd like to comment again I'd love to hear it!

(name withheld)


Dear NN –

I've got nothing to add! Thank you for you kind words and testimony of the Gospel.

- Bro Jo

Friday, February 19, 2010

When Your Brother Chooses to Be Gay

Dear Bro Jo,

I love your blog and enjoy reading all the advice you give on a variety of subjects. I have written to you once before and it helped me out a lot. But now, I'm writing to you about an entire different matter.

My brother and I are the only two children so we have a good bond. He has always been helpful throughout my life whether it be on school to fashion advice. I always looked up to him as a role model. But then, a realization hit me hard.

My brother is gay. I don't know if he ever told my parents and he has never confessed it to me. But, he does not bother to hide the fact. He lives with his boyfriend and his Facebook page admits it all. I didn't realize he was gay until about 4 years ago. At the time, I had no idea how to handle it. But I realized that even though I didn't necessarily accept that he was gay, he's my brother and I love him.

Some quick (random) facts about him:
-He's 15 years older than me
-We're half-siblings, same dad, different mothers. Doesn't make him any less my brother.
-He is living quite well as a lawyer
-As far as I know, never encountered any abuse from any members of my family.

I agree completely with the Church's view on homosexuality. But now, with my own brother, I have no idea how my views on the topic should be.

He also took his name off the Church members list. I never accepted that fact either. He revealed to me that he didn't plan on telling my Dad either. (My mom isn't a member and wouldn't feel too much grief from it, which is another situation for another time).

Every time he visits, we always hang out. We go to the movies, go out to eat, go shopping, etc etc etc. But it's so weird to think that whenever I spot a good-looking guy, he's noticing him too. One time, we were eating at a restaurant and out waiter was definitely 'out-of-the-closet'. He and my brother started flirting. I did nothing but just sit there quietly and pretend to be really interested in my potatoes.

I still love my brother and he is still a role model to me. But I don't know if I could ever accept him truly for his homosexuality. I remember being about 6 and I had never been a flower girl in a wedding. He promised me that whenever he got married, I'd be the one sprinkling flowers down the isle, no matter what age. Now, I don't know, if he ever married his boyfriend, if I could even go to his wedding because of my views on the matter. I have never shown my brother any harsh feelings and could never think of shunning him. I plan to always have him be included in my life. But will my views get in the way of accepting him fully?
I have never discussed this with my parents because I still don't know if they know about him.

How can I accept my brother for who he is?

Sincerely,

Flying with the Right-Wing


Dear Flying -

Start by realizing that it's not your job to accept or reject your brother; it's your job to love him.

(It's also not your job to "out" him to your parents.  If he was in danger - and I'll admit that his life-style choice IS dangerous, but it's not as if he's a minor living at home and doing drugs - then it would be best to encourage him to speak first, then to speak up if he refused.  Likewise, you should encourage him to talk to your parents, but understand that he's an adult and needs to choose for himself.)

We don't love everything about everyone we know (as awesome as Sister Jo and I both are, I promise that we each do things that irritate the other, sometimes we irritate each other daily); we love the person, not necessarily everything they do.

But you ARE right; there is a line. At some point failure to make our opinions and feelings known can at best be seen as an endorsement of the behavior (or choice), and our acquiescence can lead to the other person hurting us and themselves.

If my child commits a crime, should I turn him in? For me the answer is "yes, but only if he's unwilling to do the right thing on his own". Is it fair to compare your brother's homosexuality with a crime? For you it may just be. Just as he has his agency, so do you.

You can't tell your brother what to do, and you probably shouldn't offer your unsolicited opinion unless he asks, or makes you feel uncomfortable.

For example, after the waiter left, it would have been OK to say "Hey, brother, that made me pretty uncomfortable." I would expect him to be defensive, perhaps even lecture you about love and acceptance; just sit and listen respectfully.

When he's done you can counter with: "Just because I love you doesn't mean that I have to like everything you do, nor does it give you the right to belittle me about how I feel. I told you how I feel, you told me how you feel, I want you to stay a part of my life, and I hope you want that, too. On this one we're just going to have to agree to disagree, but I need you to know that you're doing somethings that I feel are wrong. I tell you that because I love you, and I hope you love me enough to understand."

Hopefully he'll realize that in the same way he expects to be accepted by you for who he has chosen to be that he must, in all fairness, accept you for whom you've chosen to be.

If he doesn't, if he gives you the "all of me or none of me" ultimatum, again that's his choice. Recognize that type of intolerant bullying for what it is, and pray that he changes his mind.

But always love him.

To elaborate along those lines, Sister Jo and I have a few non-LDS relatives who have live-in relationships (the fastest way to guarantee that the relationship will end in disaster, by the way, is living together). We love them and the person they're involved with, but we don't allow non-married couples to sleep in the same room in our home. When they come to visit they either need to sleep separately or somewhere else. Our children need to see our consistency when it comes to upholding our standards. In the same regard, we never allow alcohol in our home, even if someone brings it with them for an occasion.

Our house. Our rules.

It's one of the Great and Wonderful things about having your own place.

Good luck with your brother; don't forget that he too is a Child of God, and deserves to be loved and treated as such.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Questioning "Divine Nature"

Dear Brother Johnston,

I've been thinking about a lot of things lately. . .family, friends, school...Church, but most especially my individual worth. I just haven't been feeling as strong as I used to. And added the occurrence of some problems with a friend, I've been pondering about my mission in life - if there is even something left for me to do.

Given in lessons and from the counsel of Church leaders, we are told that no two people are created exactly alike; but are each unique: given their spiritual gifts and divinely appointed work to do in this life. I find hope in this and in the love of my Savior, but as things become more difficult, it's crucial to gain the testimony I need.

Brother Johnston, I respect you and I'm asking if you can be another added testimony of individual worth. To not only help me with my testimony, but to help others pondering the same questions.

Trouble-seeking



Dear Seeking,

You can lean on my testimony any time you want.

I know that you're a child of our Heavenly Father, AND I know that he loves you. I promise that the Lord has things for you to do, and remind you that things happen in his timetable, not ours.

Sometimes life is very difficult. Sometime not so much. There will be easier times ahead, and there may be more difficult times ahead. Neither you nor I know. But I do know that it always gets better, eventually, and that the joys in this life are always worth whatever trials or tribulations we go through.

Every year, particularly around Christmas, I watch "It's a Wonderful Life" - the old Jimmy Stewart / Frank Capra movie. It reminds me that each of us touches so many lives in positive ways, no matter how bad things may seem, the world is always better off for our having been in it.

You're not alone, you know. Each of us has doubts; about our value . . . about our talents . . . about our testimonies and our worth. Satan works very hard to make us feel alone and worthless.

But he's wrong.

Simply by the nature of your existence I know that you can do things better than I can - at least 2!

:)

If I knew you better I could help you figure out what those are, but I bet that deep down you know some things you're good at; some things you really enjoy.

When we despair, I think it helps to find the blessings for which we are grateful, no matter how small. Think of those, and be prayerfully thankful.

One of mine?

I'm grateful I know you.

- Bro Jo


Brother Johnston,

Thank you! I noticed I didn't put that in my last email - and you deserve a big one. Especially for your testimony.

After much prayer, thought, and help from certain other friends, things have taken a whole different perspective. The days that followed after receiving your email, it was weird - because things started happening, and I knew it was Heavenly Father's way of guiding me. 


I suppose they were always there, but my eyes and heart were truly open this time. It brought me to a whole new level of humility and testimony of God's love for His children; for, even though it was someone else who had been wronged, He still blessed me through those guided by His Spirit - and how do I know this?  Because I felt it. 

I felt it through the compassion of others, some of which who aren't even members of our faith. And I am so GRATEFUL for those selfless people who were worthy to be guided, especially when they could have ignored those inspired feelings. They made a difference and helped a person like me experience first-hand how much the Savior loves each of us. And just how strong and pure that Love is. They may not realize it, but they saved a life doing what the Savior would do.

Thank you for answering my email. I am counting my blessings, and your willingness to share your testimony is truly one of them.

Again - thank you Brother Johnston.

- Seeking



Dear Seeking,

Anytime.

- Bro Jo

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ready to Bloom

Dear Bro Jo,

I am new to your site, and thought I would try it out, as I have a dilemma. As you are probably aware, the church does dances for youth 14 and older. Since I am 14, I am new to these dances. I have been to a few dances before and I love them all. My young womens leaders offer to do hair and makeup. (I always look like a princess:) I get to be with some of my girlfriends and dance with boys. Couldn't get much better, right?

Wrong. Of my girlfriends, I am not the most athletic, the skinniest, the most talented, the smartest, I am kind of a dud. (And don't get me wrong, I am not blaming my lack of "boy magnetism" on my friends.) Each of those girls got asked more than 5 times by boys to dance. I got asked once. I tried asking a boy, and he declined, so I gave up after that. There were a lot of songs where all of them were asked, and I wasn't, so I was just left alone on the dance floor like a girl without friends, and boys would not want to dance with me even more. And during the fast song

I guess what I'm asking is how do I get a boy to ask me instead of going through the awkwardness of me asking him? If there is no way, then how do I ask him without the awkwardness?

- The Lone Dancer


Dear LD -

Thanks for checking it out - it's still pretty new - we hit the one-year anniversary on February 1st - 10,000 regular readers so far!

Check out the Facebook Fansite, too, for more great stuff.


Not everyone is a supermodel, but then, if it means anything, even those people who are famous for being pretty in real life typically don't look like we've been lead to believe they do.

Every girl has something beautiful about her; that's a promise. Even you (and I'll bet it's more than one thing).

But each of us can do better with what we've been given, too. Check out "Bro Jo's HOW a GIRL CAN GET a GUY'S ATTENTION" for some things that you may want to try.

But remember, too, that one of the most attractive things about anyone is confidence. I know that right now that may not give you much consolation, but the truth is my young friend that you have Divine Nature and Individual Worth (sound familiar?) and as a Daughter of God you've been given Gifts and Talents. Discover those and magnify them!

As you become more confident in your talents, and more confident in sharing them, others will find you more and more attractive.

I promise you're not a dud!

Give yourself time to blossom into the glorious person you are meant to be!

- Bro Jo


PS - I should also point out that not getting asked to dance at dances by guys is THEIR fault (and the fault of their YM Leaders and Fathers - and you can tell those brethren I said so) not yours.

There's not much you can do about that, except to realize that the cowardice or lack of chivalry of boys is not a reflection on your beauty.

I'm doing what I can to fix that from here.  Just do me a favor and teach your boys, when the time comes, that Good Guys ask girls to dance, and the Really Good Guys include those girls who don't get asked often.

Friday, February 12, 2010

There's This Missionary . . .

Dear Bro Jo!

I don't think I have ever been so Frustrated in my whole life!

I've Been reading your Blog for probably just over a year but I never actually thought I would need to Email you.

Here I am.

My problem is one I swore to myself that I would never have!

I can almost not even bring myself to say it but...

There's this missionary... (I can just hear you sighing "not another one") but yes... and i think i more than just have some stupid girly Crush on him. I'm the YSA Rep for my branch and he called one night to ask me about one of the less active members but I’m sure that before he
called he knew that I had feelings for him. anyway after the conversation ended he called up someone that I’m really close to. He asked her how I felt about him and if I liked his spiritual side and stuff like that. she asked him if he had feelings for me and he said "I can't tell you that because I’m a missionary" which I think is a huge cop out since as a missionary he shouldn't even have had that conversation with her about me in the first place.

When I was called as YSA rep I was given a blessing that I would find my husband soon... and that really freaked me out since I know every YSA Male in This country (yes Ireland is seriously lacking) and the thought of marrying any of them or getting married at all pretty much freaked the life out of me.

I hate thinking about marrying a missionary because well... he's a missionary...
plus the fact that he now knows about all my feelings and I get to know NOTHING because he's a missionary. don't get me wrong... I'd rather never have met him than stop him from being a good missionary but it is pretty frustrating.

I feel stupid because I would probably do anything for him and although I’m almost sure he would do the same I could just be some joke to him, I’m sure he's not that kind of person but missionaries are totally different people when they go home, right?

I just don't know what to do? I guess you'll probably tell me something like " wait till he gets home in 8 months and then see what happens because him serving the lord is more important than validating your feelings"

Am I Right?


From Seriously Frustrated


Dear Seriously!


Yup.

That's exactly what I'll say (you HAVE been reading!).

(nice email address, by the way)

The reality is that IF this missionary is doing what he's supposed to be doing he won't call, he won't see you alone, he can't write to you when he transfers (and you're not supposed to write him, either) so, unless you guys break the rules (which of course means we'd be talking about a guy who ISN'T doing what he's supposed to do) nothing can happen at all for 8 months.

You should also be asking yourself the question of whether or not you're the only girl. Was he like this with anyone in his last area? Will he fall for someone in his next area? Is having a "platonic girlfriend" the way this particular missionary copes with the lack of female companionship while he serves?

All of those things are possible.

And there's no way for you to know.

The guy needs to be off-limits. (Is it possible that the "safety" of this "relationship" is one of the things that makes it attractive to you? Are you more comfortable because you believe nothing can happen?)

So . . . what if he really is someone who would make a great spouse for you? (Notice I didn't say "THE guy for you" - I don't believe in just one guy for one girl - despite what I told Sister Jo when we were dating.) Is that possible?

Sure.

But improbable.

As we both said, he's totally off limits for 8 months, then he'll head home, where I Promise he's an at least slightly different guy than you've met. Once there he'll likely be dealing with school, family, girls he knew before the mission, and new ones. IF he comes right back to see and date you, well at best that's a little weird. So the best thing for him to do would be to write to you. As pen pals you'll get to know each other better, perhaps deciding there's something, perhaps not.

There's the possibility you could move to where he'll be, perhaps in school. But that's a pretty big and possibly expensive sacrifice to make, especially if things don't work out . . .

Just as it would be a huge gamble for him to move back to where you are post-mission in hopes that there really is something between you.

Sure, I know it happens all the time, and yeah, I know several couple that ended up happily and eternally married after starting that way. If it happens, it happens. But I don't recommend it.

I'm sure he's got your address.

All you can (should) do now is:

a) don't be alone with him while he's there
b) don't contact him once he leaves
c) report him if he contacts you in an inappropriate way before he's released
d) wait to see if you hear from him after he gets home
e) don't put your life, especially your dating life, on hold hoping for something that may or may not ever happen

So . . . Yup. Pretty much what you thought I'd say.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stuck in the Mud

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm sure you've seen/heard this question many times. "Can a girl ask a guy out?"

Well, I am a traditional kind of girl. I think it's just classic for the guy to ask the girl. Now I know the times are a-changin' and girls can take the initiative if they want to, but I sure do wish there was someway to keep to the good ol' classics.

I've had my eye on someone at church for awhile. (Since I was like..15). Now we are both 17. I would just like to have ONE date (group date of course) for us to go on and get to know each other in that kind of setting. He is super shy and is the type to hide away in his room rather than make the move. We do talk at church, dances, and other activities so we know each other well enough to be more than acquaintances but barely at that "friend-friend" level. How can I still keep my traditional thinking yet move forward with the times?

Sincerely,

Stuck in the Mud


Dear Stuck -

Can a girl ask a guy out?


She can . . . but she shouldn't.

When a girl asks a guy out she's not "liberated" or "modern", she's emasculating at best, at worst she loses her power and mystique.

Like all standards, Stuck, the way we stick to the "classics" is to . . . (wait for it) . . . actually stick to them.

There's nothing "cutting edge" about girls asking guys out, moreover, history teaches us that it typically doesn't end well.

There are times when it's OK, such as Girl-Ask-Guy dances, but even then it's better if a girl asks a guy that has already taken her out at least once.

That said, there are many things you CAN do to get the boy to ask YOU out. Check out "Bro Jo's HOW a GIRL CAN GET a BOY'S ATTENTION"  and "Bro Jo's HOW a GIRL CAN GET a GUY to ASK HER on a DATE"

Whether the two of you go on a date or not, end up married or not, you'll both be better off if you help each other learn to date.


Don't give up on him so easily, and don't make it too easy for him either.

- Bro Jo

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dealing with Gossip

Dear Bro Jo,

I need some advice, and been a Bro Jo fan, I am always enlightened by your stern honesty and your helpful advice.

So anyways...

I'm currently serving as a YSA female rep for my ward. I love my YSA to bits and over the years I've seen a major change within many of the YSA. The progress that they have made has brought a lot of joy to my heart and I hope to keep it that way. Unfortunately, "gossip" decided to knock on our YSA door, and irrevocably in the form of our ward Relief Society President (RSP).

A bit puzzling for you??? Me too...

Just recently I was consulted by one of my YSA's that our RSP warned her to "stay away from (us) the YSA girls, because they aren't who you think they are", furthermore, she adds: "you can't trust them". This was just a few snippets of the conversation between her and the RSP. I was really angry and put off guard when I was told this. I hadn't expected a member, especially a RSP to say such things.

Gossip is definitely "Satan's Snare" and I know of many members who have fallen away because of things that have been said by other members about them. I DO NOT want any of the YSA to be sucked into a whirlpool of "he said-she said" rumors.

The un-named YSA isn't fussed with this "accusation", but it really demeans the bond and trust that's been created within the YSA. I really want to confront the RSP and literally ask her "What's her problem", because she's done this before, but I wasn't rep at the time, so I didn't feel that it was my place to do so. I don't want to stir up any contention with her or anyone else for that matter, so I really need a solution to sorting this issue out. I feel the need to consult my bishop and have some sort of sit-down with the RSP, but at the same time, i don't want to make this a major issue. However, I know that if I don't say or do anything NOW, she might probably take advantage of the situation and continue to add more LIES to her story. (sorry, I'm a bit frustrated at the moment). What should I do Bro Jo???

I'll be eagerly awaiting your response. :D

From a Frustrated Rep!



Dear Rep.,

God bless your for your service and dedication!

What you should do is . . . . wait.

Nothing good ever comes when we react in anger and frustration. Ever. (It takes a Christ to pull off Righteously Indignant well.)

You have every right to feel how you feel, but as the Spirit has hinted to you, resolving this in public isn't the right course. (Can you sense how even reacting to the gossip may, even if it's with your Bishop, be gossip itself?)

You said the YSA sister involved doesn't seem to be harboring anything negative . . . towards you and your group . . . but it IS possible she's not a big fan of the RSP, right?

So then we begin to wonder who and how everything started . . . is anyone telling the whole story . . . and so on.

Let it go. Kill with kindness and faith. Show everyone through your words and actions that you still love and sustain your RSP, imperfect though she may be (aren't we all?).

This is an opportunity for you to lead the way as a Disciple of Christ by treating others better than you feel they're treating you. It may be difficult, but Oh So Worth It.

And, by doing so, Little Sister, will feel so much better.

If you want to go the extra step, bring the two sisters together over a cup of cocoa (just the three of you). Talk positively, share the Spirit, talk about everything but this. If it comes up, smile, tell them both that you love them, and move on.

Yours in Christ,


- Bro Jo

Friday, February 5, 2010

One Kiss Too Many?

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm 18 years old and I’m a senior this year.

Throughout all of high school all my friends seemed to talk about one thing:  kissing.

I didn't get my first kiss until this year and now I’ve kissed two girls. I sing in the choir at my high school and we did a lot of Christmas gigs. One of my best friends that I’ve always had a little crush on sang in the group with me, (we'll call her Mary).

I spent a lot of time with her because of being in this group with her. She's way easy to talk to and we always have a good time, we've been on a few dates but nothing has ever come of them. I realized that I’ve always liked her but never really tried anything because I was afraid, and making relationships with other girls was just easier. Bro Jo, I’m way ashamed of kissing those two girls now that I like Mary more than any of the other ones.

Here's the killer:  Mary has never been kissed. I feel way dumb for not waiting to kiss someone that I really like and respect, peer pressure was a big part of it but those kisses were my decision. I like Mary a lot, and I respect and appreciate the person that she is. I know that I shouldn't steady date in High School, and my mission is more than likely less than a year away. But I feel like she's someone I want to stay in contact with but I feel like I’ve ruined the possibilities of a future relationship because of the person I’ve been in High School.

What do you think I should do?

Do you think the possibility is still there and even if it is do you think I should still think about it or pursue it?

I read your advice on Facebook and I love and appreciate it. So, any advice you have for me personally would be greatly appreciated because I’m stumped on this one.

Sincerely,

Confused


Dear Confused,

(Am I getting a bit jaded after doing this a while, or is it ironic how many readers sign letters "Confused"???)

Alright, Brother, here we go:

First of all, I don't think you've ruined your future, with Mary or anyone else, necessarily. As mistakes go, I appreciate the sentiment, and I certainly wish you'd been a slight more judicious, but IMHO I don't think we're talking about anything that's a huge deal here (good thing we're just talking about kissing here, and not sex - THAT would be a different story - for a lot of reasons), but then as far as she's concerned that's really her call to make, not mine.

You're both still young, you being a Pre-Mi and all (I pronounce that Pree-mee, like a baby, just so you know) but honestly if I ever get a letter from a YSA Gal (weird, now that I think of it, that I haven't yet) who says "Bro Jo I really like this guy but I just found out he kissed two girls in High School and now I don't know what to do . . ." I'd tell her to

Get

Over

It.

(So long as we're still talking about kissing)

So . . . what now?

I think you should take Mary out on a couple Casual Group Dates between now and the time you leave (provided, of course, that she's old enough), just follow the Dating Rules  (and you may want to review my column on Kissing Appropriateness).

Unless there's more to the story that you've not told me, I think you're fine but again, she'll have to make up her own mind.

I Would Not bring up the other girls anytime soon. If she asks if you've ever kissed anyone before I wouldn't lie, but I'd be chivalrous (and dodge the question) with something like "Mary, when I'm out with you I don't even think about other girls" and "I'm not the type of guy that, when and if he ever kisses a girl, would tell anyone; as far as I'm concerned something that special should be between just her and I".

Hey, Sister Jo is no neophyte, and that type of stuff still works on her!

When you leave on your mission, focus on that. Don't ask nor expect any girl to wait for you. If Mary writes to you, write her back. Share with her your testimony of the Gospel and your love for the people and the work.

If you still feel the same, and if she's not married, when you come back then take her out again.

You never know.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Is "French Kissing" OK?

Dear Bro Jo,

I am a senior in High School and am ready to go off to college. I have been dating my best friend and could never be happier. He is a nonmember with very high standards. He first asked me out when I was 16, but he was a year younger and I told him our church standards and said I wouldn't date him til he was 16. He became my best friend and much to my surprise, he waited. This is where the problem come in.

He kissed me and I wrote it in my journal and my parents had a cow. I was not allowed to talk to him for a long time. As a result I stopped writing in my journal. I don't talk about my personal life to my parents or my friends. After 10 months, my parents finally love him so I don't want to mess that up. We've French kissed before but that is it. He isn't forcing me to do anything. In fact he has a Strength for Youth pamphlet and follows it so I can "always be temple worthy." So is French Kissing wrong, I mean our relationship is not built on it. It is just the Strength of Youth is so vague when it comes to this subject.

Thank you

- Anonymous


Dear Ann,

Ah . . . Swapping Spit . . . Rolling Tongues . . . Tonsil Hockey!

Never a Good Idea in Flu Season.

Frankly I think the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet is a little less vague than you want to believe . . . but then this isn't really an issue of kissing. Your problem is that you're looking for reasons to justify behavior that you, deep down, feel is wrong.

He's a great guy . . . your parents over reacted . . . it's only a little kissing . . . blah, blah, blah.

It's not that the act of kissing a boy at your age is horrible, to me it's more an issue of your attitude. You're writing me hoping I'll say "nah, it's not that big of a deal; your parents need to relax" (as if you've never read anything I've ever written about parental advice, following the rules, PDA in general, or kissing specifically - you guys do read through the past columns, right?), but IF I was going to say that, and I'm not, the next question is: what's next?

I doubt you two are agressively expressing your mutual attraction with the lights on in front of your Grandma, are you? So what's the deal? Are you in the car, on the sofa, or hiding in a closet?

(Sweet Betsy, tell me you're not in a bedroom!)

You may say I'm an old guy who's over-reacting, but I'm no moron; I know that what you're doing requires you to be alone, and I've got a nickel that says you're doing what you're doing in a "dark or mostly dark" place. Remember, I'm a married guy, and as such have gone "all the way" (7 kids, thank you very much) and I know the distance from Passionate Kissing to the Next Step is a very short one, as is each step beyond that. Once the motor gets running it gets more and more difficult to turn it off. (I've got another nickel that says you've run pretty close to that line, and perhaps crossed it - a little - already.)

You believe you can draw a line, and I'm telling you it doesn't work, not forever. No couple who likes each other and is attracted to each other can play and win the "how far can we go without going too far" game.

So knock it off.

You're graduating in six months. You shouldn't even have a boyfriend at this point. And let's be honest, no matter how great this guy is, once you get to college and have a chance to date Return Missionaries who are marriage eligible your little High School Boyfriend will be nothing more than a distraction or a plaything, if you keep him around at all, which I doubt (and you shouldn't).

So stop playing around.

Get back to Casual Group Dating. Follow the rules. Mix it up. And get prepared to move on to the next stage of your life.

- Bro Jo

PS - Sister Jo wants me to remind you that you don't need to have a boyfriend to have value, and "nice guy" or not, you shouldn't waste your time with someone who's not yet qualified to bring the Priesthood into your married life (AFTER he gets baptized and ordained, perhaps, but not before), and that needs to be your focus. That and your school work.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Getting Him to Ask You to Prom

Yo Bro Jo!

I started reading your column a bit ago and overall you seem to have the right idea. Anyway, I'm 16 and I know this person of the male persuasion who I am good friends with. We'll call him Bob. Bob's in my seminary class, and we were assigned to be scripture buddies (we're supposed to call each other every night to remind each other to read our scriptures, although more and more often we forget about the reminding part and just chat. But we still read our scriptures, don't worry ).

He is a good LDS boy, and a great example for this particular kind-of-struggling LDS girl. He's also kind of oblivious to hints. OK, really oblivious. How does one subtly convince a boy such as this to take one to the prom (or any date, really, but prom's the one I'm worried about right now)? By the way, I am not a blunt person. I am not sure I want to say "When are you going to ask me to prom?" or similar. Your dating advice usually makes sense, so... advice? Am I maybe just a coward? Should I ask him myself? Tell me true, ok?

Sincerely,

Free-range, Cruelty-Free Chicken


Dear Free-range Chick,

(My compliments on one of the best pseudonyms I've gotten so far!)

(And the Seminary Teacher in me loves that you're reading the scriptures.)

No, unless it's a girl-ask-guy dance (we call ours here "TWIRP" - The Woman Is Required to Pay) you shouldn't ask him out (in fact, even in those situations it's better to ask a guy you've already gone on a date with).

Yes, you're a chicken, and so is he (neither of you are alone, by the way).

Three things are possible: a) he really is clueless, b) he's very shy, or c) he's a nice guy but has no intention of asking you.

The only way for you know know which is to come right out and ask him. I don't recommend going to a formal dance with someone you haven't dated before if at all possible (it's a lot of money to blow for both the guy AND the girl on what should be a fun and special evening to spend it with someone it turns out you can't stand) and fortunately you still have time to get a Casual Group Date or two in before prom season.

You're going to have to be brave and come right out and ask him if he's going to ask you out. Sorry, but there's no better way. (A girl's got to know!)

You can check out "Bro Jo's HOW a GIRL CAN GET a GUY to ASK HER ON a DATE"  for some pretty good ideas, but in your case I might lump it all into one package.

"Hey, I know it's still January, but I'm thinking that if you have any intention on taking me to the Prom this year you should probably take me on a Casual Group Date or two between here and then, so I need to know: have you given any thought to asking me to prom?"

And if he says "yeah", then you respond with "Good, because I'm hoping you ask. For now, when are you going to ask me out on a date?"

I can't guarantee that he'll say "yeah", or that he'll ask you out - there's a lot of guys in this world, especially LDS ones that have no dating skills What - So - Ever. I'm trying to fix that the best I can . . .

(You may want to drop a huge hint by telling him you think he should check out "Bro Jo's HOW to ASK a GIRL to a FORMAL DANCE" and even right the words "hint - hint - hint" after the link.)

I can't train them all, so you sisters are going to have to help do some of that training lest you want to sit at home on Friday nights, unless you're willing to risk missing the prom.

If he still doesn't ask you, then back off and start looking for someone else. Don't be mad at him, that wouldn't be fair. But don't waste too much time on him either.

Learning these important skills will get you prom dates now, and they may help you find a husband later.

- Bro Jo

PS - let me know how it goes, would ya?