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Thursday, December 29, 2011

When Its Time to Move On - Part 2

Dear Readers,

A year ago today I posted a letter from "Pickled" who had a problem with this guy who was being a real jerk. I told her to move on. (You can read the original letter and my response HERE.)

What I didn't share with you then is that she wrote me AGAIN, less than a month later, still having problems with the SAME GUY!

Her second email and my response (from over a year ago) follow. The goal is not to pick on her or single her out here (she's since moved on . . . several times, I think) but to provoke discussion.

Why do you think people, especially young people, stay involved with people that are a cancer in their lives, especially when their still young and single?

Post appropriate comments below.

Happy New Year!

- Bro Jo

Hey Bro Jo,

It's me again! Same guy, almost same problem, but I just need your advice.

The weekend after this message was exchanged, I went home to visit family and friends, and this guy was there. We all got together as friends to go to the cinema to see the new Harry Potter film. I'd already told him I needed to talk with him, and he'd agreed, but that he didn't want me to 'reject him in front of everybody else'. As it happens, we didn't have time to talk privately about it all weekend, but when we were with all our friends, he was trying really hard to stick close with me, whereas I was trying really hard to do the opposite.

I felt like a child, like I was being stupid about cooties or something! All our friends were aware something was up, but me and this guy have had our fair share of 'scenes' before, so they just ignored it. I think my actions over that weekend really puzzled him. Then, the following week when we'd both returned to our respective Universities, I stayed silent until he called me, at which point I explained that I didn't think we should talk anymore, because the friendship/relationship thing we had was unhealthy.

He was confused, but I think so hurt that he just accepted it. Since then we haven't spoken or texted or anything.

I didn't really think of him at all, except sometimes when I'd feel a bit guilty that I wasn't so troubled by this new gap in my life. Upon reflection, I think I felt a little freer, to be honest, and felt that I could build more relationships with the YSA in my Branch and focus more on things right in front of me. At one point he wrote a facebook status saying 'wishing someone would stop being an idiot and call me', which I wouldn't have even seen if one of our mutual friends hadn't texted me to point out that he was obviously talking about me. I was pretty certain that she knew all about it (she and another friend had gone to visit him at Uni) and I had a hunch that he'd asked her to mediate between us and alert me to this message. I pointed this out to her, and her silence on the subject after that pretty much confirmed that.

Last night, however, I was running the YSA FHE in my Branch and I got a call from him. I let it ring; I had a valid excuse for not picking up and I didn't call him back when I became free. Then this evening he called me again and asked me to go on Skype. He sounded upset, and I couldn't think of an excuse, so I said yes. He told me that my reasons for abandoning him didn't make sense, that he didn't have romantic feelings for me anymore, that I obviously didn't care about him as much as he cared about me because I hadn't missed him at all (which, to be fair, is true - I hadn't particularly missed him. But I basically remained silent and talked only when I had to. It was really awkward).

He reasoned that because he doesn't have romantic feelings for me anymore, that we can just be friends again. I told him that I thought girl/guy relationships were unhealthy and didn't work, which he again found ridiculous. He demanded to know if I'd cut myself off from all my other guy friends - which I've not - but the difference is, I rarely speak to these guys. The people he named, I text them once a fortnight, if at all. I tried to explain the difference, and also tried to explain about your blog. I'd mentioned it before to him when we'd still been speaking, so he knew what I meant.

I sent him the link to your blog and told him to read. We hung up there.

It wasn't a good-feeling conversation. I just find it really hard to tell him exactly what I mean because I feel like I'm telling him contradictory things all the time, like I have double standards. He's accusing me of being unfeeling, and sometimes I wonder the same. I just lost a really good friend; why am I not sadder about this? The only thing I seem to be worried about is possibly having to mingle in the future because we have the same friends!

I used to want him to be a member of the Church so I could date him and it'd all be okay. That went down the drain completely, and I'm beginning to think that what's happened between us, and my reasons for it all, will turn him against the Church completely. I know he'll never accept the teachings from my mouth, but I used to hope that maybe he'd listen to someone else because of his association with me might make him curious. Now I think he hates God and the Church even more. That worries and saddens me more than anything, and I don't know how to fix it.

That was a long rant! I would say sorry, but I think you're used to it! Haha

Sorry all the same,

- Pickled

Dear Pickled,

I think this guy is a cancer in your life. What kind of friend consistently belittles another friend's beliefs and faith? What kind of potential boyfriend mocks you, demands that you put his feelings first, and expects you to do the calling?

You said you didn't mean to make him sound like a jerk, and you didn't, but he is.

First of all, friend or not, you need to stop initiating the contact. If he wants to talk, let him do the calling. People call me "outdated" about this all the time, I don't care. When a girl calls a guy, especially consistently and, in your case, on demand, she gives him too much power over her. It's true now, was true 20, 50, and 100 years ago, and it will be true in the future.

Another thing you need to realize is that this guy may "want" you (um . . . to be his girlfriend . . .), but he doesn't respect you. He thinks your faith is dumb and that you're dumb for living your life that way. No man will ever love a woman he doesn't respect. As a friend or otherwise.

Now, I will say that I think something more may be going on here with him. He may truly think you're dumb and is trying to convert you to his way of thinking, perhaps as some kind of power play; he may also be, although inappropriately, begging for you to testify to him of the truth, perhaps because deep down he knows you're right and he knows that he needs to repent and get his act together. However, even if the latter is the case, it IS NOT a good idea to date someone in hopes of spiritually saving them. People need to be converted from within, not because they have a romantic interest in someone.

This is going to be painful, and it will likely get ugly. Better to deal with it now than to drag it out.

(By the way, I don't agree with this guy that you've been stringing him along. That is, however, further proof that "Guys Can't Stay Just Close Friends with Girls"; you think you're just being nice, he thinks you're acting like you have strong romantic feelings for him.)

Stop calling. Stop writing. If he calls or writes, respond, but he has to make the initial effort Every Single Time. When he's belligerent or insulting cut him off. Hang up. You must demand that he place you on a pedestal of respect. I believe that when you stop letting him badger and manipulate you he'll go away (that's what bullies do). He'll either do that or change (but be cognizant that real change takes time; it doesn't happen in a phone call, weekend or month).

If he asks you out, tell him no. If he acts hurt or bewildered, be kind but aloof. If he asks you why, tell him that you feel strongly about being Sealed for Time and All Eternity in the Temple to a worthy priesthood holder who loves you, who respects you, and who will treat you like a princess and a daughter of God, (which you and every woman is entitled to, by the way). Tell him that you're no longer a child and you're at a point in your life right now where it makes no sense to spend any romantic energy on someone who can't give you what you want.

Don't tone it down. Don't make excuses. Don't try to spare his feelings or give him false hope.

Be clear. Be strong. Be faithful and determined.

With guys "no" has to be very clear and said specifically. Anything else can be heard as "try harder" or "maybe later". Yes, we're just that obstinate (or dumb, if you prefer).

You deserve eternal happiness, and catering to a little boy's ego and demands is not the way to get there.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cheese Update - Part 3 (Cheese Checking In and Telling It Like It Is)

Dear Readers,

Three days of "Cheese" updates, three days in a row. 

This is Part 3.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Guess what!

I've been 16 for WEEKS now, and have been on actual, live dates! Hooray!

Most of them have been amazing and fun and wonderful and praiseworthy and of good report and lovely. In the course of such dates, though, I've had a few "stinkers" from which I've learned some things that you might want to share with your readers, particularly the young men. So, without further is:

Cheese's List of 
"What not to do when going out on a date with Mac, Cheese, or any other high school girl"

1. Don't lie! One guy asked me on a date by whining to my mom that he had asked me out every weekend for a month and claimed I had told him I was busy every time. In reality he had asked me to "hang out" once, and I couldn't because I had a game to cheer at. Um...first off, I don't "hang out' with guys. (Bro Jo says not to.) But second, and more important, just don't lie. Not cool. (And bonus uncool points for crying to Mommy about it. Seriously!)

2. Have a plan. Bro Jo says to.  A guy once showed up at my house with no double and no plan, and said he wanted to "spend some time, just the two of us alone." I guess he *may* have had a plan in mind, but not one that *I* was ok with. I walked him to the door and said "If you can get a double in the next few minutes, I'd love to still go out with you." Funny thing...within about 20 minutes he managed to find one. Miracles can happen for the motivated.

3. Don't change plans. But if you must change plans, let me know! One kid showed up for the date TWO HOURS early! It was for a day date, too, so he arrived at ten a.m. instead of noon. PLEASE! I want to look nice for you! I need time to get "cutified" (as my little sister would say.) Which brings me to #4....

4. Personal Hygiene . . . get some. The guy who showed up in an undershirt, who had come straight from the gym... uh... Y'all, I don't care how much you work out and how many abs you have...I DO NOT want to smell you right after the workout! (Ok...I maybe *do* care a little about how much you work out, and the abs and stuff...but SHOWER!)

It's really best if your car is clean, too--not just tidy and vacuumed, but also keep the music clean and at a volume where we can hear each other. It's hard for me to keep you smiling and laughing if we can't have a conversation.

5. Don't ditch me for another girl in the middle of the date. This hasn't actually happened to me, but it happened to my friend. If you don't want to go out with me, DON'T ASK! I promise I'll spend the whole date paying attention to you. You should return the favor.

6. Hand will know if I want to. Promise. If I am sitting on my hands, don't make a grab for them! Kissing...uh, yeah, again, you will know. But if you're not sure, ask. It's sweet and adorable. Making out...not with me, not with the girl you ditched me for. And certainly not with the candy bar you bought from a vending machine to demonstrate your patented technique. You have ruined snickers bars for me forever.

7. Don't confess your sins to me. I do not need or want to know that you are a porn addict, or gay, or what you have done with previous girls, or...any of that. It makes me want to run away screaming! Tell it to your bishop and/or parents. That's what I'm gonna try to convince you to do anyway.

8. Don't ask me to be your girlfriend, wait for you while you're on your mission, or marry you. (Seriously, Bro Jo, I've had all of these things happen to me in the last few weeks; what is WRONG with these guys? Why would they do that? Why do they turn crazy/stupid when talking to girls?)

The answer's gonna be "NO!" and then my friends, mother, and I will mock you mercilessly behind your back for weeks. I'm SIXTEEN! Why would I waste my most fun dating years by putting myself in some kind of lockdown? Casual group dates are awesome! I love them! Girls in "relationships" never get to go on them. If for some reason you find yourself uncontrollably, madly in love with me, take a deep breath and...go out with someone else. We can always go out again later when you've got it under control.

That's pretty much it. I'll get you a list of all the GREAT things that guys have done WELL soon, too. Because there are lots of them, and good stuff is worth copying/stealing, right?

I hope everything's going great for you & your family & that y'all have a merry christmas!


Dear Cheese,

As I know you know, sometimes I get letters from young people who are struggling with what, in a spiritual sense, we might call "big ticket items". I don't mind, and hope I'm being helpful, but it can be a bit . . . well, let's just say that some of them weigh pretty heavy on the soul. You're email brought some much appreciated joy and laughter!

A brilliantly written and humorous dose of reality that I hope many boys AND girls will enjoy and learn from. Thank you for sharing it with me, and for allowing me to share it with my readers.

Merry Christmas!

Best to you and your family,

(Tell Chunka I hope he's paying attention!)

- Bro Jo

PS:  For the record, I have NO IDEA what the heck is wrong with some of these guys (see esp. #8, above) other than their fathers and YM leaders have done a lousy job of training them (or, perhaps, haven't trained them at all).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cheese Update - Part 2 (Cheese Has a Dance-Date)

Dear Readers,

Three days of "Cheese" updates, three days in a row. 

This is Part 2.

- Bro Jo

Aloha, Bro Jo!

Hope all is well with you.

So, Cheese's big 16 is coming up in a few weeks, and I've got a question about her first date. I don't think this is something likely to come up too often, but still curious as to what you think.

She was asked to a formal dance by an EFY brother (who seems like a very nice kid) and Big Cheese and I agree that she's fine to go with him. Trouble is, he lives out of state and is flying up to take her out. He's staying with family that live close to our house, but this kind of threw some wrinkles in our planned dating rules, since he doesn't know many people in our area. So what's your take on out-of-state dates? Specifically:

1) Do you feel like an adult chaperon would be an acceptable substitute for a group? In this circumstance, Cheese was able to connect him in with a group of guy friends from her school who are planning on asking other girls, so the group is set up. But in the future, might an adult supervisor be acceptable? Cheese proposed having Daddy as chaperone might work. What do you think of that?

2) Logistics are kind of complex, since 17 year olds are not allowed to rent cars! Usually we would expect the guy to plan, pickup, & pay. In this case, what if Cheese does the driving? That's the easiest solution, since she has a car. But if for some reason it's *really* problematic for the girl to drive, we can probably figure out something with one of the other guys in the group doing the chauffeur-ing.

3) Ordinarily Big Cheese and I would want to meet this kid well before any planned date. But...he lives far away. We've talked to him and his parents on the phone, and his EFY counselor has highly recommended him, and we absolutely insist on some get-to-know-him time when he arrives in town, but do you think a half an hour the day of the date is ok? Or should we insist on meeting him when he gets into town on Friday before the dance on Saturday?

It seems kinda strange to me that we need to figure out rules for out-of-state dates, but there are actually a couple other scenarios where I could see this happening. Weird, eh?

Thanks for your help!

Mama Cheese

Dear Mama Cheese,

Aloha to you and Big Cheese!

The out-of-state thing IS weird, it CAN be complicated, but it does happen, most-often associated with formal dances and first dates (go figure). You and Big Cheese are absolutely right on target with you've planned (no surprise), and not making many of the grievous errors that many of your peers make (again, no surprise).

To your questions:

1) While Sister Jo and I have, on very rare occasions, been the "double" in the double date (only ever because the date was important to the Jo Kid involved and the other double backed out at the last minute), and I don't personally have a problem with a chaperon, kids find it very lame. I applaud Cheese for suggesting it, but my general answer is "don't". If you do, make it cool (like have him play "limo driver") or make it also a date for the two of you.

2) One of the other guys needs to drive. I've never had reason to bring this up before, so I appreciate this opportunity: when a young lady is driving the car and a young man is in the front seat it puts her in a vulnerable position. Flattering though it may be, if he doesn't have to watch the road, he can stare at her; plus, because she has to control the car, her hands are not available for defense . . . if needed. (Nice guy or not, a guy is still a guy.)

3) There are two reasons we want to know the people our children date: A) so that both kids understand that we support dating, but expect certain standards to be followed (a guy is significantly more likely to be a gentleman if he can easily visualize the girl's father saying "please take good care of my daughter and treat her with respect"), and B) so a parent can kill the date if necessary. We have to be very careful hitting the "kill" switch; son or daughter, a parent runs the risk of what I call the "Romeo and Juliet" syndrome when a potential date or romance gets squashed. In this case, since it’s highly unlikely you're going to kill the date (you've already gotten reliable recommendations and talked to both the young man and his parents, plus, really, the boy is coming all this way . . . he'd have to look like Charlie Sheen from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" before you gave an adamant "no") so I think in this case the 1/2 hour before is fine. Now, if it's not a huge hassle, meeting him the day he comes in is great, I just wouldn't say it's required.

All of this of course gets back to the principle of "Casual Group Dating". (I guess, to be specific, this is more like "Formal-Casual Group Dating" . . .) With Cheese being in a Good Group, you and Big Cheese doing your due diligence, it sounds to me like all systems are go!

Tell Cheese I said "hello", and I hope she has a wonderful time.

Oh, before I forget, while we're on the topic of "leaving the state for a date", as a parent, I'd never under any circumstances allow my minor child to go on a date that far from home. Guy or girl. You and Big Cheese are fine. His parents are morons.

Think about it this way: five years from now, when Chunka is 12 months away from a mission, if he comes to you and says "hey, Mom and Dad, I want to fly out-of-state next month and take this girl you've never met to her homecoming", would you say "that's a great idea, son!"

No way.

You'd say "write her a letter, Captain Wanderlust, and date girls that live close enough that we can see them".

Not that Cheese isn't great, or that you have anything to worry about . . . with her or in the case of Chunka . . . but, like you said . . . at the very least, it's weird. At worst, it's really bad.

When the out-of-staters come to you, that's one thing, sending your own kid out of state is quite another.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Thanks for the thoughts! I especially agree on the part about sending our kids out of state on a date.

There's *NO* way Big Cheese would EVER let that happen. Although I can foresee circumstances where we'd allow our daughter to go on a date when she *was* out of state, even without us being there. For example, if she were visiting Mac in (location withheld), and Mac's mom and dad recommended the date (Mac's mom was my college roommate, Mac's dad was Big Cheese's best friend since 5th grade AND college roommate AND Young Men's president in his ward so he knows those guys pretty well.)

And I'm pretty sure Chunka will be too unattractive to ever successfully get a date...hahaha! Plus he hasn't the discipline to save the funds necessary. LOL--he always owes Cheese money, and she charges him interest!

Thanks again!

Mama Cheese

Dear Mama Cheese,

Chunka unattractive?  You wish, Mom!  He's already got that "hey, baby" gleam in his eye - Good Luck!

- Bro Jo

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cheese Update - Part 1 (Cheese Will Be Dating Soon and Has Lots of Plans)

Dear Readers,

Three days of "Cheese" updates, three days in a row. 

This is Part 1.

- Bro Jo

Hello again, Bro Jo!

I hope all is well in the Jo household. The Big Cheese family is happily anticipating another busy season and reminding our darling 15 year old daughter that her birthday (and hence dating) is still a few weeks away.

"Cheese" is certainly not the only one counting down the days until the magical event. I'm a little bit surprised that her calendar is already filled in with quite a few dates for the ensuing weeks after her birthday. Which is fine. Big Brother laughs at them all and says "if they want to get in line to see her now, it's their business. My business is to take bribes to move them up in the order. It's lucrative business, too."

So my question is about her dating guys in LDS limbo-land--those who have graduated high school but are still pre-mission. Two guys in particular stand out. One is a very sweet, super obedient "Peter Priesthood" type who will be starting BYU (full scholarship)soon. He just turned 18, graduated high school with honors, Eagle Scout, youth volunteer, has a job, will be living at home to save $ (paying for the entire mission himself) etc etc etc. Big Cheese &Mama Cheese love Pete! And he clearly & obviously has a thing for Dear Daughter. So should we allow the two of them to go on casual group dates after her birthday? Or is the high-school/college/age barrier an inviolate deal-breaker?

Guy number two...I don't like so much. He's headed off to the Y, too, also living at home to save $ tho not focused at all on a mission, and is, in fact undecided whether he wants to go. He's kindhearted, brilliant and talented, and is closer in age. He's also clingy, extremely emotionally needy and rather immature. So...once again, do we allow them to go on casual group dates after she turns sixteen? Or do we just say "No, he's in college, you're only in high school. Forget it."

There are a couple other of Big Brother's pre-mish buddies who have graduated high school who also look interested in asking Cheese out once the b-day arrives, so I can see this being an area where we need some clear guidance and ground rules.

It seems problematic for those poor preemie freshmen; they definitely shouldn't be serious single dating. But the frosh sisters generally have moved past casual group dates. So if the lads can't date girls their own age and also can't date girls still in high school, they seem kinda stuck. However, it also seems to me that college freshmen dating high school sisters is a recipe for trouble.

I keep hoping that once these guys are off to the Y, where there's a campus filled with lovely, talented, amazing, slightly-older-than-Cheese young ladies, they'll promptly move on and drop her like a flaming charcoal. But I'm also not blind or stupid and can see that whenever we manage to chase one away, two more appear to fill his place. So...advice, please.

Mama Cheese

Dear Mama Cheese,

My rule is that a pre-19, pre-mish guy is still a Casual Group Dater. By definition he kind of has to be. If he's really focused on serving, then Serious Single Dating is not a good idea, but we can't expect him to be a monk, either.

As parents we run a real risk when we try to dictate who are kids' friends are; even more so when we tell them whom not to date.

Unless they ask.

Even then you have to be careful. I know more than one 30+ year old unmarried Mormon who had several opportunities to marry someone decent but chose not to pursue because mom and dad had a history of being overly critical (often unjustly so) when it came to possible dates and romances.

Unless the guy is dangerous or she has a legitimate reason for not going, if he asks, she should go. Being overly selective at a young age, in my opinion, leads to kids pairing off, which we don't want to encourage (even though we know it happens). Guy number 1 is a good choice, so sure she should date him; guy number 2 isn't as promising, but if he's willing to follow the rules I think going out with him should be allowed.

For you and Big Mac it's a teaching opportunity. When her dates are over you can talk to her about why she thinks one guy is better than another. I'll bet she sees the same things you do. But at the very least, if you ask and respect her opinions then she's more likely to ask you for yours. And that's a VERY good thing.

There's nothing wrong with saying "he seems like a really nice guy, and I'm glad he treated you well, but he doesn't seem to have much of a testimony or willingness to put the Lord first in his life".

If it's true, of course.

One last thing: just because a girl is 16 and gets asked out a lot, that doesn't mean she has to overload her schedule with dates.

I get lots of "how do I get him to ask me out letters", as you know, but the opposite issue is also legitimate. Church, Family, School and other obligations often need to come first. A "one date a week", or "two dates a month" policy in your home might be appropriate. Heck, as busy as Cheese is, once a month might be plenty of social activity.

But I'll bet she pushes for 2-4.

Best of luck, mom; it's just gets more and more fun from here!

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

You are pure genius! Seriously! I have no idea why the thought of limiting quantities of dates never occurred to the CheeseHeads, but we LOVE your suggestion!

We looked at your dating rules from a different perspective, and established that four dates a month would be a reasonable maximum. This allows for more than one a week in certain date-heavy times of year (like prom, homecoming, etc) while forcing more reasonable expectations overall. Thank you! We have granted exception to the policy for the already-scheduled activities in the 6 weeks after her birthday; she may go to all of those, since it would be rude to cancel. But after that, the new plan kicks it.

Now the only ground rule I think we still need to establish is something about how far in advance those 4-a-month can be scheduled. It seems a bit crazy to me that lads would already be staking out time on the calendar for things that are months and months away! What do you suggest would be a reasonable maximum time in advance for an ask? I think 6 weeks should generally be plenty for a formal event requiring expensive wardrobe enhancement (ie prom) and maybe 3 or 4 weeks for ordinary activities?

Many thanks, as well, for the College Boys vs. RM Men perspective. I'm feeling much more comfortable with allowing Peter Priesthood, Tortured Genius, and several other lads in the College Boys category some limited access. As long as it stays casual group dating, following the rules, it seems like it should be ok. Since Cheese has acquired a job right across the street from the frosh dorms in Provo, plus Big Bro starts soon, too, so it seems likely that she will meet quite a few CB's in the near future, and having a plan for interacting with them seems most reasonable. Now we are prepared; we shall not fear.

Thanks again!

Mama Cheese

Dear Mama Cheese,

"Over planning" is actually kind of creepy, and it can really cramp a girl's style.

With the Jo Boys (to look at this from the "guy asking" point of view), we've encouraged them to ask a girl no more than one-week in advance for regular Casual Group Dates. If it's a girl's First Date, and the boy really wants to be that First Date (and who wouldn't?!?) then we've said 3-4 weeks can be okay, particularly if it coincides with an event (like a county fair or concert). But I think they'd tell you that they were more successful waiting until two weeks out or less for those "she's turning 16" dates.

For Formal Dates, like Prom, we've told the boys to ask 7-10 weeks in advance. There's a ton of planning to do, and frankly if you wait too long (like only a month before) it gets really difficult to find a date. Not that all the good ones are gone by that point, but knowing who's still dateless is really difficult.

(We had one disaster where a girl accepted a Prom invitation from our son, then cancelled two weeks before the big dance; that was a tragedy. He got a date, but not without a lot of effort.)

We try to have "Family Council" in our home on Sunday evenings. The first thing we do is go over everyone's schedule for the next 4-8 weeks (Sister Jo keeps them on a "Master Calendar"). At that time upcoming date plans are mentioned, even if whom the boy is taking out has not yet been decided. We might know that six weeks from now, when a particular movie is coming out, and between this event and that game, that one of the boys is planning a Casual Group Date, but he may not actually ask anyone until the Sunday before.

(Note to guys: the Jo Boys say that asking a girl out on Sunday or Monday is best because it's not so soon that you seem creepy and far enough away to build excitement. Plus, and they say this is a big deal, those days present the best opportunities to ask a girl out when you're less likely to have friend and weekly drama to deal with.)

To switch that back to the girl's perspective, except for formal dances, I don't think she should accept any dates more than 4 weeks out. What if her plans change? What if something comes up? What if . . .

In fact, if she wanted to have fun with it, Cheese could make it known that she'll only agree to go on dates with guys that ask her in person, one to two weeks in advance, on Sunday, between 4:30pm and 5:15, and even then only if they meet with Big Mac's approval.


Seriously, if Cheese is inundated with date requests, and since she plans all of her dates at this point to be group ones, one thing she can do to dodge the boys she's less interested in, and I really mean this, is to say "you know I can't go that night because I already have a date" (if it's true of course) "but you should ask my friend" (and then name someone specifically whom she think would like to be asked out). This little bit of covert matchmaking will help her get out of some dates and perhaps cheer some friends as well.

Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, particularly with those CBs, make sure you meet them and you know (and can confirm) who else is in the Group going on the Casual Date.

- Bro Jo

PS: Thanks for the Scripture reference!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sexting - Part 4

[Readers:  The following letter is part of a series we're running Saturday's this month from a reader dealing with a problem with Sexting.  This is part 4 of 4. - Bro Jo]

Dear NW,

Well . . . how's it going?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

He told me that I needed to repent and I did so and I changed my phone number and told the boy not to do it again and he hasn't. I also don't have any more classes with him. Which helped a lot.

- NW

Dear NW,

That's wonderful!

How do you feel?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

A million times better. Last week I was worthy enough to do baptisms :)

- NW

Dear NW,

That's great!!!!

I'm so happy for you!

And very proud of you.

- Bro Jo

Friday, December 23, 2011

Is 19 Too Young for Her to Marry?

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm 19 and I'm in a relationship with someone incredible. We've been dating about a year now, since I met him at the university we're attending. Our relationship is heading quickly towards an engagement. I know this is the person I want to marry and spend eternity with. The only problem is that everyone (and by everyone, I mean my parents, church leaders, elders, etc.) keep telling me that 19 is too young to get married; To wait until I'm 21, 22... Some have gone as far as to say that it's a lot more likely that my marriage will end up in divorce or separation if I get married so young. They've even supported themselves with legit scientific studies and statistics. I'm really at a cross roads, because I know this is the person I want to marry.

But I don't want to wait a year or two. I feel like that's just reckless, because Satan is only trying to keep us from a temple marriage, and it gets harder every day that we spend together and get closer to each other to behave appropriately. Not that we've done anything we shouldn't, but you know- the passion and temptation is definitely there.

Anyway, my point is- is it really that detrimental to my future to get married at 19? Is it really that big a deal? I want to do things the right way and I really don't see how a couple years is going to change the nature of our relationship, except to give us more room for error.


Too Young?

Dear Old Enough,

You don't mention where you're from, or if there are some cultural reasons peopele are telling you to wait, but in general I say no, 19 is not "too young" for a young woman to marry. I consider maturity and commitment more important than age.

Now, perhaps that's what the people who love you are trying to tell you, in an albeit too indirect way: that you're too immature to marry. I don't know you, so I have no idea, but a mature woman would certainly give prayerful ponderance to something so many people who do know her are saying.

You may need to just come out and ask these people what's wrong with this guy; if they're seeing something you don't, you better find out soon. (I hope they love you enough to tell you the truth, even if you don't want to hear it.)

I'm not a huge believer in statistics. I do believe in long courtships and short engagements.

A couple should date long enough to know each other well, ask each other the big questions (see "Bro Jo's List of Stuff You Need to Know Before You Get Engaged" and feel confident that you've looked for any serious danger signs (see "Bro Jo's Five A's of Why Not to Marry THAT Person" in "Bro Jo's Guide to Relationships").

But you're totally correct; once a couple decides to get married, I say pull the trigger fast before the Temple is no longer an option.

You will both definitely change over the next couple years, nothing you can do about that. Change is constant. But I agree, if you're truly informed and ready to marry now, 19 is not too young.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What Kind of "Relationships" are OK at 15?

Dear Bro Jo,

I am a girl who just turned 15 years old last week, so I am not quite of dating age.
All the guys around me (other than at Stake activities) are not LDS, because I live in a Midwestern state where there are not many members, and the entire youth in my branch is made up of me and 4 other girls.

So... since I'm not allowed to go out on Casual Group Dates yet, what type of relationships am I supposed to have with guys?

I have quite a few guy friends (some of whom are closer to me than my female friends), and I recognize that many of them have feelings for me that are more than friendship (and I have crinkles on quite a few of them as well). Is there anything wrong with going places with guys outside of school?

I mean, I'm not allowed to go on dates, and you say that "hanging out" with guys is a bad idea. I'm just confused on what type of contact IS allowed!

My other question is: how am I supposed to act around guys who have girlfriends?

I don't know if I'm allowed to flirt with them, or talk to them, or if I can invite them to activities with me and other friends if their girlfriend doesn't come with us, because I don't want to make the girlfriend jealous, but lots of times the girlfriend doesn't care... The whole idea confuses me.

Any help you would have to give me on either subject would be wonderful!

(Name Withheld)

Dear NW,

Let me clarify a few things for you.

1. "Relationships" should wait until after you're out of high school; before then they bring with them too much drama and temptation.

2. I say that "hanging out" is bad once you're a Young Single Adult; as a teenager I highly recommend movie parties, game nights, and other group activities; the only caveat is that the numbers should be uneven and there should be no pairing.

3. There's nothing wrong with going places with guys outside of school so long as you're not the only girl and it's clearly a group activity, not a date.

4. You can flirt with whomever you want, but realize that you girls are very territorial, and the quickest way to become hated by all the other girls at school is to hit on everyone else's boyfriend. Regardless of your perception or what she may say, the girlfriend ALWAYS cares.

Don't rush into the next phase of life; enjoy being 15, it will quickly be gone.

- Bro Jo

PS: If you check the website you'll see that I have a special tag called "Letters from 15-year Old Girls" - check it out!

Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you very much for the quick response! Your answers help me a lot.

I really appreciate that you do this, and I read your column regularly.

I have you have a great start to the new year!


Dear NW,


- Bro Jo

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Gifts

Dear Bro Jo,

I have always done Christmas gifts for friends. Now that I am sixteen and can date, and it is Christmas, what are some good ideas of things to give girls?

I have known all of them for a while, and we are all good friends. Should that affect what i give? Should I do anything?


Santa's Elf

Dear Elf,

I've made many, many gift-giving mistakes, with friends, girl friends, family . . . and now Sister Jo and the Jo Kids. (My Sister and I have birthdays two days apart, so she and I used to go to a music store together, pick out our own birthday gifts, swap at the register, and then swap back and say "happy birthday, I love you and thanks!) I'm so bad that it makes me nervous, so I always defer to Sister Jo for help.

She says this "when giving gifts to opposite sex friends, especially in your teens, the best thing to do is keep it simple and inexpensive".

Even if you're "in a relationship" (which I dont recommend) or trying to be in one (also not a good idea) you should still focus more on the spirit of giving than the specialness of the gift. Remember that often when peoplr are given gifts they feel obligated to reciprocate, even more so if the gift received is a big deal, and that's not what you want. At that point the gift can even be repelant.

Things Homemade are a great idea, and personable. Cookies, fudge, candy, picture frames, or a small momento that reflects a good time had together are all great ideas.

Happy Christmas!

- Bro Jo

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sexting - Part 3

[Readers:  The following letter is part of a series we're running Saturday's this month from a reader dealing with a problem with Sexting.  This is part 3 of 4. - Bro Jo]

Bro Jo,

Thanks for the help, I get what you’re trying to say and I understand that your wife is in the loop, I meant like your blog wise. And I am safe.

As the situation with my uncle I feel bad because I feel as if I destroyed his life, yes I know that he did the things to put him in jail but I feel like by turning him in I had a part in it.

I know that I shouldn’t feel sorry for turning him in what so ever but I am just that kind of young woman. I generally always put others before myself. I have never been raped but he made me feel extremely uncomfortable and touched me in places I knew only my spouse should be touching.

I don't really try to bottle things up. I guess in my opinion it just hurts less than admitting the truth. I know that’s bad but sometimes I can’t help it.

I know what the boy did was harmful. That was my reasoning for asking for your advice. I just, I already have enough emotional drama in my life I do not want to stir anything up that I have anyway in controlling. I know that isn’t what I should be doing but it’s all that I am willing to do right now.

Do you think it would be alright if I just tell my bishop and have him help me with this situation without getting anyone else involved?

I really don't want this going any further than it already has. But I mostly do not want this getting to the police.

Or my dad.


- Name Withheld

Dear NW,

I hope you don't feel like I'm pushing too hard . . .

Yes, I think telling your Bishop is a Wonderful idea. And I think you should share with him your concerns about your father and the police knowing. (And if I can help in any way there, you know I will, right?)

By the way, I've yet to mention something I'd like you to know: I'm very proud of you for doing your best to be active even though your family is not. I promise that you'll be blessed for your dedication AND that, through your faithfulness, your family will be blessed as well.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Of course not, you are just trying to help. =]

And okay. I will tell my bishop. And I know you will help in any way. Thank you for that.

I am making a little progress in getting them active. Last night my step mom ACTUALLY listened in on a missionary discussion. I’m making progress =]

- NW

P.S. After I speak with my bishop I will tell you what he said.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

When You're 15 and You Like Someone

Dear Bro Jo.

First I apologize English is no my main language, so I'm Sorry, if it's hard to read this. I'll do my best.

There's a boy in my stake I like. But he lives far away, 3 hours to drive (where I live Stakes are larger than in US).

I'm turning 15 soon and he's fifteen.

Well I've known him many years, because we have some mutual friends in his ward.
Over a year ago I saw him on Stake Dance, and asked him to dance. We had good time with.

Little later I noticed he can be interested in me, and I had a crush on him.
We see each other about once a month or little rarely. We are quite good friends, and he used to call me often.

Last summer I had little problems with him, but problems are over.
After summer I haven't known what is there between us. We are good friends with, and he has said me he likes me more than any other girl.

I want to clarify for me and for him, what is there between us right now, and will be between us in future.

Tell me, what should I do? I want to be good friends with him, and date him when we both will turn 16. What can I do right now to contribute our "relationship" ?

Say if you didn't understand all. Thank you so much!


Dear Ginger,

Don't worry about the broken English; it's a tough language (especially the way we Americans use it). I'm impressed with anyone who knows more than one language - good for you!

As far as this guy goes, just keep being nice, perhaps flirt a little, and continue talking to him. Don't pursue him like you want a boyfriend; that may make him feel too much pressure. Since you live so far away, send him a letter; not an email or a text, but an actual hand written (not typed) letter. Become his pen-pal; it will help you get to know him better in a way that's not too threatening or scary.

But, as I always say: its good to get to know people better, and when you turn 16 go on lots of Casual Group Dates, but stay away from the Boyfriend-Girlfriend thing.

- Bro Jo

Monday, December 12, 2011

Verifying the Date Plan

Dear Bro Jo,

Alrighty, first I'd like to say thanks for the advice you've given me in the past! Which is why I come to you again, because you know your stuff.

I'm curious about 3 things regarding the same situation. I've got a date coming up, and what I've got planned is (I think) quite good, but since you know everything there seemingly is to know about dating, I'd like your input. Dinner, sidewalk chalk, ice cream and a leisurely walk (because you said that was good last time). Is that a solid date plan? Or do I need adjustments?

Secondly, the dinner scenario is causing me a bit of a head ache. I was told by a close associate of this girl that she's a big fan of breakfast. So I thought "easy peasy, I'll make breakfast!". Problem is, the night this date is going down, I'm done work around 6:30, and we've planned on a 7:00 meeting time, which is definitely not enough time to cook. My plan was to ask a guy if he'd cover me that day so I could do my thing, OR as a backup have my sister to the cooking while I was at work and I'd repay her somehow. THEN. My sister was like "why don't you guys just cook together and have a breakfast date?" which is a good idea, except for the fact that my house is an insane asylum because there's 9 million people always running in and out at any given time, which I fear would be a bit of a mood killer if I'm on a date with this girl.

And lastly, is it distasteful to reschedule a date? Because there are better working times next week we could do this thing. It would be a lot easier prep wise and we wouldn't be interrupted or anything like that. But when she offered to reschedule because I said I was still working out a few little kinks, I pridefully said there was nothing to worry about because I'd hate to admit to this girl that I got something wrong. Worse now, I'd feel like an even bigger idiot if I ask to reschedule after I've already said no the notion. Anything you've got for me would be a huge help!

- Planner

Dear Planner,

First of all, despite appearances, I know very little about dating (and much, much less about women - just ask Sister Jo.)

It's a solid date plan, my man.

Could be a bit long depending on the comfort level, but don't worry about it.

I don't remember you age (my appologies), but if you're pre-mish make sure that you've got at least one other couple going.

As for your second issue, if it's a Casual Group Date then a bunch of people cooking can be fun. If you're trying to impress a girl, don't have her make her own food on your first date.

Rescheduling is better than a disaster, not that I think you have the recipe for one here. When you reschedule you need to understand that she a) may be a bit put off, and b) may not be available. If you make things less complicated then you may have less stress. For example, you could pre-beat eggs, pre-mix batter, and pre-cook most breakfast meats (to be re-heated later). You could also cook for her infront of her; could be good.

Happy dating,

- Bro Jo

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sexting - Part 2

[Readers:  The following letter is part of a series we're running Saturday's this month from a reader dealing with a problem with Sexting.  This is part 2 of 4. - Bro Jo]

Bro Jo,

Yeah, having the Sacrament brought in is pretty cool but I am the only active member in my family so my father nor my brother (who is 12) holds that kind of authority.

I honestly would rather not be involving any authority in this matter including my parents because my dad has a lot of stress in his life and my mom isn’t around to be able to do anything about it. Me and my step mom do not get along what so ever, so she is also out of the picture. I finally have proved to my dad that I am getting better with choosing the right people to be around and choosing the right things to do.

I have made over a million extremely stupid mistakes in my life and my family situations aren’t the best. My family is more or less torn apart at the seams. We look happy but we aren’t really.

Going back to the turning this boy in part, I have had a past with sexual abuse.

My Uncle came in my room one night and touched me where he shouldn't have a few years ago and I turned him in for that. More or less for the most bizarre reason I regret that, And at one point in my life I sent pornographic photos to a boy in school and it got around to the whole football team. What I am trying to say is I have a feeling if I turn this boy in to the authorities (school, church, or otherwise) may believe that it is me doing something to encourage this type of behavior. Yes I have had many issues sexually in my past but I have finally worked through them and repented for them and I have a feeling that if this gets to the police or my parents that it will be thrown back to my face.

I told the boy if it does happen again or if he even text's talks or looks at me again I will call the police and that I was more then serious. If he does do anything in any manner to emotionally harm me any then I will resort to getting others involved. But like I mentioned in the last paragraph I would really rather that not be the issue.

Once again I do understand that others may be going through the same thing as I am but this is an extremely sensitive situation for me and I prefer that it not be shared with anyone else.

Sorry for being so uncooporative in this situation.

- Name Withheld

Dear NW -

My least concern at this point is your being uncooperative.

My number one concern is that you're safe.

It seems as though you are, so let's take the next step.

First and foremost is documentation, as I mentioned before. You need a written account of everything that happened, including dates and times if possible. If that's not done, do it now. I can't stress enough how valuable this will be should anything ever happen again. It will also go a long way towards increasing your credibility.

Secondly, you need a plan. You've drawn the line with this particular boy, and that's a good start. You also need to know what you'll actually do should he, or anyone else, send you something similar (even if it's just text). Think of this plan as your own Emergency Food Storage; you may never need it, but when the crisis arises you'll be better able to deal with things if you've already got a plan. What will you do? (Keep the text / image as evidence and immediately show it to the authorities.) Whom will you tell? (Cops? Bishop? Friend? Leader?)

Third, we need to deal with some things going on in your head. You didn't get specific about turning him in, but I can think of no reason what-so-ever that you should have any regrets about shedding light on what happened with your Uncle. Anyone or anything that leads you towards feeling guilty about that is out of line. No exceptions.

The fear of having things turned around on them is what keeps most rape victims silent. It takes a lot of courage to speak up because of that. I can understand not wanting to deal with that, but it's your silence that threatens not only your credibility but also threatens you and other young women just like you. Please consider that.

Also consider that Loneliness is one of Satan's most powerful tools. Life is lonely enough without choosing to keep things bottled up. You've got to put SOMEONE else in this loop, for your own sanity and protection if nothing else. Given your family situation (which I kind of suspected) I think that leaves us with a YW leader and / or your Bishop. What do you think?

I think the decision to get "someone else involved" was due the FIRST time he Sexted you. He's crossed a line. Anything you've done in the past does not justify someone else hurting you. If my son hits his little brother, that's wrong, and it certainly doesn't mean that if his older brother starts punching him that's OK because he "had it coming" based on his previous actions.


And if you think this boy's action isn't harmful (it's over, it's behind you, maybe it was no big deal), with respect, you're wrong.

And I need to be upfront with you. I've already put Sister Jo in the loop. Nothing comes across my desk that she doesn't hear about. I hope that's OK; she's pretty trustworthy.

And, for the record, she agrees that you need to tell an adult Right A Way (as in NOW), preferably your parents, but if not them then your Bishop. Honest, that's what she said.

A Bishop's not just for repentance, you know, but also for help and protection.

Always here,

- Bro Jo

Friday, December 9, 2011

Missionaries: Why Guys at 19 and Girls at 21?

Hey Bro Jo,

First, a little background. I'm 19, a month and a half away from reporting to the Sao Paulo MTC.  I've been in two situations so far where I have been explaining the reason why I am going on a mission to someone who is not familiar with the Church. This inevitably led to them asking about the young women in the church and when they can go on missions. From here the conversation has gone like this:

Me: The women can go on missions at the age of twenty-one.

Person: Why do they have to wait until twenty-one to go?

Me: (seriously fumbling about in my head to find a legitimate answer and probably have a dumbfounded look - the best of which I could come up with is this) Well in the LDS church families are very celebrated and as such the young women are given those three years between 18 and 21 to (and I'm not sure if this is true or not) meet someone and get married in the temple, because ultimately that is the 'end goal' of the church.

Person: That sounds kind of sexist to me.

I'm not satisfied with my answer, even though its the truth. I need a better way to portray this. And if there are any points that I should be corrected on or if you have any ideas it would be greatly appreciated.

- Better Appearances

Dear Better,

Congratulations on your call, and thank you for your willingness and worthiness to serve.

I'm not really satisfied with your answer, either, but I don't think you need to "portray" anything.

The advice I have for you might be something that helps you in the mission field as well: you don't have to know the answers to everything, probably shouldn't make stuff up if you don't know, and when you're in situations where you don't know what to say trust the spirit.

If somebody asked me why girls don't serve until their 21 I'd tell them the truth: "I don't know; I can think of some reasons why it makes sense . . ." and I'd add: "but I trust the Lord has a reason".  I might even say "Tell you what, I'll ask and then we can talk about it".

If somebody accuses your faith of being sexist, which it certainly is not, I'd say "people toss that label around a lot; I find that anyone who feels that way about the LDS Church could benefit greatly by learning more about my faith; we honor women and revere femininity and womanhood; I'd be happy to teach you more".

It’s a win-win-win. Either you'll get to teach them about the Gospel and how the LDS Church has throughout its history been quite progressive and cutting edge when it comes to women, their equality and freedom, and how LDS Men are trained to love, honor and respect their wives, mothers, daughters and sisters; or they'll back off. Regardless you'll have made your point.

"Sexist" has become one of those quickly tossed around labels, used too frequently by people who either have no idea what it means or because they want to label something derogatory that they fail to understand, likely because they have an ax to grind or an agenda to follow.

Frankly, I think within and without the Church people quibble too much over “gospel minutia”, things that really don’t matter and how no bearing on the truth or salvation. It’s the basics that are really important (think “Fourth Article of Faith”).

Its okay not to have all of the answers; be obedient, do your best, work hard, love the people, and testify of Christ. That's all you've got to do.

God speed!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Medical Marijuana - part 3

[Dear Readers - The topic continues. You can read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. - Bro Jo]

Dear Bro Jo,

Another question in regards to medical marijuana(not smoked but in liquid or food form). My medical condition is worsening. I have to take alot of painkillers, over 1000mg(this had damaged some of my organs and stomach, and its alot for a 17 year old to take). Which is why I am unsure about the marijuana debate. I have tried praying and searching through the scriptures. This isn't me trying to prove you wrong or anything, but just overall confused about good and bad in medicine.

In Genesis 1: 29, God says "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be forameat."

He has puts plants and animals on this earth for our benefit. Each with a purpose. Unless Marijuana is the modern-day Tree of Knowledge in which we need to resist temptation.

In Timothy 4:1-2 (1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;),

I got out of it that this generation would take something good but use it for evil. Perhaps this is in regards to marijuana- if used properly it can help, but many people of today misuse it.
I hope that you do not see this message as one of questioning your beliefs, but one to see just how confusing it can be for a teenager in world full of contradictions (not in the gospel, but in the world).

I am confused whether what I take out of the scriptures , is what is meant. Given the scriptures, and knowledge that it will NOT be smoked. What is your opinion?

- Lost

Dear Lost,

In regards to your interpretation of scripture, the thing is, if motivated, one can string together scriptures that justify just about anything. Yes, plants and animals can be for our benefit, but that certainly doesn't mean that any plant or any animal used in any ol' way is okay. After all, alcohol comes from plants, and some glue comes from animals. Rubbing Alcohol is an effective wound cleaner, but alcohol in any form shouldn't be ingested. Glue is great for craft projects, but shouldn't be sniffed.

My opinion is the same as before: don't smoke it, be aware of addictive substances, including MJ, and consult with local priesthood leadership and your doctor.

I'm sorry you're in so much pain, and I pray for your comfort. I know that as those around watch you endure your trials, they will be strengthened by your testimony and commitment to do what the Lord would have you do. You're an example to us all!

Praying for you,

- Bro Jo

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting an Education

Dear Bro Jo,

I am going to college in January at BYU-I. I am thrilled and excited to keep preparing for future life. My mom is opposed to college and getting a job/having a career for girls.

So that's an issue between us. We're talking it out, but something she said today made me think. I mentioned how cool it would be to have a few thousand saved to present my husband someday and say, "here's something for a bed/dining table etc." My mom said that that is disrespecting the man as the head of the home. He should be providing for me. This seems a little bogus. I think I'd be grateful if someone gave me some money to help out. Aren't men and women equal? Are men wired differently and this would really make him feel bad?


Future Homemaker

Dear FH,

There must be some breakdown in communication between you and your mother.

Yeah, men and women are wired differently (mostly), and yes, men are usually (though not always) better at providing than they are at nurturing. That shouldn't surprise anyone. (See The Proclaimation on the Family.)

But the attitude that women shouldn't go to college or be able to support themselves financially is ridiculous. What if you don't meet someone? What if something happens to your husband or your marriage?

Surely you must have misunderstood your mother and what she was trying to say.

[Bro Jo Tangent: Let me make one thing perfectly clear to you and anyone else who might read this: while Sister Jo may be first and foremost a "homemaker", the monetary value of what she does for our family, a list too long to mention, is far greater than any paychecks I've ever brought home. In many ways she "provides" much more than I ever could.]

When you get married, if you and your spouse truly understand how a good marriage is supposed to work, all assets and liabilities become common, meaning that you're in this thing together, better or worse, richer or poorer.

Hopefully neither of you will bring much debt to the table, and you'll both be grateful for (and respectful of) whatever assets the other brings (financial or otherwise) to the marriage.

When you and your spouse begin to have children I hope you'll heed prophetic counsel and make sure that one of you is always home for your children, forgoing worldly things in favor of raising your own kids. History and experience tells us you'll be much better at that than he will.

And that's why, in the principle of sharing the responsibilities and work, he should be expected to work outside the home and provide the money your household needs.

Equal in responsibility. Equal pay for the same work. That's what "equal" means.

Go to school. Get your education. Be prepared should you need to provide for yourself or your family financially.

And be a little less quick to disagree with your mother. Listen to what she's trying to teach you instead of being so quick to be argumentative.

- Bro Jo

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sexting - Part 1

[Readers:  The following letter is part of a series we're running Saturday's this month from a reader dealing with a problem with Sexting.  This is part 1 of 4. - Bro Jo]

Bro Jo,

There is this boy at school, whom I have never made it seem like it was okay to do such things, who keeps texting me with sexual intent and I always try to ask him to stop and explain my standards to him but he really just doesn’t get it.

For a few weeks it stopped but this boy smokes Marijuana and tonight he got high and sent me a picture of his, with lack of better terms, body part down below. I was in karate when he sent this picture and I never asked for this picture and I looked at it for a split second until I realized what it was and as soon as I did I deleted it right away.

I felt no sexual arrousement what so ever from this photo and I got very upset at him for sending it. Should I tell my bishop about this happening?

For conversation's sake, I just finished my repentance process because I had intercourse with one of my ex-boyfriends. I wasn’t even able to take the sacrament again due to the weather conditions where I am from so I am kind of freaking out about this whole situation because I am worried that I am going to have to refrain from the sacrament even longer then I already have.

- Name Withheld

P.S. Oh boy, gotta love when leaders are right.

Dear NW,

OK, I'm seeing two issues here.

Let's deal with the Sexting first.

First of all, believe me, he "gets" it. He knows what he's doing more than you think. He's simultaneously attacking your standards and trying to (in a very bad and ineffective way) get you to like him (haven't I said before that boys are dumb?).

The first time he sent you a Sext was sexual harassment, at best; every time he's sent you something since you told him to stop is sexual abuse. As awful as it may sound, you probably shouldn't have deleted the penis photo; it was your bet evidence against him.

If you have any other evidence (or witnesses) you need to get that collected.

People need to know.



Your Bishop is a Good Choice, especially if this young man is in your ward. But before that you need to tell your parents. You need adult help and authority to deal with this stuff.

How is your relationship with them?

Can you ask them for help without them freaking out?

If you honestly feel that they may not deal with all of this rationally, then you need to go to your Bishop first (he can help you involve your parents if needed); or you can consider your Young Women leaders.

And you need to be prepared to go to the police. That includes writing down (not just in your head, but actually on paper) everything that has transpired between the two of you that you can remember. Be as specific as possible. Dates, times, witnesses, as much as you can remember.

I'm not kidding and I'm not being over dramatic here.

What this boy is doing is a form of sexual assault, and it's illegal. No one should have to deal with this kind of harassment.

So I need you to tell someone. Right now. Today. An adult someone, not just your pals.

Please don't delay.

Timeliness will help with your creditability, and you may have to deal with accusations that you've enticed or encouraged this boy (that's another reason to preserve and gather evidence) and his behavior. I believe you, and others will too, but some may really struggle wrapping their heads around this situation because in their world it's so bizarre.

The one thing you should definitely NOT do is to communicate with this boy in any way.

(One that you need to consider, and may have to be prepared to address is that, while it was his phone, it may not have been his "part"; could have been a JPEG he found or someone else.)

Keep me posted on this and, I'm not kidding, if you need my help in any way, including help with the adults you need to talk to, let me know. I don't mess around when it comes to protecting my little sisters.


Secondly, I want you to know how proud I am of you for having the courage and faith to take advantage of the atonement of our Savior and repent of that which needed repenting. I also want to thank you for sharing your testimony (whether you realized you did or not) of the value of partaking of the sacrament regularly; good for you!

Don't freak out; the Lord always knows of the intentions of our hearts.

(You know, if the weather and traveling conditions don't get better by this next Sunday, that you can ask the Bishop to authorize the Sacrament to be brought to you! He can either send some Priesthood Holders to your home or give permission to those that live within your home. Sister Jo gave birth a couple times on a Sunday. She didn't want to miss the Sacrament, but didn't feel like having people come visit, either. I called the Bishop and he gave me permission to bless and serve the Sacrament to us both. Cool, eh?)

- Bro Jo

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mom's Bad Date

Dear Bro Jo,

My mother is just recently getting back into the dating game and last week she had a dinner date that started at 5:30. The guy she was with said he was not hungry and only ordered dessert, lied to her about when his divorce was final (he said it was final in November, that is when it was filed.) and said he felt like they knew each other in heaven.

I thought all of this was rather odd, what about you?

Sincerely, Anon

Dear Anon,

He may be weird. He may be an intentional liar. He may have just been nervous or trying to impress your mom.

For now just give her some space and some support. Don't be too quick to be too judgmental.

Everything you ever felt, dealt with, or stressed out about when you were dating is now a part of her life.

Except that it's harder for her than it is for you. You had her for guidance. She's on her own, blazing new territory, and I bet she's terrified.

So be kind. And understand that her choices will be tempered with experience and an understanding of eternal things that you don't know yet.

If in her loneliness she picks a real loser, then by all means speak up before it's too late. But for now give her the benefit of the doubt and room to go on a few bad dates. Remind her that she's a great catch, and there's more than just one guy out there willing to date her.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Making Stake Dances Better

Dear Bro Jo,

I am 17 now and I have attended every church dance that is put on by my stake and two other stakes. (In St. Louis we have these Tri-stake dances.)

Unfortunately, with three stakes, you would think there would be a lot of youth showing up but there is not. I was wondering if maybe you could do a poll type thing where people would submit what they would like at the stake dances so I, and others, can see what I, and others, can tell some of the leaders to do differently to make more people go.


A Frequent Dance Attender

Dear Attender,

I've brought this up a few times before. (In fact, we used to have a Facebook Discussion Page about it until Facebook stopped having Discussion Pages.)

Typically, here's what I hear most:

1. More slow songs. DJ's, and the adults that hire them, have this misguided opinion that a dance is successful if the floor is crowded with sweaty teenagers; not so. Teens go to dances because they want to get to know other teens, and let's face it, any more unless the fast song is a swing or jitterbug style song, nobody is asking anyone else to dance; you can't talk to anyone at a dance if you're a) not dancing with anyone, or b) the music itself is not conducive to talking. Most Stake Dances hover right around 1 slow song per 45minutes to an hour; the requested and recommended ratio is about 1 out of every two or three songs should be slow, occasionally playing TWO slow songs in a row (that way the guys who missed their shot during the first song have a second chance right now, while they're still in the mood).

2. Regularity. Dances are more successful if their timing is predictable. Halloween, New Years, Valentine’s Day, Start of Summer, Start of the School Year - that kind of stuff. If people know when it's coming, they'll make plans, and if an event (any kind, actually - Sister Jo can testify to this - she's our Stake Activities Coordinator) is the same time every year, then other things can be planned around the event.

3. Offer something that can't be had anywhere else. You're providing a morally clean environment, and that's great, but you've got to do more than that if you're going to compete with everything else that's going on. Live music (I'm talking "local high school jazz band", not "wannabe garage rock band"), Winter Gala (formal), priest-Laurel only dances (you're 17, do you really want to be dancing with guys who were deacons just last week?), Dance Contests, Dance Cards, Retro Night (Disco . . . 50's . . . pick and era and Stick To It), think out of the box! You don't have to get crazy, or spend a lot of money, but have some fun! Have the dance follow a "how to dance" class or an etiquette dinner.

4. Set up "relaxation stations" - rooms away from the music where people can sit and talk, maybe play some games like "Apples to Apples" or "Taboo".

5. Talk to the kids who are not going and find out why. I did that here once and discovered that the Body Oder of the guys in our Stake was repulsing many of the girls. I talked to several YM leaders and clued them in, then provided the requested scents of body spray in the guys' restroom. I also carried some with me so at the dance I could pull offending guys aside and say "dude, here, take this and go into the bathroom and fix your smell".

6. Get over it. Stop acting like you have to hit a certain attendance number for the dance to have been successful. I absolutely agree that more numbers make for a much better dance, but when its all over, if those of you involved go around talking about how great it would have been to have more people . . . then no one will want to come next time. Instead what you say is: "It was great! Too bad you weren't there!"

Those are my quick six.

I'll post your letter in the column this week, and let's see what the readers have to say.

Thanks for the letter,

- Bro Jo

Monday, November 28, 2011

Is He Worth Marrying If He Didn't Serve a Mission?

Dear Bro Jo,

First off, I want to say I love your site. I am relatively new to it, but you seem very knowledgeable, and therefore, I hope you can help me out a bit...

I am in a very serious relationship, and we have frequently talked about getting married. Here's the catch: he's *age deleted* and still hasn't served a mission. I am absolutely crazy about him, and I know he feels the same way (he's told me)

He has told me that he wants to serve a mission. My thought’s "great idea!" (truly being supportive, not sarcastic). The downside: "where does that leave me?"

So here's the question (and the real point of writing to you) Do you think it is a good idea for him to serve a mission while he is in a serious relationship? Or should we get married and think about serving a mission together?

Thank you!

-Dazed and Confused

Dear Dazed,

Well . . . that depends on a lot of things . . .

Sister Jo and I teach the Jo girls, the two qualities they must absolutely insist that any spouse candidate have are:

1. be a worthy priesthood holder


2. be a hard worker.

Any guy that doesn't have both of those qualities is a potential disaster waiting to happen.

Being a Return Missionary is seriously preferred, but neither a requirement nor (sadly) a guarantee that he's a Good Guy (although most RMs are both hard working and worthy, so it does make it easier to find a Good Guy using that as a litmus test)

In my opinion, as I've written often, while he's serving, both of you should consider the relationship over, agreeing that the one at home will actively date while the missionary is gone. If that person is still single upon the missionary's return, then by all means date each other, but understand a lot happens in two years, and you may both find your feelings have changed.

So, no, I don't think he should serve a mission and still consider himself in a serious relationship. Nor do I think you should consider yourself still in a relationship if and when he goes.

Should you two marry?

Start by reading "Bro Jo's Five Reasons to Not Marry That Person" (also found in "Bro Jo's Guide to Relationships"). If he passes that test, then go through my "Things you need to know before you get engaged".

The thing is, Dazed, the WHY he's not serving is extremely important, and while not always true, that reason may indeed be a huge red "don't marry him" flag.

- Bro Jo

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Readers' Note: Upcoming Series - Sexting

Dear Readers,

For the first four Saturdays this December, I'm going to run a special series of emails from a reader who's had issues with Sexting.

The transmission and reception (solicited or not) of suggestive, even pornographic, texts, emails, pictures and videos, may not yet be epidemic in mainstream society, but its more prolific than most people know or want to believe.  We scoff at the stupidity of celebrities (and wannabe celebrities) when phones are hacked, videos distributed, and images splashed all over the internet.  Heck, truth be told, often that stuff is leaked by the celebrities (or their publicity staff) in efforts to create, revive, or turn a career.



But Sexting is part of the lives of the "non-famous", too, as I'm sure most of my readers know.

I could go on, but the bottom line, the thing we should all be learning every time some perverted politician gets caught with his personality on display, is that there is no such thing as "privacy" or "security" when it comes to dropping your morality and sharing your personal porn over the airwaves.

I think this letter writer is courageous for allowing me to share her story, and I hope it is a message of inspiration and warning.

- Bro Jo

Friday, November 25, 2011

Temple Dates

Dear Bro Jo,

Hi, it's me again. FYI, things petered out with my 27 yr old. He came up to take me out last week and dropped the "f" word ("friend" ;)). But I'm fine with that. After all he is 10 years older than I am, and I'm at school with thousands of young, eligible men. :)

But that's not important.

I just have a quick question about the temple.

I know you've written before about how going to the temple is a very bad date idea before engagement. I mostly agree, but I'm not sure if we agree for the same reason. My grandmother, who teaches a marriage and family class or marriage prep or something (my grandfather was also the YSA bishop for 3 years), told me that I shouldn't study the scriptures with any guy I'm not engaged to. She said that the Spirit can often be confused for love, because it essentially brings the witness that our Heavenly Father loves us. So I'm guessing that that applies to the temple as well.

I can see both sides, because I have gone to do baptisms with a few different guys before. Two were great spiritual experiences, without any emotional weight. The other.... well, I felt uncomfortable, to put it simply. So personally, I think that going to the temple with someone is not always a bad idea, but it can be.

What is your reasoning on temple "dates"?



Dear 18,

Sorry about the old guy; clearly he wasn't smart enough.

My reason for saying dates to the Temple are bad is exactly the same as your grandma's advice about pre-engagement scripture study. (Wise woman, your grandma; I hope you listen to her often.)

Plus, frankly, I think it's weird; its the LDS equivalent of "playing married", as far as I'm concerned.

Going to the Temple is a great idea, but go as a YSA group, not paired off.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Yet again, thank you! (My grandma is pretty much the awesomest person I know. :) ) And I'm over the "old guy". I still think he's one of the most all-around neat people I've ever met, but I've moved on to younger and more local dudes. And I'm assuming he's moved on as well.

I love when things resolve themselves!

BTW, have you ever spoken at BYU-I? Basically, dating is part of living the Honor Code (Seriously. It's nick-named BYU-I Do for a reason.), so I think people up here would love you.

Just a thought.

- 18

Dear 18,

I'm glad. And thank you for the kind words.

I'm often available for speaking in classes and at firesides, and BYU-I-Do is only a 3 1/2 hour drive away!

People who are interested in having me come visit should check with a college teacher or advisor, their Ward or Stake activities specialist, local Deseret Book or Campus Bookstore.

It's actually really cheap; I don't charge a speaking fee for "Dear Bro Jo" stuff, so typically you're just looking at transportation (which is just gas money if you're close enough for me to drive - which is actually a pretty big radius and not needed if you're within a stake or two of where I live) and a place to stay (again, check with Stake Leadership) if you're more than a four hour drive away (which BYU-I is not).

Happy dating!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

You Don't HAVE to HAVE a Boyfriend

Dear Bro Jo,

Let's rewind time back months and months ago. I was just getting over my crush, and had high hopes for a new one. But mostly, I was just interested in expanding my circle of friends. What better place to do that than . . . a Stake Dance?????

I got asked to dance by this guy who was reeeeally cute. I knew his older brother......and I had seen him around....but neither me nor ANY of my friends had ever even talked to him.

Anywhooo . . . we started to dance and started talking and had the WEIRDEST conversation. About how gross fish is and all this weird stuff about it. I seriously love weird people, and am a bit of a weirdo, so I enjoyed myself. One thing that really got me though, is that he looked into my eyes the ENTIRE time. Well, needless to say, I knew right then and there who my next crush was going to be.

When I got home I thought to myself "well now I have got to find a way of getting to know him better." To my surprise (and GREAT pleasure) he added me as a friend on Facebook. I sent him a message asking him what the name of that song was that he was telling me about (our conversation while we danced went here there and everywhere). He answered and then our conversation carried along. Again it was a totally weird one. No "how's life?" type of talk for us...more like "how on earth would a cat manage to sneak onto a spaceship anyhow?"

Ever since then we NEVER stopped emailing.

There was just something about talking to him. He brought out my personality, and made me like MYSELF more. It felt great. HOWEVER since it was me who sent the first email asking about the song...that made me feel weird. I really hate it when a girl calls a guy on the phone, or texts first, or goes for a hug first, I ESPECIALLY dislike it when girls ask guys out on dates. HE was going to have to be the one chasing ME, I refuse to be a chaser. So yeah I waited a couple of day between replies for the next while, even though he always replied right away..

At the next stake dance he wasn't there. Until the end....I was dancing with this guy..the song ends and I hear my name being called...I turned around and there he was. He said he just got there because he had to be at a graduation. He hung out with me until he had to leave and then gave me a hug goodbye. Every time we saw each other after that he'd come up to me and we'd just goof around until one of us had to leave.

He would even save spots for me to come sit by him if he knew I was going to be somewhere.


OK well since I was always hanging out with him he got introduced to all my friends, who all loved him. He started getting invited to all my friends little get-togethers, and all my little get-togethers. And yeah he fit in really well. BUT one of my friends started liking him and told me and a bunch of other people. She's the really mean jealous type...and she treats me like dirt. She's not really my friend, she treats me like dirt, but she sees me as a friend, and puts on a nice act for (name withheld) (the name of the guy I like).

Well she's open and forward and asked him who he liked...he told her that he liked ME. (I found this out by another one of my friends she told..she didn't tell me). Well now I talk to him ... and she glares at me till I leave. Normally (name withheld) follows me it's not much of a problem haha.

ANYWAY we're all sixteen now...and I know (name withheld) has been dating...but he won't ask me out! And I want him to SOOO bad.

(Name withheld) (my mean jealous friend) asked him on a date I think three times now!!!!

He said "no" to the first one...because it was a school dance and he knew school dances were gross.

And then our ward was going to have a priest/laurel date night...and even though he's not in our ward she called him and asked him to it the MOMENT she heard about it. So they will be going to that together.

AND she asked him to an LDS prom, and so they are going to that together too.

SO that's my story, sorry for its length...I am a talker when I get excited about things haha. WELL my three questions are...

How do I deal with (her) jealousness??

Why doesn't (he) ask me on dates ever?

(He goes on several with other girls! and I have been told from very reliable sources that he likes me A LOT! I don't know why he won't! I'm datable LOTS of guys ask me out...and LOTS of boys like me....I don't really get it)

How do I get (him) to ask me on a date??


Girl who needs help

(ps I haven't told ANYBODY that I like him..)

Dear Girl,

First of all you need to learn how to deal with your own jealousy (if you can see past the beam).

Secondly, if you want to know why he goes out with everyone else and not you, you should ask him. It's really that simple. (But, and please don't take this wrong, despite your "datable-ness", he probably just doesn't like you in that way right now.)

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to relax. A lot. A guy is nice to you and you immediately turn possessive-obsessive. The guy clearly doesn't want a girlfriend, and you keep acting like you own him. Honestly, if he asked, I'd have to tell him to be careful that dating you doesn't leave you with the wrong impression.

You're only 16 for crying out loud! Enjoy the crushes, but take the drama down a few hundred notches.

As far as your non-friend goes, sure it seems like she's winning the battle for this guy, but believe me, even though his 16-year old brain may find her pursuit attractive, deep down he also finds it pathetic. If he doesn't, I submit he's not as good of a guy as you think.


- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Weird.....sorry that kind of is different from everything I have been hearing or feeling.

Ummm I probably sounded super duper obsessive in that amen to you there. And I JUST found out about all these dates (she) is asking him I was frantic. Aaaaand I wouldn't say jealous is the right word...more like annoyed....sooo taking your advice on the calming down thing is good.

Yeah I think I like him too much too.

See all my guy friends..none of them know I like him...but they hate him because he is too "possessive" of me (to put it in their words). Apparently he stands between me and them and just...doesn't. LET them talk to me. My mom sees it and she wants me to back away from him. If I NOTICED this I would have put a stop to it...and now that people have pointed it out to me with no sugar quoting (I was texting some of them today and it came up)

One thing I really AM concerned about though is how CLOSE he gets to me...and how when I scoot away...he scoots with me. That freaks me out I am not going to lie.

But as far as standards go he has the highest out of anybody I know. His whole family is like that, so it is nice to be around them.

Yeah well now that my friends have pointed this out to me I got to put a stop to the over possessive thing he's got going on....but I still think I might hint a little that he should take me out on a date sometime.

- Girl

Dear Girl,

So have the talk.

But you need to be dating other guys, too.

Mostly, please learn that your value has nothing to do with whether or not you're in a relationship.

Trust me. You don't HAVE to HAVE a boyfriend.

Yeah, I know the Boyfriend-Girlfriend thing happens at your age. Believe me, I get it. I'm not THAT old!

But, take it from an Old Guy, High School Relationships are never worth the drama. And you, Little Sister, could stand to have a little less drama in your life.

- Bro Jo

Monday, November 21, 2011

Is "Stage Kissing" the Same as Real Kissing?

Bro. Jo,

I recently attend a priest/laurel conference with my boyfriend and, while there, there was a speaker on dating. The speaker was hilarious and really made an impact on everyone in the room. At the end, he gave everyone a challenge. He said, "If you're steady dating anyone, break up now." Talk about intense!

A few days later, "boy" (18) and I (17) talked about what we were thinking. It was a good talk, with a good point. We couldn't deny that. But we had decided that we should follow his challenge. We had no problems with our relationship. We had been dating for 5 months, and never before that had we thought about breaking up. But we did. We decided that there was a way for us to show people that there ARE such things as "good breakups". Breakups where the two can still be best friends afterwards.

I don't think that I should have done it though. I'm starting to feel regret. The reality of the situation didn't hit me until a few days later when I finally realized that I can't hold his hand anymore (touch is my "love language", so it means a lot to me). He asked if he could still ask me out on dates, but he probably won't for a while. I'm not walking with him to class anymore. We don't talk as much either.

Some days he'll send mixed signals. One day he'll accidentally hold my hand (I'll pull it away because we aren't dating and I don't think it's right to do), and the next day he'll act like I don't exist and will barely talk to me. It's really confusing.

We're both romantic leads in our school musical. We're required to hold hands, do a stage kiss (we never kissed and I've never been kissed), stuff like that. And being an extremely kinesthetic person... it makes it very hard for me.

It's been three weeks since we broke up. And I've been extremely depressed, which is unlike me. I think I underestimated my feelings for him. Everything reminds me of him. I can't think straight, I can't go to rehearsals without breaking down after wards, I can't stand any of this. I can't get back to my old self...

So, short version:

Boy and girl break up.
Boy still likes girl.
Girl still likes boy.
Boy wants to ask girl on more dates.
Girl wants to be asked out as well.
The underlining question is: Why did they break up?
Answer: Because it was expected of us...?

Next question: What should I do about it?
I obviously don't want to "move on". We still like each other and prom is coming up soon. How do I get emotionally stable again? Should I talk to the boy and tell him how I'm feeling about this?


Dear Unsigned,

The problem is that you followed wise counsel without knowing why. It shows faith. Often blessings come to us just because of obedience, even if we don't know why we're being obedient. Non-believers call it "blind faith" because it makes them feel better to insult those that believe, but know this: that faith is never blind; those that follow Christ are always guided by light, even if they don't know everything or understand everything.

I've spoken with teens about this before: a stage kiss is a kiss, and as a former actor I can tell you that if it's not practiced it can't be acted properly.

[Semi-related tangent. Actor Michael Douglas was perplexed why his son was not disturbed by the graphic violence in his movies but very disturbed by the "love" scenes. His son explained "because, dad, when you're getting shot I know it's fake, but when you're mostly naked and kissing a woman I know that you're both mostly naked and really kissing". Ponder that.]

So if you two have practiced the stage kiss I have news: you're no longer a member of the VLC. Lips are lips, and kissing is kissing.

[BTW, you and other girls need to know That is Why many of the guys who join drama and are in plays have joined drama and are in plays.  Just saying.]

So . . . here's why it was right for you to break up.

When you hold hands and walk each other to class it broadcasts that neither of you is available for Casual Group Dating, which is what you're supposed to be doing in High School. When you date lots of different people then you avoid the pain and drama you're feeling now. So at school you shouldn't act like boyfriend and girlfriend.

(Also, while I'm thinking of it, you're too young and WAY too inexperienced to have any idea what your "love language" is. Stop reading Teen Beat.)

However, and let me be clear, when you two are out on dates (and, yes, you should still go on Casual Group Dates together, just follow the rules and rotate whom you're dating) I don't see anything wrong with holding hands or kissing good night (again, The Rules).

What you're trying to avoid is Serious Single Dating. THAT we save for when you're ready to start looking for a spouse.

What can you do?

Still like him. Still spend time together. Just not time alone together.

Act like a couple on dates, but not around school or backstage.

And you both need to go out with other people. Difficult as that may be.

Oh, and if he asks you to prom, and I hope he's smart enough to, you should go!

Just go in a group.

- Bro Jo

PS: Break a leg!