I’m 17 years old, just graduated high school near the top of my class. I was a student class officer and involved in several clubs and societies. I also scored well enough on my SAT to receive several generous scholarship offers, from which I selected a school to begin attending this fall. My parents are delighted. I’m not.
I don’t want to go to college.
Ever since my first lemonade stand, I’ve wanted to own a restaurant. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. My parents have always treated my dream like some kind of childish fantasy, like when you say you want to be an astronaut. It’s always been assumed that I would go to college, just like they did, and then pursue a professional career, just like they have done. I never fought back against them, but as the day of my departure gets closer, my dread and fear are overwhelming me.
I don’t want to be a doctor or an engineer. I just want to cook. I’m already the best cook in my family. I do most of the cooking for my parents and younger brothers. I’ve cooked Thanksgiving for three dozen people. I’ve even catered a small wedding. It’s not even like work for me. It’s play, I love it so much.
I have made friends with a chef at this restaurant we go to all the time and he’s willing to hire me in his kitchen. He says I can start whenever I’m ready. How am I going to tell my parents? They’re going to have a heart attack if I don’t go to school. But I know if I go, my dream is going to die and I don’t want that to happen.
Can Stand the Heat
So don’t let it happen.
I’m tempted to tell you to tell your parents to piss off, but as a parent, I can’t do that. There is a rather small window of opportunity for the best scholarships. When you drop the big news, all your parents will see is how they’ll end up footing the entire bill for your college after you quit the restaurant three months down the road. Working in an actual restaurant is nothing like cooking for your family. The hours are long and late with no weekends off, and more often than not you end up toiling under some tyrant who treats you like a slave but expects you to perform like an artist. The washout rate is high.
However, the window of opportunity to pursue your dream is equally small. If you put it off, before you know it you’re saddled with debt and a couple of kids and you can’t afford to chuck it all in and start at the bottom bussing tables.
The obvious solution is culinary school, but I suspect your parents wouldn’t see that as an acceptable exchange for your college scholarship. So what I’m going to do is offer you a compromise. Suck it up and go to college. Be a business major, get a glimpse of what you’ll face from the ownership side of the restaurant business. Owning a restaurant isn’t all about cooking. You also have to run the place, deal with employees, pay the bills and make sure the lights stay on and the toilets keep flushing. Meanwhile, get your chef friend to write a letter of recommendation so you can get a kitchen job in a good restaurant in the town where you go to school. Work those long, late hours while keeping your grades up, forge your spirit in the ovens of a busy restaurant. If you can survive and thrive in that environment, doors will open for you. Hold yourself in readiness to take the plunge.
Most importantly, you will pursue your dream without burning the bridge to your parents. Think of it as part of your education, like a double-major. You get to cook and learn the business while they get to comfort themselves with the idea that you will get a respectable job one day. Before you know it, they’ll be sitting at one of your tables, looking at that restaurant entrepreneur magazine cover with your picture on it, wondering how it all happened. Got a problem? Jack Waggon will set you straight: email@example.com
My male coworkers are constantly asking me to join them after work and on weekends. One guy wants me on his softball team, another wants to take me golfing. Thursday night it's the movies together, Friday afternoon at 5:05 they're sitting in the bar across the street. There's the Grizz and Tigers games, Redbird games, and hey let's all head up to Nashville a catch the Titans, or we're all meeting at such and such to watch the playoffs. Then there's the never-ending saga of their Twitter and Facebook posts and their fantasy league picks and results.
These guys have been working together forever and they're all best buds in the most obnoxiously masculine way. Some are single, some dating, one is married, but they spend more time together than with their girlfriends/wives.
When I first started working here, I accepted their invitations in order to better merge with the team, but it got old quick. I'm just not that into sports or pretty much anything else that binds together their bro-hood. I have a couple of close friends and don't really want any new people in my life. I would rather go to a wine-tasting than Hooters. I prefer my own company or the company of an intelligent, beautiful woman to a bunch of 12-packs, high-fives, and booyahs.
The last time I did anything with them was the final Grizzlies home game. I finally started saying no. The other day, one of them jokingly (but not really) asked if I was gay. How can I let them know that, although I enjoy working together, I don't care to spend my free time with them, without coming off as an effete snob?
Bored with Men
Have you tried interesting them in what you enjoy? I know, I know guys like that are about as likely to understand the nuances of a particular wine as you are to enjoy the beauty of well-timed fart in a public place.
If you can show them where your interests lie, and thus that you and they have almost nothing in common, they might leave you alone. You don't even have to invite them along, just talk about what you're doing this weekend with as much enthusiasm as they do when discussing sports. The most important thing in your position is to maintain their respect without losing your self-respect. If you hide, dodge, and lie, you'll come across as embarrassed and ashamed of your "somewhat less-than-manly" extracurricular activities.
You can be a part of the team without having to go home with the players. That will be a new concept for them. You'll probably take a quite a bit of ribbing at first, but if you don't back down, hopefully they'll learn to accept and even value your differences.
Have you considered the possibility one or more of them is sweet on you?
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When is a nudist not a nudist? When he is an exhibitionist. When “Adam” and I first met, we were both enthusiastic naturalists. Our relationship flourished because we could share in this passion. We went on trips to nude beaches and naturalist camps whenever and wherever we could, including some really wonderful, dream vacations to faraway places. Under those beautiful, romantic tropical conditions it was almost impossible not to fall hopelessly in love.
I honestly think Adam was a true nudist back then, but recently he has become more and more the exhibitionist. It began with him slipping out of the house into the backyard late at night. Then it moved to the front porch. We live in a bungalow with a privacy fence and a deep front porch on a dark street, so I could live with that and even sometimes join him after a few drinks to get my courage up. It was still fun. Then it moved on to sex on the front porch, which was sometimes fun. And then to sex in even more public areas, even during the day, even when doing so is extremely risky. It is no longer any fun at all. I’m scared to death of getting caught, but he gets so frustrated when I complain. He says I’ve lost my free spirit. There have been too many close calls, but every time we’re nearly caught, he seems to want to go even farther the next time. How am I going to face my parents and my employees if I end up getting caught and going to jail?
I know I helped create this monster by not putting a stop to it before it went too far. How can I get back to where we were without losing him?
How can I possibly help you when you’re being so vague? I must have details. I cannot pontificate without data, including future times and locations. I kid.
I wonder if you can put the cork back in this bottle of champagne. I also wonder if you could have stopped it from popping in the first place. If his obsession is as strong as you suggest, he was going to find ways to express it — with or without you. All you can do now is tell him how you feel, as straightforwardly and honestly as you can. Talk to him about your fears. You haven’t lost your free spirit, but you do have people who will lose respect for you if they find out what he’s making you do. Growing up and taking on responsibility is a balancing act between who you want to be and who you have to be.
If he won’t listen and continues his evil ways, maybe a night in jail will finally give him the thrill he’s seeking. You are under no obligation to join him in the joint, but you might have to bail him out. If nothing else, it will give you two something to talk about when you’re too old to be arrested.
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