Delicate Subjects, Erratic Cycles, and the “Best Friend”

by A Lady

So I know that as women our bodies are always changing, from puberty all the way to menopause with key stops at acne, slowing metabolism, pregnancy, etc., but a few of my friends and I have been experiencing something else that’s odd. We’re all in our mid-20s (I refuse to call 26 late-20s but I guess it’s approaching it) and our periods have become … slightly erratic. Not crazy, something’s-wrong erratic, but some of us have been complaining that our periods aren’t quite as dependable as they used to be. Some of us are on the pill, some aren’t. I myself have started to notice that, while I used to wake up with my period on a Monday morning (I am one of the people on the pill), for the last couple of months it’s been coming in the mid-afternoon, around 3 p.m. or so. One of my best friends has had her period move from a Tuesday afternoon to a Wednesday mid-morning, also on the pill. Both of us are single, so we’re not freaking out that we’re pregnant, but it’s very odd. Another friend not on the pill has noticed the same thing.

I know that your period can adjust itself depending on the person you live with, but I’ve lived with the same roommate for the last nine months and my period hasn’t budged a second. Is this a thing? Do periods change in your late — mid! — 20s? Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon?

Yes! When I was in my actual late twenties (get out of here with your 26 *swats you with a dishtowel*), my period basically went through its own version of puberty and acted out, going all crazy in every possible way. I recall a period that lasted for literally an entire month (just a little every day, hello again, and again!); a period that disappeared for months; an unrecognizably heavy period; a period that showed up for a day, then came back a week later; a period that spoke Catalan; and all manner of in-between-riods. (Making your version of erratic seem pretty tame in comparison.)

It messed with my head, but after a while I just let it do its thing, my gynecologist said it was normal, and it all sort of settled down. I had gone off birth control about a year and a half before things went [manageably] haywire, if that means anything. And I’m not a doctor, so this is really a sample size of one, but I remember when I told my friends about each of my new, crazy periods, many said something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, that happened to me once, too.”* So, you sound totally normal! But, best to talk to your gynecologist about it next time you drop by, to ease your mind.

*A quick poll among friends: was your period weird, mid/late 20s? Yes: 4, No: 4. There you have it?

My best friend is a seriously awesome chick. She’s very smart and witty, is into a lot of cool books/music/movies, etc., and is definitely a cute girl. But she has this problem with her wardrobe where she chronically wears clothing that’s at least two sizes too small for her, as she gained some weight over the past year. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I recently gained a bunch of weight (like 30 pounds, yikes!) after a bad breakup, and I know how hard it is to look in the mirror and admit to yourself that you have to sacrifice your favorite pair of jeans because the muffin top they give you is legit out of control. Not to mention, nobody wants to go out shopping for brand new fat pants, it sucks. But the way she dresses is usually very unflattering, and when she asks me how something looks on her, I never really know what to say.

Is this something that I should mention to her? I know she’s not happy about the weight gain, and she’s pretty insecure about her body and her looks, so I’m concerned my mentioning it would just make her feel worse, which is not something that I want to do at all. When we go shopping together she’s always picking out things that would look so cute on her, but she refuses to try them on in what her actual size would be now! It’s frustrating to me because I want her to look nice and feel good about herself, and I feel like a bad friend not telling her that the clothes she’s wearing don’t do anything for her figure, but then I always feel like a bad friend because I don’t want to be like, “hey, that makes you look fat.” Is there anyway to tell her without making her feel more insecure? Should I just let it go? Grace me with your wisdom, A Lady.

Oh gosh. I’ve been there, too, and there’s something about the human brain that just refuses to see the whole picture in the mirror, sometimes (“it’s weird that these shorts used to be so loose and now they’re clinging alllll the way up my butt”). And I’m not sure whether it’s worse to be forced to see the whole picture, or to live thinking that a false mental image is the real one, while other people write in to anonymous advice columns asking for gentle ways to tell you that you look bad. Ugh, they’re both so horrible!

Anyway, chances are your friend knows she isn’t looking the way she wants to. And chances are her rationale is the exact one you gave — it feels like defeat to buy new clothes in larger sizes, which sucks. The longer she can technically fit into her old skinny clothes, the longer she can feel she’s basically the same size.

Ahhh, okay I’m really just beating around the bush. To answer your question: I don’t know. It depends on how close you are. Do people actually make fun of her behind her back? Does she look wildly inappropriate for work? Or are you just paying particularly close attention because she’s your best friend? (Or — and sorry if this is way off base — is it at all possible that you’re projecting your own worries about your own weight gain and subsequent need to buy bigger clothes onto her?) I feel like a soccer goalie during a penalty kick when they have to dive one way or the other, and it’s sort of a 50/50 chance, but … don’t say anything. If my best friend told me I needed to buy new clothes because my current wardrobe made me look less than slender, I might never be able to look her in the eye again. Maybe. I don’t know. But I once forced — forced! — a friend to tell me how I might improve my eyebrows, and even that was sort of scarring.

That’s not to say friends shouldn’t be honest with one another, but this seems like a losing battle. Because best-case scenario she says, “Ah, thank you for your wisdom, I hadn’t realized I looked like shit and was humiliating myself,” and she buys a bunch of new, bigger clothes, which would likely, on some level, perpetuate her feeling of shittiness. Or she keeps on keeping on, and loses weight, and fits back into her old clothes, or gains weight, and eventually has to buy new clothes. I say stay quiet, have fun together, let her wear whatever she wants.

Alternately, if you really feel you must say something, and are willing to risk your friendship (at least, to risk the current dynamic) to help her dress more flatteringly, you can say, the next time she asks you if something looks good when it’s way too tight, “Ooh you look amazing in that, but it maybe looks a little snug in the [whatever] area. How does it feel?” And if she says it feels perfect, then it feels perfect, and never say anything again.

I’m 22 and about to graduate from college, and I’ve been in the same relationship since I was 17. No, I’m not crazy (I don’t think?), but that’s kind of just how things are. The problem is that I recently got back from study abroad and all that it entails, like soul-searching and realizing Things and intense uncertainty about Who I Am (lame!) etc. etc., and now I’m feeling like it’s about time that my boyfriend and I stop being Us and start being individuals. So, breakup, right? Except that we live together and have been going on the assumption that we’re going to be Us for a long time. We’ve talked about how both of us feel like different people, and perceive the other in a different light, and that maybe we might not be right for each other anymore, but for now the conclusion is that I’m probably having reverse culture shock and we’re both still adapting to being around each other again and that we should give ourselves time before making a big decision like breaking up.

But, I’m pretty sure that this is going to end with us not being together. I’ve never broken up with anyone (duh!) and certainly never had to deal with breaking up with someone I live with, so how do I go about all the mess that I’m sure is going to ensue? And how do I make sure that I don’t fall apart in the process? I’m pretty freaked out about the whole thing.

Lady! I’m sorry. Breakups are horrible, no matter what. Although it does sound to me like a breakup is what’s going to happen, and I think in the long run it will probably be a good thing for both of you. (And you might even circle back to each other later on down the line — but that’s never something you can plan on.)

Living-together breakups are even trickier. In the more-difficult scenario, you’re the mover-outer (although that does have the perk of being the in-control role). Here’s a little checklist for that.

1. Save up as much money as you can, before you break up. Depending on what your living expenses are, and where/how you want to live next, aim for somewhere in the range of $3,000 — $10,000 (not that you need to, obviously). When I broke up with my last boyfriend, it ended up costing $10,000. Which I had calculated before I did it, and which made me feel desperate, because I didn’t have that money. So it was like, great, do I stay with my boyfriend because I don’t have enough money to break up with him?! What?! (At the risk of discrediting myself, what happened is I ended up cashing out some inherited stocks — a lucky situation, but not recommended, even if it’s available to you. If I hadn’t had that, I would probably have taken on the credit card debt wherever possible. Also not recommended! So, maybe I’m not the ideal person to be answering this question.) Anyway, my relationship with that guy was a situation like yours, where we got along great, and there weren’t any big pressing issues, I just knew it wasn’t right, and that it was time to move on. I also knew that I didn’t want to live with roommates post-breakup. If you don’t mind living with roommates (and you probably don’t if you’re 22), that cost comes waaay down. By probably 80%. But here’s where my money went the week after my breakup: one month rent, one month security, a [staggering] broker’s fee, the movers’ fee, a nice mattress/box spring, some smallish pieces of furniture, and miscellaneous moving and new-apartment supplies. The vast majority of that was the rent and broker’s fee, both of which you could probably spend a lot less on, but sometimes when you need an apartment TONIGHT you end up spending more than you expected. So, the more you can plan ahead, the better off you’ll be. Learn from my mistakes.

2. Have a place to sleep lined up for after you break up. And I mean RIGHT after. This might feel sneaky (“I’m going to break up with Mike this afternon, can I crash on your couch tonight?”), but making sure you have a friend’s house to stay at for a weekend (or week) while you find a new apartment is critical. I once broke up with a guy I lived with, except without a plan for what to do next, and as the breakup discussion went late into the night and got really teary and sad and difficult, we just decided to stay together and give it another go, because, honestly, I had gotten sleepy and was tired of fighting and crying, so I was like, sure, whatever. Two months later I moved out.

3. This isn’t really part of the checklist, but regarding the falling-apart thing, there’s not really a way to go through a breakup without falling apart, so that part you just kind of have to experience, figure out, and move past. And sometimes when relationships end in non-hostile ways, mourning it can be almost pleasurable in a bittersweet way. One thing I’ve found that ultimately makes that mourning/falling-apart process easier is an agreement between the two of you not to talk, call, email, or text each other, indefinitely. Or, for six months. (And then you have to be in strict control of your own Facebook/Googling habits.)

And this might sound cynical, but — I think! — in a year or two you’ll be really happy you did what you did. Because once you’re out of a relationship, you can see it (and appreciate it) much more clearly for what it was, and appreciate where you’re at now. And sometimes that means getting back together later, who knows. But more often it means moving on, spending time alone, figuring out who you are as an adult, and all that. (Also, part of becoming an adult is learning that no one ever actually becomes one.)

Okay, I realize that the answer to this could involve my death for being a Stupid Girl. Oh well, here goes. My ex-boyfriend, who broke up with me in January 2011, and who I’ve been doing the friends-with-benefits thing with for a few months, wants to possibly get back together. Yes, “possibly.” I went on some dates with someone else and all of a sudden he said he realized that he didn’t want to lose me. If he had asked to get back together earlier, I would have said yes in a heartbeat, however, I no longer view him through rose-colored glasses and am not sure what I should do. I still have feelings for him, and after dating for three years, this is the person who knows me better than anyone else and who firmly stands in the spot of Best Friend. I’m worried if we give it a go, we’ll break up and I’ll lose him as my best friend forever. And if we don’t get back together and date other people, what if those people don’t want us to talk? My question is, what should I do in regards to getting back together, and how I can somehow avoid losing him forever?

Nooo, don’t do it! This guy is a number of things (juicebox, coward, laughably transparent), but he’s definitely not your best friend — he’s just someone you’ve spent a lot of time with, and who therefore knows your quirks and can put you at ease. But don’t mistake proximity for love, or even respect. He’s selfish and childish. Run! … to the bar/restaurant/museum/pottery studio, to go on lots of funny/horrible/good dates with the other people. Cut off all contact with this guy. Seriously. Easier said than done, I know, but you have to do this.

Previously: Idle Friends, Gawky Roommates, and the Nap Dream.

A Lady is one of several rotating ladies who know everything. Do you have any questions for A Lady? (300-word max, please!)

Photo via Darren Baker, via Shutterstock