Ask Auntie BubboPants

First published August 10 2009, TWiR on
It’s been a whirlwind of nuttiness at Casa De Pants! We found a house we loved! Happy! Put in a bid and got outbid. Sad! But then that sale fell through so we resubmitted our bid and they accepted! Happy! But we have to wait for the inspection to be complete before we move forward! Neutral!
And we leave Sunday for a week at Madeline Island, WI. A beautiful week of outdoorsy activities with David’s family culminating in David’s sister’s wedding ceremony. It will be a great time I just wish everything wasn’t happening right this moment!
I am sitting on the bed writing this, Maddie is sitting behind me looking out the window at world and leaning against me. Every once in a while she turns her head and puts her giant hippo muzzle on my shoulder and sighs. Chester is the more outgoing of the two dogs so you guys don’t hear too much about Maddie. She is my very awesome sweet hippohead.


One more thing before we get started with this week’s column. I’d like to add a couple thoughts about the last column, something I missed the first time around when I was re-ordering the outline before I wrote it out (see! It’s not as slap-dash as you might think! I actually put a little effort into it and scribble out outlines and things!)
On the subject of depression and the reasons one might or might not have for experiencing it:
As a society we often mistake the emotion ‘sadness’ with the mental state ‘depressed’, we even use them interchangeably. Sadness is an emotion, it is a reaction to stimulus. Sadness can be a symptom of depression, but it does not have to be. Depression is a state of mental being, it is more physical than emotional but it often expresses itself emotionally. To be more precise, the outward expressions of depression tend to be more emotional than physical. This makes it far too easy to equate depression with emotions and forget the very real physical changes that lie behind the situation.
It’s easy to look at a person who lost something dear to them and say “it makes sense that they are sad”. It’s much harder to look at a person, see the wild vagaries of hormonal imbalances hidden away inside and say, “it makes sense that you are depressed”. Instead we see the outward manifestation of emotions, sadness, hopelessness, anger, and we say “this makes no sense! you have no reason to be sad! or hopeless! or angry! Go put your pants on and get outside! Suck it up, chica!”
We are visual creatures, we need to see things in order to understand them, but more importantly, we are experiential creatures. We learn by experience and then we create rich and varied databases of information and understanding based on our experiences. We also have amazingly advanced frontal lobes on our brains that allow us to simulate situations based on input AND our experience related databases. What the hell does that mean? It means that we can look at someone who is sad and pull in all the data about their situation and then pull in data from similar experiences we have had and run simulations to better understand what’s going on.
Claire is sad. I will look at Claire and talk to her and determine that she is sad, her boyfriend did not like the pie she made! I will pull that data in and then I will add my own experiences: I have also made things people did not like. I have also been sad. I have direct connections in my own experiences between being sad and people not liking things that I have offered.
Result: Claire’s sadness makes sense to me. I can relate.
Jim is hopeless. Jim just got a new car and has a nice butt. I have felt hopeless. I have also gotten a new car, but I’ve never really had a nice butt. I have never felt hopeless after getting a new car. If I run a simulation of me having a nice butt I cannot come to the conclusion that I would feel hopeless.
Result: Jim’s hopelessness does not make sense to me. I cannot relate.
The flaw in the simulation is that we do not take into account the relevant factors. We’re feeding the wrong data into the brain simulators and therefore the results can only be incomplete at best.
History and literature and anecdotes are FILLED with stories of those people struck hard by fate who just ‘kept going’ despite it all. Bad parents, industrial accidents, malevolent societies, none of that could bring the hero down. On the other hand, there are an equal number of historical and literary figures that seemed to “have it all” and yet still could not find comfort or happiness.
To make matters worse, many societies see this sort of disparity as a form of moral failure. If you have been ‘blessed’ with such favor and still you are sad it can only mean you do not fully appreciate it and are ungrateful.
Clinical depression is one of those things that even the experts don’t have a firm grasp on. It’s slippery and confusing and amazingly inconsistent from person to person. It can stem from experiences or childhood traumas or not. Some people are helped by talk therapy, others by SSRIs, and some people struggle for years and never find solace.
I write all this because it is an issue that cuts close to the bone with me. I have an amazingly excellent life. I have a boyfriend that loves me and is patient and kind to me. I have a wonderful, loving and supportive family. I have two great dogs, one of which contributes to this very column. I am blessed with wonderful friends, people say I am smart and funny and I like to think that is true. On the other hand, the biological family I grew up in until I was an early teen was terrifying and unbearable. I carry the scars both physically and emotionally from that. I have struggled my entire life with depression, at times it has been crippling. Some people have said, “well, it makes sense that you would be depressed considering your childhood” and other have said, “but that’s over and done. You need to focus on the now and stop wallowing”
The answer is somewhere between those two statements and it exists independent of them as well.
And I have said many words here and we still have not gotten to the column. Hopefully I have shared some insight on the topic of depression, so let’s get on with other things.


Dear Auntie BubboPants,
I’m a kid. I’ll admit it. It’s actually a pretty fun time, all truth be told. Thing is, recently, I turned into a Teenager. I’m capitalizing that for both emphasis and the fact that I’ve suddenly turned into what is common among Teenagers. I turned 17, and then bam! I’m a Teenager! Hormones that are unexplainable, and a sudden realization of how attractive boys are, how I still haven’t been kissed despite being 17, and then…
I realize that even though people think I’m pretty/gorgeous/lovely/whatever other adjectives, boys aren’t interested.
I don’t get it! I don’t know if it’s all the hormones speaking or what, but I just have to wonder what’s up with that? It’s not because I’m unattractive in general figure (on the normal side, weighing in between 135 and 140 usually, with a bra size that Victoria’s Secret would tell me is made up because that cup size doesn’t exist, especially in conjunction with the band size) or in mind (I’m actually rather smart, and pick up on things I don’t know about generally quickly) or in personality (I’m silly, fun, friendly, and personable, although I can be a bit blunt and unintentionally obnoxious, not to mention tactless; also, if I don’t like someone, they generally can tell, because I can sometimes be a jerk)… I don’t quite understand.
This, coupled with some self-confidence issues (I’m weird about my weight), sometimes gets me down… I don’t get it.
Is there a way to either fix the being a Teenager, the boys issue, or the self-confidence? I mean, even fixing one would probably help a lot.
Thank you, Auntie!
Teenaged and Confused

Dear TaC,
Being a teenager sucks. Really, it does. You’re growing and hormoning and your logic changes every day and boys don’t make a lick of sense and one day you feel pretty and the next day you feel like Queen Crap of Craplandia!
Here’s the thing, it’s supposed to. I know it’s not the answer you want. There are a ton of physical changes that happen during your teen years. All this growing and whatnot, much of it related to sudden surges and drops in various hormones.
A lot of people blow off the whole ‘teen experience’ but in fact it’s an amazingly important part of forming your adult personality. It’s not fun or easy, but development rarely is.
The job of any immature (as in not fully adult) animal is to imitate the adults. It’s how we learn to talk or vacuum or maintain long term relationships. As a teen you are expected to come into full maturity and “start acting like an adult”, and you try. You really try hard and it sucks. Why does it suck? For a really simple physical reason, it’s just not time yet.
I had a little puppy, got him at 11 weeks old. One of the fun things was to watch him grow. He never grew in a sort of all over equal manner. He’d have spurts, one week it was his legs, the next week it was his head. My favorite time was when his head had an obvious growth spurt but his ears hadn’t so he suddenly had this big old head with ears that stuck out all funny because they suddenly didn’t fit right. Later his ears grew and flopped over again.
You’re doing the same thing. Growing in weird fits and starts, both outwardly and inwardly physical growth. The ability to act on finer emotional subtlety, both recognizing it and acting within it does not become fully developed until we reach our twenties (usually about 20-22 for females and 21-24 for males). You are told to emulate adults and you want to emulate adults but nothing makes a goddammed bit of sense some days! Boys are not acting the way they should based on all the data you’ve received your whole life! All signs point to you being intelligent and fun and physically attractive and yet there you are with waning self confidence! No one understands you, some days you overreact or get crabby or jerky or whatever and there’s no reason to act like that!
It’s normal and natural and it sucks but you definitely do not want to change it. I promise you that in a few years suddenly there will be a burst of clarity. It will not (let me repeat that “IT WILL NOT”) fix everything or suddenly explain away all the weirdness, but it will give you a lot of insight. This burst of clarity happens when those finer emotional function centers of your brain wake up. You’ll be sitting there one day remembering some really frustrating moment from your teen years and think “what the hell was my problem?” and BOOM! there it is! Clarity.
So why is it so important that you experience all this stupid frustration with these other stupidly frustrated teenagers? How else are you going to learn to solve complex problems with limited resources? Think about newborns. They can’t talk, they cannot tell their caretakers what it is that they need. All they can do is scream and all the adults can do is guess. Mostly adults get to figuring things out pretty quickly, mostly babies need food and diapers and burping, but there is always a moment of severe frustration for the infant because all they know is that there is a need not being met. Many child development scientists have come to learn that these moments of screaming frustration are not bad things at all! Without them, babies would not be forced to learn all kinds of things like communication or identifying needs or any one of the millions of developmental milestones that babies reach. Frustration and disappointment are not things to be wiped out but to be experienced. Automatically knowing how to ride a bike without ever falling off and scraping your knees robs you of very important lessons regarding balance, physical self protection, overcoming frustration with focused determination.
I am 36 years old, I remember very clearly being a teenager. It sucked. Even knowing what I know now I wouldn’t go back. Ever. I would rather deal with mortgages, car payments, greying hair, sore joints or whatever than have to go back to that time of no self confidence, confusion and perplexing expectations.


Dear Auntie BubboPants
I have a boyfriend, who is absolutely lovely, goodlooking, funny, smart, sweet, etc. I know he’s not perfect, I’m not blind to his faults, ie he can be whiny and clingy, but I prefer him that way. However, there’s one big problem (isn’t there always?)
We live in different countries.
Yep, 1 time zone, 5 hours driving, 2 hours by train, 1 hour flying. We went on a youth trip for 1 month together this summer, spent pretty much 24/7 together, and ended up kissing underneath the stars in the middle of a desert. We spent the rest of the trip together, ups, downs, the whole shebang, and we had already decided to end it when we went home. Then we decided to spend the one day I had in the same country as him (when we got home) together, on our 1st and last date. The last night of our trip I suggested to him trying long-distance, because I come to his country about once a month, and email, phones, blah blah blah. However he said no, but on our date after the trip, it worked so well that we’ve decided to stay together until the 29th of August, when we see each other again.
Now, I know I like him enough to try a long-distance, and I’m fairly sure he likes me enough too, but I go into my senior year this fall, and he goes into his junior year (fyi we’re the same age, I’m just ahead a year). I will have sooooo much work, applying for colleges, exams, etc, and I know if we break up, I definitely won’t get a new boyfriend/love interest, but he might.
I really don’t want to end this relationship, but I can’t push him into one, especially if I have to stake my future career/life on it as well!
But I like him soooo much! ARGH!
Confused, Upset, and Wishing He was Here

Dear CUaWHwH,
I have a dress in my closet, a very nice and simple black satin number. It’s a dress I wore once and really enjoyed, but it no longer fits me. I’ve kept it for years knowing that I can’t wear it and the dream of ever getting down to that size again is just that…a dream. But I keep it because I really really like it and I like holding on to the dream of one day getting to wear it again.
I own other dresses. Ones that fit me and that I have worn multiple times. It is not necessary for me to keep that first black dress but I do because I like it. I could donate it and someone else could wear it and find as much happiness in it as I did. In fact, maybe that’s what I should do. It’s selfish to hold on to something I don’t need and am not using just because I want to hope that maybe I will be able to use it. The dress is not a dress just hanging in my closet, the dress is really only a dress when it is out being worn. I need to let that dress go out and find someone who fits it.
Do you see what I am getting at? You like him, he’s really awesome and you had some great times together but things just aren’t fitting together right now. The urge to package him up and put him in storage until you can fit together is probably a pretty strong urge. It’s a really understandable urge. But it’s not a very fair urge. This is one of those sucky teenage moments. You want something, you understand that you can’t have it right now, but you can see that there would be a time that having it would be great so you want to save it. But you can’t and that means you will lose this awesome thing, this boy that makes you so happy.
Let him go. It will hurt and you will be sad but that’s good. Learn from this, learn that sometimes even the best things don’t work out because of factors out of your control.
Ahoy Auntie BubboPants,
So, here’s the situation: I work at a retail store, along with several other people (as you may imagine), one of whom is an older man with whom I was already friends before I started working at the store. So when I started working on the same shift he did, naturally we would hang out, being friends. Recently, though, people started making jokes to me about how I was dating this man – which normally wouldn’t bother me, but someone eventually pointed out to me (since I didn’t notice myself) that the guy really had a thing for me and was trying to woo me, basically.
So, a few things here: First and foremost, outside of mostly superficial friendship, this guy and I have very little in common. We disagree on politics, religion, social issues, video games, etc, we just get along when we aren’t discussing those things. Secondly, he was twenty-three years old when I was born, and that’s kind of a squicker for me. Thirdly, I just plain have no interest in the guy, and I find it pretty irritating that I’m the last person to know that he wants to go out with me (he’s been telling other people, but he’s never actually asked me out, which seems pretty counterintuitive to his end goal!)
Anyway, so the problem I’m having here is that I want to make it clear to the guy that this is never going to happen, but I never see him outside of work and this isn’t a conversation that is appropriate to be having while at work. I’ve been giving him the cold shoulder for a couple of weeks while trying to figure it out, but he still flirts with me when I walk by (and I ignore him), so this obviously isn’t working.

Dear Non-Signing ChickenButt,
Flip the situation around and then ponder it.
You work with somebody you knew from outside of work. He’s smart and funny and you really seem to get along. Sure you have some differences, but who doesn’t? You just think he’s the bee’s knees regardless of the differences. The thing is, you’re way too shy to say anything. He’s just so smart and awesome and fun and the thought of being rejected is just too much! You’ve talked to some other coworkers and they seemed rather supportive, they also think this guy is pretty awesome and that you would have fun dating him. What to do??
So, now ask yourself, what would be the most ideal way to have him let you down? What would you want him to say to you? If you never brought it up to him, would you want him to bring it up to you? What could this awesome guy do to alleviate the extreme embarrassment that would come with letting you know that he “thinks you’re a nice girl and all but…”
I’m afraid I don’t have an easy answer for your dilemma. No one wants to feel pain or embarrassment and very very few feel good about causing it in other people. Put yourself in his shoes, I mean really in his shoes. Don’t say, “well, if I were that age or whatever I’d know better!” but look at the situation the way he sees the situation, not the way you think you would see it. He sees you as a smart, attractive lady with whom he gets along. He knows there are differences, but that doesn’t quell the attraction, it makes it all the more intriguing. Be him and see the world as he does. Then step back and contemplate how you would like to be treated in similar circumstances. Sometimes we cannot avoid hurting other people, but we can put forth the effort alleviate as much hurt as possible by showing true empathy and understanding.


That’s what I got my chickenbutts! I have to go switch laundry so I can pack and there’s an eggplant in the fridge that has to be used today before we go! hmmmmmm must eat eggplant!

copyright 2009 heather ward/bubbodesigns

2 thoughts on “Ask Auntie BubboPants

  1. When you were describing your dream house, I knew it was in Vermont! You would love Vermont. There are artsy towns of all sizes dotting the state. (I am not, BTW, with the chamber of commerce). My favorite is Hardwick, with a husband/wife book artist/weaver duo, a blacksmith, and two glassblowers (also hub/wife). And downstate a tad from there is a beautiful hippy spot with a glorious preschool in one half of a house and a lovely Zen-y tilemaker in the other, and ducks and geese, and a teepee. Tibetan prayer flags are mandatory. I know it’s hard to leave the midwest (I was born in Iowa City and went to college for 20 years there before moving here), but this is a pretty cool place too.
    Also, you are a genius at explaining human behavior and social norms–getting to the nitty gritty of a subject with such amazing integrity. I am such a fan (disclaimer: no real stalking tendencies to speak of, though there was this guy in college….).
    Anyway, you and David would love it here (and we have lots of knitters/spinners/felters/weavers). I just demonstrated knitting at the Tunbridge Fair with a couple who raise Navajo Churro sheep. So lots of opportunities there, too.
    Best of luck looking for your house, wherever you find it.

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