Dear Harlan: I am a 14-year-old girl, a freshman in high school. Very soon I will be expected to confirm my Catholic faith. My family has expected this since I was born. I went to a private Catholic school until 5th grade, and most of my family is Catholic.
For a while, I have been considering not going through confirmation, because I disagree with a lot of the things taught by Catholics. I am sure this is what I want, but I am unsure how to tell my dad. Not just that, but I don't want to be forced into this. I don't know what to do. — Unreligious
Dear Unreligious: Here are the big questions: Are we born into a religion, or do we choose a religion? If we can choose, at what age do we get to? Assuming we have a choice, when we choose to reject our family's religion, what are we really rejecting?
Let's start with the last one: Religion isn't just Bible, beliefs and doctrine. It's an identity as much as it is a faith. It's culture, values and tradition. Religion ties generations together. It's customs, it's cooking, it's special times of year. It's a mother and father sharing a rite of passage with a child. It's giving, sharing and coming together. When put like this, rejecting religion is more like rejecting family. And that's a whole different way to look at this.
Before making a choice, talk to your clergy. Consult a teacher or two from your Catholic school. Then, talk to your dad. Should he tell you that you're too young to make a choice, have patience and faith: patience because one day you can choose your religion, and faith that your dad is doing what he thinks is best.
Dear Harlan: I've been at college for three weeks, and I love it — except for my roommate. She spends every possible moment out of the room partying with her boyfriend (I don't party much). When she's around, I'm afraid to turn on music or the TV. I don't know what bothers her. She doesn't care what bothers me. She'll come in when I'm asleep and be so loud (even making calls).
Today, I had an early class, and her alarm went off half an hour before I had to get up — and she kept hitting snooze for an hour. I don't want to move because I'm very close with the girls on this floor (they still aren't sure who my roommate is). Living with her is very uncomfortable! — Uncomfy Roomie
Dear Uncomfy: Let's clear something up: Roommate does NOT equal friend.
The way to let your roommate know what bothers you is NOT to tell everyone BUT your roommate the problem.
Next time she's around, introduce yourself (in case she forgot who you are). Tell her that you need to talk. Start by saying that you wanted her to know that if you should ever do something that makes her uncomfortable, you want to know. Then let her know that you hope she would want you to do the same. Then explain the issues. She might not even know that you have a problem. Hope that she wants to get along and makes an effort. If not, involve your resident assistant. As for being friends, just get along. Anything beyond that is a bonus.
Harlan is the author of "The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College" (Sourcebooks). Write Harlan at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Ste. 223, Chicago, IL 60614. © Harlan Cohen 2005 Dist. by King Features Syndicate Inc.