Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

High School Freshman Worried About Appearance

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m self-conscious about my skin. I'm starting my freshman year of high school, and my skin is so bad. I recently met with my dermatologist, and he put me on medication, but I don’t think it’s going to work as quickly as I want it to. I try new makeup products to cover up my blemishes, but it almost looks worse. I’m upset that I'm going to be starting high school with bad skin.

On top of that, I found out that I won't be getting my braces off until the middle of the year. I feel like I’m the only rising freshman with bad skin and braces. Am I ever going to get over my insecurities? -- Insecure Freshman, Philadelphia

DEAR INSECURE FRESHMAN: This may be hard for you to believe, but you are not alone. Bad skin typically comes from a combination of natural hormonal changes during puberty and your diet. It can take a long time for you to get your skin under control, even when you are mindful and follow your doctor’s directions. That means you must have patience as you follow the protocol.

You are right about makeup. It tends to make distressed skin look worse. As hard as it may seem, it is best for you not to put makeup on top of your blemishes. If you can keep your skin clean while it is healing, it will clear up sooner.

As far as braces go, think about the payoff. You will have straight teeth, though the process is long and often uncomfortable. You can weather this storm. Take stock as you go around school to see how many people share your pain. You will be amazed at how many students are just like you.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mom’s boyfriend proposed to her last week. They have been seeing each other for two years, and he makes her happy. I'm not close with him, so I don’t know how I feel about this.

I have such a strong relationship with my dad that I know no man will ever fill his shoes. Sometimes my mom’s boyfriend will try to act like a paternal figure, as if I don’t have one. I know he is trying hard and just wants my siblings and me to like him, but I think he tries too hard. We have an amicable relationship, and I’m happy to see my mom happy, but I still don’t know how I feel about him. Is that normal, considering my mom is going to be marrying this man? -- Mom Marries New Man, Boston

DEAR MOM MARRIES NEW MAN: This is often an awkward moment for families, especially when your dad still figures prominently in your life. Talk to your mother about expectations. What does she hope your relationship will become with her soon-to-be-husband? Make it clear to her that you remain close with your father and you do not want her fiance to be a father figure. Establish what the goal is, and work toward that. At the very least, be respectful and kind to him.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)