Straight Talk Advice

Straight Talk Advice ending in four weeks

Oct 27, 2015

After 12 years, Straight Talk Advice saying goodbye in late Nov

DEAR READERS: Where to begin? I have so many thoughts to impart — in only 630 words. Such is the life of a columnist. I guess I’ll start at the beginning...

… Straight Talk Advice was born, not kicking and screaming, but in one sweet delivery in 2004 in Auburn, California. It sprang from classes for at-risk teens that I helped develop as co-founder of a nonprofit called Teens-Matter. Holding these classes, I was struck by how utterly wise these teens were once they understood themselves a bit and realized we weren’t judging or stereotyping them.


The “aha experiences” many students had were exciting. As I casted about over how our graduates could retain their newfound enlightenment rather than slip back into old patterns, I had my own light-bulb experience: They could share their hard-won wisdom with other teens through a Q & A. Helping others is a known curative and since teens naturally seek advice from their peers, it would be a win-win for our students and young people everywhere. And parents would get first-hand information they could trust. Another win. The surprise win — one I’m very proud of — is the bridge it made to elders and grandparents, who read it as passionately as youth.


It was an exciting time. I felt my education, skills and experiences were a perfect match and I had found my life’s work. I also got what many readers receive: Straight Talk gave to me, too, a lively, trustworthy platform from which to talk to my own four children about anything and everything. Thanks to Straight Talk, they became extremely open during a time when teens usually shut down. Each one eventually served on the panel.


There’s nothing like Straight Talk out there and we are growing. In addition to our website, straighttalkadvice.org, our weekly advice blog is syndicated in 14 papers in five states: California, Oregon, Washington, Ohio and Pennsylvania, with many more newspapers throughout the U.S. expressing interest. Such growth is virtually unheard of today as papers are shrinking, yet many papers are asking to be called back; they get what we’re doing. But — here’s the kicking and screaming part — it makes almost no money.


In the era of “free content”, papers can’t pay much anymore. Even if we grew to 100 newspaper subscriptions and 20 website advertisers, it would still translate to barely-livable income for the 3-4 member team needed to create and manage this. I’m overwhelmed managing our mail, website, and marketing for 14 papers. And a smart dedicated team is hard to build from empty coffers.


A savvier business head probably would have figured out how to get the subsidy a business like this needs to lift into profitable — or a saner one would’ve left Straight Talk years ago. But Yours Truly went 12 critically-acclaimed, ridiculously-unpaid years. The trouble was, every week, I got so excited by what you were sharing with us, and what the panel and I were sharing back to you! I figured we’d get the lucky break Noble economics professor Daniel Kahneman says most new businesses need to succeed.

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that the last Straight Talk Advice column will run in late November.


It’s been an honor to be here these 12 years and a thrill to give voice to young people — not just of a new generation, but the entirely new Digital Age.


To our thousands of readers and the 137 panelists who have served, you are my teachers. I adore you. We have four more weeks and there will be more closure. As always, be your curious selves about the world, learn from each other, love each other. Be humble. Be compassionate. Be deep. Stand up for truth and boundaries and childhood innocence. I know you do.


See you next week. —Love, Lauren

There are costs to maintain and host this website. Click here, to keep the archives open by making a tax-deductible donation today.

PS: Artwork is by Yours Truly. I look forward to having time to paint again! If you are interested, you can see more of my work at www.laurenforcella.com and please like my FB page at https://www.facebook.com/LaurenForcellaArtist!

  1. By S.C., age 41, from Carmichael, CA on 10/27/2015

    How sad that such an valuable and popular column cannot continue due to today’s economic realities.  As the single mother of 2 teenage daughters, I have found Straight Talk invaluable and always make a point to read it the day each new column comes online, rather than waiting to read it in the newspaper.  I sincerely hope that at the very least you will be able to keep the past columns online as they contain a wealth of valuable information that should not be lost!

    Many columns were very helpful to me in raising my daughters.  In particular, the suggestion of having a code word or phrase to alert a parent when to come into the room was very helpful.  While it is a simple idea, I never thought of it until I read about it in Straight Talk.  I new something was wrong when one of my daughters began hiding her body from me overnight after never being the least bit shy about nudity with me her whole life, and also started acting differently in other ways.  I talked to her sister in private and told her I knew something was happening with her and got her to tell me in confidence that her sister had bruises on her body caused by her boyfriend in places only visible when she was undressed.  However, she had threatened her that she had better not tell.  Having read about it in Straight Talk, we worked out a plan for her to use a code phrase to alert me when her sister was nude in their room, and I was able to make an excuse to come in and catch her nude and see the bruises and demand to know what was going on without having to disclose her sister’s complicity.  I ended her relationship with her boyfriend and she was very angry with me for a long time, but she came to realize that I had done the right thing.

    S.C.

    Reply to this comment

    1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 11/01/2015

      S.C.—Thank you for writing and I’m glad STA was valuable to you and your family.  I do hope to keep the website open so people can use the archives. They are searchable by topic and I look them up all the time myself for information. There are monthly hosting, maintenance and other fees to keep the website open, so I hope kind readers will donate to help cover these ongoing costs.

      You sound like a great parent! Love, Lauren

      Reply to this comment

  2. By K.C., age 17, from Westminster, California on 10/28/2015

    I too will miss Straight Talk very much and find it very sad that it is ending.  Like S.G., I hope that the past columns will at least continue to be available on-line.

    As a gay teenager, I have especially appreciated the columns that are supportive of us.  I especially have appreciated the comments from straight siblings and straight friends of gays who have confirmed that we are not sexual predators who prey on straight people or get sexually excited when we see straight girls nude and want to have sex with them, and that there is no harm in our participating in sleepovers and slumber parties when girls undress in front of each other or changing and showering in the girls’ locker room.  Those who really know us know that these things are not a problem.  It is those who are not even willing to get to know us who worry about such matters.  My straight sister who knows me the best and has shared a room with me and undressed in front of me her whole life knows that there is nothing to be concerned about when I see her nude.  The same is true for my straight friends.  However, I get cruel treatment such as has been described by others who have written to Straight Talk.  The thing that I find most stupid is the girls who are paranoid about even being in the girls’ bathroom with me as others have written about.  Where is the threat when we’re “doing our business” in separate locked stalls?  It makes no sense, but many somehow find this something to really be worried about.

    Anyway, thank you for all of the support and I will miss you!

    K.C.

    Reply to this comment

    1. By Mindy, age 17, from Toledo, Ohio on 10/31/2015

      I will also miss Straight Talk and also have really appreciated the support that it has given to gay teenagers along with addressing many other very sensitive subjects without sugarcoating them as other sites do, if they discuss them at all.  In fact, I know of no other publication either print or online that gives such support to gays other than those specifically written by and directed to gays.  However, those publications are not really that helpful to us since nobody reads them but gays and some of those who already support us.  I therefore have really appreciated the way that Straight Talk has helped in dispelling the myths about gays that we are sexually interested in straight people or young children or that things like undressing and nudity with us is a matter of concern.  As K.C. and others have written, straight friends and family members who really know us know that this is nothing to worry about, but some ignorant individuals who do not really even know us are paranoid about such things.  As many others have written, my straight sister and I are just as comfortable with undressing and nudity in the room we share as any straight sisters could be.  Based on what I’ve seen at my school, it is true that guys who are gay get it even worse than we girls do, but it’s not easy for us either!

      I will miss Straight Talk and want to add my thanks for all of your support over the years!

      Mindy

      Reply to this comment

    2. By Santa Rosa Mom, age 40, from Santa Rosa, California on 11/01/2015

      I will also miss Straight Talk and am very sad to see it come to an end.  As the mother a gay teenage daughter, I have also appreciated the support that it has given to gay teens as well as addressing many other important issues.  As Mindy states, I know of no other mainstream column that gives this type of support to gay teens.  While there are other sites that give such support, they are all oriented toward gays and therefore not read by many others so they do little to help dispel the myths and stereotypes that all gays including teenagers must suffer. 

      My daughter likes to earn extra spending money by babysitting, and the children for she cares like her very much.  However, upon learning that my daughter is gay, one mother said that she could no longer stay with her 5 year old daughter because she sometimes needs the babysitter to give her a bath and get her ready for bed.  I find this extremely offensive that someone would think that my daughter would sexually molest a 5 year old because of her sexual orientation!  However, this is the type of prejudice that she and others face.  She shares a room with her younger sister and they are very close.  As many others have written, undressing and nudity in front of each other are no problem whatsoever since they are both girls and are sisters.  However, some “well meaning” friends and family members have politely suggested that this could be harmful and that we should find other sleeping arrangements. I think this is absurd, and the only other real alternative would be for my 13 year old daughter to share a room with her 11 year old brother and neither one of them would be comfortable with that.  Additionally, as has also been written about in Straight Talk, opposite sexes sharing a room creates a much greater risk than sisters sharing a room when one of them happens to be gay!

      I also like the code phrase idea that I have read about in Straight Talk.  While we have never had a need for it so far, it would be very helpful if one of my daughters came to me with an issue about her sister but did not want the other to know that she was telling.  I rarely see my daughters nude, but they see each other this way every day since they share a room and also share the bathroom in the morning including when they are using the shower and toilet.  They would therefore see any signs of concern on the other’s body long before I would, and this would be a way to alert me and allow me to discover the problem on my own.

      Thank you again for all of the excellent advise, information, and support that you have provided over the years!

      Santa Rosa Mom

      Reply to this comment

    3. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 11/01/2015

      K.C., Mindy, and Santa Rosa Mom—I appreciate your taking the time to write. I didn’t realize there were so few mainstream forums as sensitive to gays and gay issues. Funny, we have been accused of being insensitive to gays by new readers because of our name “Straight” Talk.  I felt my explanation was in vain that the name meant “speaking the plain truth” and I encouraged them to read it every week before rushing to judgement. It goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover. (And in fact, if STA had started today, I probably would’ve picked a different name.)

      I’m just sad that the issues we addressed repeatedly (that you all mention here) keep coming up. I wish we could continue to enlighten people.

      One thing I am sorry we weren’t able to address in a full column, which just started coming to my attention recently is the brutal maltreatment that gay boys get in high school compared to gay girls. I don’t say this to lessen how bad it is for girls, but simply to make people aware. And since boys complain less, there is less knowledge of it, less attention being placed on remedying it, and less care for the affected boys.

      Thank you for writing and speaking your “straight talk”. I wish you all the best in creating a healthy life for yourself! Love, Lauren

      Reply to this comment

  3. By Boone, age 55, from Sierra Foothills on 11/01/2015

    Dear Lauren and panel
    It was with great sadness to read your column this morning in the Auburn Journal. Thank you for being there when my children were in their tweens and helped me to help them grow first as a single mom and then as a (step)mom of 5.  We as a family read your column when our kids were in high school and many times a topic written about would became the center of our dinner conversation for that week. It opened the doors in our home to hear the divergent opinions of our children and for us as parents to ask question and listen. Though we are now entering the ‘grandparent’ stage in our lives, we still faithfully read your column each week it has been printed so that we do not lose ‘fingers on the pulse’ of our local youth. You have told it ‘like it is’ and one of the only columns I am aware that specifically addresses youth and issues they are dealing with either in their own lives or the lives of those around them. You will be missed greatly! Thank you all

    Reply to this comment

  4. By Geo, age 60, from Santa Rosa, CA on 11/03/2015

    Lauren,
    I am stunned and saddened to learn that StraightTalkAdvice is shutting down. I have read every column online as soon as it hit my inbox since I learned of it in 2013, and have always found it informative and insightful.

    With your meticulous research and the unique perspectives of your panel, you have helped countless young people and their parents find solace and a way forward through a wide range of complex and serious issues. You have advocated for inclusion, acceptance and healthy choices when the mainstream culture and the pressures of new technology would have us do otherwise. Thanks for being brave, and for keeping it real, every single week.

    As a staff member at Community Matters, creators of the Safe School Ambassadors program, I wish to thank you for the numerous times you have recommended SSA as a proven solution to prevent and stop bullying on school campuses.

    Thank you Lauren, for your great work on behalf of young people, and best wishes to all the panelists, I will miss you!

     

     

    Reply to this comment

    1. By Caite, age 76, from Albuqueurque NM on 11/04/2015

      Oh this is terrible news!  I am in no position to help but it is a symptom of our current society that something as valuable as this in helping teens and truly building a sense of community cannot get the funding.
      I wish somebody would pick this up and do a crowd funding campaign for it as a charity.  Thank you so much for all the hard work, Loren.
      May the seeds of the column blow on to abundant ground.

      Reply to this comment

    2. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 11/06/2015

      Geo—Thank you for your kind words about our mission. It’s a pleasure to be understood and portrayed so accurately.

      The numerous times I mentioned the Safe School Ambassador program is something that only your organization, http://www.Community-Matters.org deserves credit for. I was grateful to know about and be able to recommend this proven, evidence-based solution for schools —a solution most people don’t realize exists—not just for bullying, but far beyond that, to actually creating peaceful societies organically, from the inside out, starting with our children. It’s the only thing out there that really works and has proven itself repeatedly in over 1500 schools.

      The Safe School Ambassador programs is one of the most hopeful programs in our society right now and for how little it costs, I hope to eventually to see it in every school.

      I don’t think people necessarily believe me that a real solution actually exists, so I’m glad to speak of it again here (with no word count restraints!) and refer people to your website at http://community-matters.org/programs-and-services/safe-school-ambassadors .

      Thank you for your kind wishes and we wish all the same to you!—Lauren

      Reply to this comment

  5. By Bill N., age 53, from Eugene, OR on 11/05/2015

    Lauren, A heart-tugging column today about your many years and the lack of monetary reward.  I think it’s healthy you are doing what you are doing by discontinuing it, and also that it was wonderful that you stuck it out and helped a world of people by your service.  As someone said once, a rain drop is form when there is a dust particle for the moisture to attach to.  You have been that wee bit of dust, without which all of your service to so many would not have been possible.  I haven’t even read your column but a time or two, nor have I gone to your dot org website, except today.  I just think it’s a touching thing to write person to person, just like we were sitting at your table.

    Reply to this comment

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