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Chrissy thinks her life is problem free (she even sets up an online advice column to make use of all her good girl talent) till her best friend, the boy she's been in love with since she was maybe five, comes back from the US. Now this would be a good thing if she wasn't already in an unofficial, sort-of relationship with her long-time crush Nathan. Is it finally time for Chrissy to trash her good girl image and follow her gut? Or is she making the biggest mistake of her life?
"Full of insight and characters you instantly grow attached to, Every Girl's Guide to Boys will have you laughing, crying, and laughing all over again. You'll never want to put it down. In fact, you'll find yourself savoring each and every word as you near the end, hoping it can go on forever." --Candy magazine
Rule number 2: Gather information.
Nathan looks at me. "Chrissy. What are you doing?"
The answer I give him is, "Why, what's weird about what I'm doing?" Which technically isn't an answer because it's also a question. We are driving to Flaming Wings in Katipunan for lunch, and for the last five minutes, I have been leaning forward in the passenger seat, resting my hands on the dashboard and inspecting my newly-purple-polished fingernails. The real answer, of course, is "Trying to get you to notice my fresh manicure and ask for a closer look and therefore hold my hand, you dimwit." I'm not really sure why I'm doing this now. Maybe because the last time I saw him was during our semi-disastrous movie date, when his hand was on the armrest for the entire two hours and my palms were gross and sweaty and I panicked because I knew he wanted to hold hands for the first time. I dealt with the situation by crossing my arms tightly over my chest so he wouldn't have access to my hands. I have no idea what the movie was about, or why he keeps asking me out despite my mixed signals. I just know I have to make it up to him somehow, unless I want him to give up and go ninja (i.e., disappear without a trace) on me.
"Can you please put your seatbelt back on?" he says, sounding irritated and PMS-y.
"Fine," I sniff. "Sungit mo naman." I lean back, snap on my seatbelt, take out my phone, and pretend to be texting. For all he knows, I might be texting another guy and saying, "I'm so glad you don't make me wear a stupid seatbelt. And for that, you totally win over this idiot Nathan." I rearrange my face into what I hope could pass for a kilig, texting-with-a-cute-boy expression. At one point, I even giggle in fake delight. He grunts and rolls his eyes but doesn't say anything.
Hold up--in case you start wondering why I'm even out on a date with this guy, let me make it clear that this isn't like Nathan at all. This irritable, PMS-y person beside me is not Nathan, or at least not the Nathan I know. Because the Nathan I know defies the broody, tortured artist stereotype by being cheerful and good-natured and impossibly optimistic. The Nathan I know caught my attention by making the school's cranky canteen lady laugh with a really stupid joke, way back in freshman year. I was picking up a dozen packed lunches for a Student Council meeting, and she was giving me this lecture on not expecting people to wait on me hand and foot, all because I had asked her (very politely, mind you) for some string to tie the styrofoam containers with. I was explaining to her that I needed it to carry everything at once, when someone behind me piped in, "Manang, I have a joke for you. Sinong banda ang palaging nanghihingi ng string?" Surprisingly, the cranky canteen lady shrugged and said, "Ewan ko. Sino?" He cleared his throat for emphasis and said, "Eh 'di Metallica! May tali ka? Hahaha!" There was eerie silence for about twenty seconds, and I was deathly afraid she would throw her cash register at us. I was about to run for cover when she laughed and told him, "Oo iho, meron. Sandali lang ha." Before I knew it, she was handing him an entire roll of string, and he was giving it to me, and I was blushing and saying thanks, and he was introducing himself and shaking my hand. And yeah, I've had an enormous crush on him since.
The Nathan I know is sweet and caring and one of the most patient guys I have ever met. The Nathan I know asked me out on our first date by leaving a note attached to a single red rose in my locker—a cheesy and outdated gesture, but a sweet one nonetheless. The Nathan I know would never pull into the parking lot, get out of the car, slam the door behind him, and stand there scowling in the midday sun, waiting for me to open my own door.
I run to catch up with him and ask, "Who are you and what have you done to my friend?" I say "friend" because I don't know what else to call him—we're not officially together, although we have been dating (exclusively, I think, although we never agreed on that either) for almost six months. Besides, we've been friends since that Metallica incident in freshman year, and have gotten closer while working together for the Student Council, which means our platonic relationship trumps our sort-of-romantic one in terms of longevity. Who are you and what have you done to my potential boyfriend would have been presumptuous, and Who are you and what have you done to the guy I'm dating would have been, I don't know, complicated. But the moment I say "friend," I realize what a huge mistake I have made, as proven by the fact that he just shakes his head sadly, pulls out a chair for me, and sits down.
Okay, seriously, what is going on here? The sungit scowling, I can take, or at least ignore—it can even be amusing because it is so out of character. But this disappointed silence, like I am a pre-schooler who has done something wrong, is strange and unsettling and, as far as I know, completely uncalled for. Because I haven't done anything wrong, except for that holding hands incident, and I really don't see how that can amount to this much fuss. I feel like I am five years old again, except when I was five and in trouble, I was always told exactly what I was in trouble for before being subjected to disappointed silences.
But today, the disappointed silence stretches on until our lunch arrives, until he asks for the bill, until we leave the restaurant, until we get back in the car, until he drives me home. And now I am sitting in front of my computer, staring blankly at the monitor, gathering my confused thoughts into one big blob of disbelief.
On my computer screen, there are three new comments for the latest post on my online advice column. Remember what I was telling you before, that it was a shame to let my amazing insight go to waste? Well, I might as well use it to make the world a better place—and maybe stir up some drama in my life through other people's problems so that the hypothetical hotshot director can give me a happy ending. This online advice column, which I put up three months ago, is my answer. Let me explain how it works. Readers e-mail me their problems about school, family, friends, love, etc. As expected, most of the problems that come in are love-related, which is fine because they make way for some really interesting discussions. I choose one problem every week, write a lengthy response full of wise advice, put it up online, and allow the other readers to react. Comments don't require approval because sometimes it takes me a couple of days to check my mail and I want everyone to be able to post their thoughts right away; besides, the site visitors are a tame, well-behaved bunch—no bashing or inappropriate remarks, and everyone seems to want to help everyone else. In school, people would come up to me to say thank you, or tell me what a wonderful idea the site was. It made me happy, the fact that I was making new friends and maybe even building a small fanbase, all because of my ability to solve a few problems here and there. In a nutshell, the way it works is actually pretty simple. No, scratch that, it's supposed to be pretty simple.
A week after the birth of my online baby, someone who called himself "N" started leaving messages like, "Your readers are lucky to have you," and "You are extraordinary." Soon, the messages turned to, "You make my day a little bit brighter every time I visit this site," and "If I admit to being one of your many secret admirers, does that still make me a 'secret' admirer? ;-)" To that last message, I replied with a flirty, "I think I have an idea who you are, N. You make my days brighter too. :-) But just for fun, let's keep pretending your identity is yet to be revealed. Your 'secret' is safe with me." I was glad Nathan was being supportive of this little venture, although every time I'd bring it up, he'd deny having anything to do with it. "But if you're not N, then doesn't this make you the least bit jealous?" I'd ask playfully. He'd grin and say, "No, because I know at least five guys in school who have a thing for you, but I also happen to know that you only have eyes for me." And then I'd punch him in the shoulder and we'd laugh about it and move on to another topic.
The three latest comments are all from "N," and all in response to one post:
July 14, 2008
My best friend and I have always been attracted to each other. We've never said this out loud, but I know for a fact that we are definitely more than friends. We go out on "dates" all the time, we text and YM every day, and we spend our weekends hanging out with each other's families. The problem is, we've been in this in-between, are-we-or-are-we-not-a-couple stage for quite a while now, almost a year. Sometimes I try hinting that I want us to make things official, but I don't want to be the one to spell it out for him. I'm starting to get confused. Why isn't he making a move? I've been giving him all the right signals. Does this mean he's not really interested?
Marla believes heartbreak always leads to bigger and better things, such as this book you're holding right now. She doesn't need much to be happy—just quiet weekends with her family, people who let her think she's funny even when she's not (which is most of the time), and friends who stay up all night with her during intense, slightly-panicked writing sessions.
She likes curling up with a David Levithan novel, typing the very last word to a story, and baby-sitting her two little boys, Macu and Cisco. She thinks being Candy Magazine's Assistant Lifestyle Editor is pretty cool, and loves the fact that she gets paid to watch chick flicks, listen to her fave bands, and stalk her celebrity crushes.
In the following Q & A, Marla tells us more about the Every Girl's Guide books. Read on to see how she, too, learned about these rules from her own experiences, and what advice she gives teenage girls who want to move on and look forward to better relationships.