15. Why do we turn into our parents when we swore we wouldn’t? Because really, when all is said and done, we admire them.
16. Can a half-empty person become a half-full person? A current theory is that people have an “emotional set point.” Some folks are just made happier than others. Pessimists will see this as bad news, believing it really doesn’t matter what you do — they are never going to be any happier. But there is hope — as any optimist will see! Happiness has more to do with how you construe the events in your life than the actual events themselves.
17. When do kids become adults? Biologically, it’s happening earlier; emotionally, it seems to be happening later. Nowadays puberty occurs in females between ages 8 and 14, between 9 and 15 in males. A generation ago, when you turned 18, you were out the door and on your own. Now we see kids in the Boomerang Generation coming home to Mom and Dad after college, hoping for a hand with bills, laundry, meals and other responsibilities of adulthood. It’s cute for a while, less adorable the older the kid gets.
18. Can a mother be friends with her teenage daughter? No. Most teens aren’t ready for anything close to a mature friendship. According to current research, the brain continues to develop into a person’s 20s. Mothers often want to befriend their daughters; fathers, their sons. But this is not in anyone’s best interest. Teenagers need to form identities distinct from their parents. That means: lots of privacy, even some secrets. It’s usually easier for a teenage girl to befriend the friend of her mother, and it’s usually best for the mother to leave it at that.
19. Does money really buy happiness? No. Because happiness isn’t for sale. Many people get tripped up by this one, amassing wealth only to find themselves cycling into a bottomless pit of unsatisfiable yearning. Turns out, joy and misery are not that far apart when it comes to very big wads of cash. Consider the case of a Kentucky couple who won $34 million in 2000. Thrilled to be released from the demands of their boring old jobs, they frittered their fortune away on fancy cars, mansions, all the usual stuff — losing everything that mattered in the process. They divorced, he died of an alcohol-related illness, and she died alone in her new house just five years after cashing the winning ticket. When it comes to happiness, only people you love, and who love you, can bring it. If you have enough dough to buy yourself a luxurious yacht, but no real friends to sail with, you’re sunk.
20. Can spenders and savers stay married? Sure — and they won’t run out of things to talk about either. Disagreements over money are a leading cause of divorce, so experts advise lots of work around this issue if, financially speaking, you’ve found yourself married to your opposite. Tip: Always talk in terms of “ours” instead of “mine” or “yours,” and work your strengths. The saver should be allowed to draft the budget; the spender gets to be in charge of vacations, celebrations and ordering extra toppings on the pizza.
21. Is money the root of all evil? No. Greed is. Elvis nailed this one when he said, “Sharing money is what gives it its value.”
22. What do you do if you see a parent berating a child? Cringe. Take a deep breath. If you truly believe you can help the situation, approach as someone showing sympathy — not as an accuser or member of the parent police. Empathize with the overstressed parent. Suggest that he take a deep breath. Tell him it worked for you.
23. Why is it so hard to say you’re wrong? Because it often involves saying, “I’m sorry,” which is even harder. Throughout history people have found it easier to stop speaking to one another, punch, slander, shoot and bomb rather than apologize. Tip: Next time just say, “Whoops,” and see what happens.
24. When should you reveal a secret you said you wouldn’t? It’s a matter of damage control. Is the person who asked you to keep the secret in danger of hurting himself or others? If so, intervene. Otherwise, mum’s the word.
25. Does the toast really always fall buttered-side down? Scientists in the Ask Laskas Kitchen conducted a study for which they first toasted an entire loaf of bread, one slice at a time. They buttered each slice, and dropped it from a variety of heights ranging from tabletop to ceiling. Among their findings: A dropped piece of toast never lands on its edge; stomping your foot and yelling “Darn!” does not change a thing; and the floor in the Ask Laskas Kitchen is not nearly as clean as we’d like. Well, life’s like that. Never as neat as you’d like it to be. But keep buttering your toast. And savor every slice you’ve been given.