Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR READERS: Spring may finally have sprung, and to celebrate surviving an extremely long winter, I've stepped away from my column for two weeks. My spring break won't involve partying on the beach, but I do plan to return relaxed, refreshed, and with a story or two to tell, and -- I hope -- some wisdom to share. In the meantime, please enjoy these "Best Of" columns, culled from 11 years of "Ask Amy" advice.

DEAR AMY: I am a 16-year-old girl. I live in a foster home in Portland, Oregon. I am in my high school choir, and we have a big performance coming up. Our choir was chosen to entertain at a big teachers' conference. It was an incredible honor to be picked. Well, the thing is that I'm so nervous; I think I'm going to mess up. My choir is entertaining 800 educators from all over the country, so I have a good reason to feel shy. We got our robes yesterday and they're great. The main reason I am writing is because I need some advice on how to stay calm during big performances.

Concerned and Panicked

DEAR PANICKED: I'm so glad you wrote to me because I definitely know what you're talking about. I've sung in many choirs. Performing can be scary, but it's really fun too.

I read your letter to Joan Gregoryk, who is the director of the famous Children's Chorus of Washington. She knows all about nerves and stage fright and she was kind enough to pass on a few tips.

When you are on the risers, make sure not to lock your knees in place. Sometimes people do that when they're nervous and it can make you lightheaded. Wear cool clothing under your robe -- it gets superhot up there.

Pretend the audience isn't there and focus completely on your conductor. Know your part backward and forward and trust that your other choir members do too.

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Ms. Gregoryk wanted to remind you that when you sing, you are communicating poetry that was so beautiful that a composer decided to set it to music. If you can get into the mind-set that you are sharing this poetry with the audience, you will feel like you are giving them an unforgettable gift. That's how it feels to be an artist, and when you are up there singing, that's exactly what you are. Good luck. I know it will be great! (April 2005)

DEAR AMY: I am a high school sophomore. My boyfriend and I have been going out for about two months now. Lately I've been feeling that he and I just aren't working out as a couple, but I can't bring myself to break up with him, though I do want to tell him how I feel. I don't feel comfortable saying anything to him in person (it doesn't help that we don't have much time to talk between classes), and though I'd prefer it, I don't feel that over e-mail or instant messaging is a good way to break up. I would still like to stay friends but am unsure of what to do to end our relationship.


DEAR CONFUSED: You could just ignore and/or be mean to your guy until he has been driven insane with the uncertainty of it all. Then, after he expresses his confusion to you, you could blame him for being insecure.

You could whine about him incessantly, start to date his best friend or send your girlfriends out on a "breakup mission." That's how it worked when I was in high school, which is one reason the world is in the state it's in right now.

A lot of people your age don't have the character to want to break up well, so I give you "props" for that. And you really should do it in person, as uncomfortable as it is. Don't blame him for the breakup, and keep it simple. "I really like you and you're a nice guy but I'm just not ready for a relationship" should do it.

Don't be surprised if he's mad at you -- that's natural, understandable and his right. (March 2004)