I am American, and my boyfriend is Iranian. I have a feeling his mom doesn't like me because of the difference in our cultures, even though I am very polite to her whenever I see her. She never talks directly to me, but instead talks to my boyfriend in another language, making him translate to me. What should I do to make her feel more comfortable with me dating her son? —Laura,15, Sterling, Va.

Well, as you may know, I'm Iranian, too, and I can totally relate to how you're feeling. First of all, as hard as it is — don't take her behavior personally. This is more of a cultural problem than it is a problem with you.

My mother was also very prickly to my husband when I first started bringing him around, but she totally worships him now, and I know it's because of my little strategies — which I'm happy to share with you!

Just think of his mom as a cat. You know how cats are very on guard and not necessarily super-loving? It's because they don't trust their environment. But have you noticed that some people just have a way with cats? It's because they know how to approach the cat (slowly and carefully). You need to learn how to pet the cat (his mom) so she will start putting aside her formalities little by little. And Iranian culture is a very formal culture, so you're smart to be really polite to her.

First piece of advice: Keep doing that — it counts for a lot.

Second, speak her language. Out of respect, learn how to say certain things in Farsi. Learn how to say "hello," "how are you," and "goodbye." You should also learn how to understand the various responses, so you're not just saying the phrases as though it's your trick for the day. (That would be sort of offensive.) This will show his mom that you respect her mother tongue.

Third: Love her food, and try it without making any faces. Again, it's a sign of respect for her culture. You might be thinking that I'm suggesting you completely brown-nose her . . . and that would be correct — because winning over his mom will definitely be a challenge. But it's not impossible (my brother is happily married to an American) — you just really have to be willing to make an effort to . . . pet the cat.

My problem is my guy friend. We had this one-time sexual encounter, and he promised there would be no awkwardness between us, but there is. I see him online, and we don't even say "hey." I feel like we ruined a friendship over something so stupid. How can I fix the friendship if he won't even talk to me? Help! —Nikki, 18, San Antonio

Sex has tremendous emotional consequences, and he may have fully intended for things to be normal afterward — but, well . . . sex changes everything. OK, now you know that, and you won't make the same mistake again (no matter what the guy says!). So talk to your friend in person. Say, "I feel like things are awkward with us." If he denies it, then make sure you're not the one being weird. Make more of an effort to reach out to him. Maybe if he sees that you really are OK being just friends, then he'll gradually loosen up. But be prepared: Things may never go back to being the way they were. In the worst-case scenario, he doesn't come around after a few weeks of you trying — and then you should walk away. But at least you will walk away having learned something important: Sexual encounters shouldn't be entered into casually.

Questions may be sent directly to Atoosa Rubenstein at: [email protected]. Atoosa Rubenstein, the founding editor of CosmoGirl! magazine, is the editor in chief of Seventeen magazine. © King Features Syndicate Inc.