DEAR JACK:

The New Year seems to hold little new for me. Thus far, I have only experienced the same sense of overwhelming disappointment that has marked each day since I hit puberty at the tender age of 20. As a child, I was so carefree and imaginative — a young 19-year-old without worries or pubic hair! Now every day is a struggle to find time for friends, class and shaving my back. If this year is just as dismal as the last, I’d sooner leave my back hair to grow into the magnificent flowing cape it was destined to become and not bother with the incessant nuisances of life. How do I hop off the soulless cycle of sorrow?

— Pessimistically Pubescent

DEAR PUBES:

You are a rose still in bloom. Or, more accurately, a fresh field pussytoe (antennaria neglecta), a commonly found perennial herbaceous plant famous for the hairy backs of its leaves. I believe your puberty-onset blues are a rather grave strain of the extremely rare post-teen angst. All of those hormones bubbling inside you have fermented over the past decade, excitedly waiting to flow forth from your neglected glands. Hair in strange places and endless waves of frustration and disappointment are to be expected if a concentrated dose of boner juice (testosterone) has been unleashed in your system.

Fortunately for you, post-teen angst (and the more frequently observed teen angst) is easily curable. Many who suffer from all varieties of teen angst have found great comfort in the loving and understanding support of parental or authority figures. Has a maternal figure ever suggested you “stop looking so sad all the time,” then questioned, “Why don’t you smile more?”

Of course, the best remedy for struggling to find the meaning in living anymore is a smile. As long as you appear happy, the constant thoughts of inadequacy and self-loathing cannot weigh heavy on your heart. Just listen to male authority figures when they instruct you to “quit crying and be a man for once in your life!” It really is that simple.

If you find that a smile a day does not keep the depression away, I recommend a more aggressive treatment. Researchers have started to conduct medical trials on rodents for an exciting new form of experimental phototherapy. For the rats that survived, the results have been extremely promising. Test subjects are placed in a small cage, maximally restricting their movement. The subject is exposed to 72 hours of constant ultraviolet radiation. At the end of the testing period, the living rats are placed in a mirrored holding cell. The disorientation from the lack of food, water and sleep creates the perfect environment for the molting process to begin. Like a snake from its skin or a corn from its husk, the rats shed their no-longer-necessary layers of fur and dermis, breaking forth from their hardened shells of flesh like newborn spring chickens.

The bewildered lab rats are unrecognizable, even to themselves. Anonymous and confused, each is free to begin a new life, entirely different from its previous incarnation. The rodents can become flight attendants, traveling salesmen or roadside-prostitute murderers … whichever occupation best allows them to run from the haunting shadow of their former lives. Aileen Wuornos, a notorious serial killer and working girl who shot seven “johns” to death alongside the Florida state highways, is an early example of the great success of phototherapy treatment.

If Western medicine is not your thing, there are alternative practices available. Unable to fill the hole in your heart, it is often best to devote your attention to other holes. Recapture your youthful exuberance for life with a friendly game of leaky submarine and challenge a partner to plug all of your holes. It is not a task for the weak in spirit, so don’t be afraid to ask for an extra pair of helping hands.

Never forget, today you may be fresh field pussytoe — hairy-backed and frowny-faced — but one day soon you will blossom into the magnificent rose that you were born to be.

Your friend,

Jack