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It Doesn't Have to Be Awkward: Dealing with Relationships, Consent, and Other Hard-to-Talk-About Stuff Hardcover – September 21, 2021

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From the Publisher

Well, it’s very impressive that you have since written a whole book about the topic. What surprised you during the writing process? Did anything make you want to run out of the room, or maybe even lean in with curiosity?

PAULINA: It was a conversation waiting to happen. My instinct is to cover my ears and scream and run, so for me it was about digging in and really thinking about what it means to communicate effectively when having these conversations.

DREW: Yeah, you have to keep it on the level of the person you’re trying to communicate with—that’s what I always tried to do back in the day with Paulina. When having these conversations, we’d stop when she wanted to stop, and we’d revisit when she was ready to revisit. With that basic paradigm in our relationship, we started looking at consent as a much richer territory for all kinds of relating. We talk about consent as a model for healthy relationships of all types.

PAULINA: Ultimately, the project was to take consent out of an intimate context and put it into the interpersonal context: talking about consent as a constant negotiation that is founded in knowing yourself and knowing others.

You’ve come up with three components of a healthy relationship with the acronym TCB. Can you tell us about what that means and how this took shape as your book’s philosophy?

DREW: TCB stands for trust, compassion, and boundaries. This framework is a requisite to relating to other human beings with respect. And for Paulina, the acronym TCB is particularly personal.

PAULINA: I’ve been obsessed with Elvis and his Memphis Mafia friends since the third grade, so I knew he gave his friends necklaces that said TCB, which stands for “Taking Care of Business.” I, too, had to have this necklace as a kid. So, when we landed on TCB, I was ecstatic.

DREW: And in a way, trust, compassion, and boundaries is taking care of business in a relationship!

What about consent outside the context of intimate and romantic relationships (friends, teachers, etc.)?

PAULINA: When I reflect on my childhood, it was often the relationships that were meant to be the least complicated that were the most complicated. And part of that was because it wasn’t communicated that there needed to be trust, compassion, and boundaries in those relationships.

DREW: Paulina’s point is a good one—we don’t really encourage young people to think about their relationships with authority figures as something that requires consent, but it requires the same health attention as any other relationship.

Paulina, in the book you talk about how your understanding of consent came a little late in your life. Could you share more about that journey?

PAULINA: Much like every student who went to a liberal arts school, college radicalized me—in a good way. I was introduced to feminism and my mind expanded in a lot of ways. The idea of consent really came to fruition for me when I saw Emma Sulkowicz carrying her mattress during her performance art piece Carry That Weight at Columbia University. When I first saw her, she was alone and carrying the mattress and no one was helping her. The next time I saw her, there were twelve people helping her carry it across campus. More than anything, it made me think about the ways in which I was complicit in RapeCulture. What were the ways in which I was doling out consent or not giving my consent? In what ways was it taken? In what ways was I being coerced into things when I didn’t realize it—saying yes when I mean no, right? Art is an excellent catalyst for deep thinking, and I had the privilege of seeing this groundbreaking piece firsthand—but it was only in my senior year that I really sat with myself and thought about what it truly meant to consent to something.

The book is very much a conversation. How did you approach sharing both of your experiences?

PAULINA: Susan Sontag once said that your book should be smarter than you are. Using my dad’s clinical backbone and my nonfiction creative writing, we were able to use both of our strengths and help each other where we lacked. And we spent a lot of time in Google Docs.

Who do you see is the audience for this book?

PAULINA: I believe this book is for those who have trouble speaking their minds—it’s for anyone who’s looking to figure out how to identify with themselves and others.

When is a good time to have these kinds of conversations with your kids?

PAULINA: Though I was initially unreceptive, the fact that it was constantly a topic of conversation that I could engage with made it less taboo. Bringing it up consistently helped me engage with it and ask questions.

DREW: The key is that it’s just a conversation. It’s not an opportunity to unload everything you’re anxious about and want your children to know—avoid that. Just give them the opportunity to ask questions.

Paulina, how do you approach dating and hookup culture with TCB in mind? Do you have advice for your peers?

PAULINA: I see TCB as the central foundation. Anytime that I’ve found myself in an uncomfortable situation, it’s either the trust, the compassion, or the boundary that’s not there. Having this holistic view will help you engage with our messy dating sphere. I should know, I spend a lot of time on Tinder. The other thing—don’t lower your standards. There’s no reason to.

LIGHTNING ROUND! What relationship advice would you give these (in)famous pop culture couples?


DREW: Romeo and Juliet has become the paradigm for romantic relationships in Western culture. I’ve said for a long time that they are love-addicted, immature teenagers who are so ill they end up dead! If these were my patients, I’d probably go to jail for allowing this degree of pathology to be acted out. People get confused about love versus intensity on the romantic landscape. Their relationship might have been romantic, but the outcome was death. This is not TCB.


PAULINA: Though coming out is their own process and we never want anyone to do it prematurely, we just want to say: Bert and Ernie, we accept you as you are and we are ready to celebrate you.


PAULINA: There are submissive and dominant relationships—

DREW: —that are healthy with TCB!

PAULINA: —but I would say the compassion Miss Piggy shows Kermit is not enough. Are his boundaries being respected? These are the conversations they need to have.

DREW: And Kermit has to work on his relationship with himself because he puts up with some stuff that maybe he shouldn’t.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—Pinsky, a practicing internist and addiction medicine specialist who's also known on TV as Dr. Drew, teams up with his daughter to write a guide for teens that unpacks challenging topics. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of teenage social life, including toxicity in friendships, dealing with bullies, consent in romantic relationships, and personal identity formation. There is extensive information on how race, gender, and sexual orientation influence how young adults think of themselves and relate to others, with positive, current information for LGBTQIA+ teens and teens of color. Short quizzes with example situations involving fictional characters are included throughout. This guide will be a useful manual for navigating relationships with friends and classmates, as well as grappling with one's own identity. Back matter features a list of online resources and recommended reading. VERDICT With sensitivity and compassion, this father-daughter duo highlights consent, identity, and relationships. A useful addition to YA nonfiction collections.—Madison Bishop, Forbes Lib., Northampton, MA


★ "Using a combination of straightforward language, relatable examples, and realistic expectations, [the Pinskys have] created a user-friendly guide based on the principles of TCB: trust, compassion, and boundaries....This readable guide should make things easier for parents, counselors, and kids alike."—Booklist, STARRED review   "A useful manual for navigating relationships with friends and classmates, as well as grappling with one’s own identity.... With sensitivity and compassion, this father-daughter duo highlights consent, identity, and relationships."—School Library Journal   "Teens looking for real talk about real challenges will find this book offers a lot of encouragement."—Kirkus Reviews

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Clarion Books (September 21, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0358396034
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0358396031
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 12 years and up
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 7 - 9
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.09 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 1.25 x 8.25 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 52 ratings

About the author

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For over 30 years, DR. DREW PINSKY has offered guidance to millions on popular shows like Celebrity Rehab (VH1), Dr. Drew On Call (HLN), Teen Mom OG (MTV), and the iconic radio show Loveline. He hosts a variety of hit podcasts including YMH's Dr. Drew After Dark, the Dr. Drew Podcast, The Adam and Drew Show, and's live streaming shows Dose of Dr. Drew and Ask Dr. Drew. He is the author of the NYT bestseller “The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America” and “Cracked: Putting Broken Lives Together Again” along with "It Doesn't Have To Be Awkward" coauthored with his daughter Paulina Pinsky.

Dr. Drew received his undergraduate degree from Amherst College and his M.D. from USC. He was Chief Resident at Huntington Hospital, and is a Diplomat of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. As a board certified doctor of internal medicine and an addiction specialist, Dr. Drew still treats patients at his medical practice in Pasadena, California.

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