DEAR ABBY: I'm a 41-year-old gay man. Although I was raised in a conservative, religious family, I'm out of the closet and proud to be living as myself. For much of my adult life, I have attracted mostly women. I have always tried to handle these situations with as much tact as possible. However, some women won't be let down easily. On the occasions when I have been forced to out myself to them, I have lost female acquaintances I really enjoyed spending time with or the friendship begins to deteriorate. I have tried introducing them to straight male friends and deflecting flirtatious banter. Am I confused, or do some women genuinely believe they can change my orientation? I don't want to give up on female friendships. Am I doing something wrong by being myself?
-- Out & Proud in the West
DEAR OUT & PROUD: The women who are pursuing you for romantic purposes may be interested in you for that reason and be less interested in a platonic friendship. Years ago, a gay friend was kind enough to tell me, "You can't 'change' a gay man," and it was a lesson I never forgot. "Out" gay men can make great friends. That your female acquaintances are not open to it is their loss. You are doing nothing wrong. When this happens, express to the person that you are disappointed they seem unable to accept you the way you are, and move on. Not all women are this unenlightened, and many will welcome what you have to offer.
DEAR ABBY: I live in Chicago, where our spring and summer months are slowly contracting into a three-month period. I know you can't do anything about the weather, but the invitations to Saturday graduations and birthday parties are using up those long-awaited summer weekends to the point they have almost been monopolized. Working full-time Monday through Friday, I look forward to my weekends, especially in the summer, but I keep being invited to Saturday afternoon celebrations. I own a lake house. Some neighbors have boats, and I'd love to spend the majority of our weekends there. As much as I want to celebrate these life events, I also want to enjoy my summer. If they would have them on a Sunday, it wouldn't intrude on too much of the weekend. What is your advice?
-- Warm-Weather Lover
DEAR WARM-WEATHER LOVER: I have good news and bad news. First, the bad news: It is unrealistic to expect schools to schedule their graduation ceremonies on a day that suits your schedule. The good news is, if you send a nice gift to the graduate, it will assuage their pain at your absence. As to those family celebrations, you have some important decisions to make about which invitations you must accept in order to avoid causing hurt feelings. However, my advice is essentially the same: Send a nice gift and a warm message of congratulations along with your regrets that you are unable to participate in the happy occasion "because of a prior commitment."
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.