Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
Nov. 22 2006 6:29 AM

Threat Level: Pink Alert

Are these the warning signs my stepson might be gay?

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Dear Prudie,
My husband and I have been together for about six years (second marriage for both of us). We each have children from our first marriages and the kids get along perfectly. My daughter (18) and my husband's son (16) are especially close. My daughter told me that her stepbrother might be gay! I asked her why she thought that, and she told me the signs: He hangs out with gay guys at school; loves to shop (according to her, he has awesome taste in clothing); has no interest in dating girls; doesn't want children; wants to go into design or theater; and has to have his face perfectly soft and whisker-free. I told her that doesn't make him gay, but she then told me about a girl at his school who e-mailed her to say she thought her stepbrother was hot, but it was too bad he was gay. I was in shock, but thought it could be true. When I told my husband about my daughter's suspicions, he was so shocked that he refused to talk to me the rest of the evening. I told my husband I didn't mean to hurt him, but that went nowhere. Is it possible for a 16-year-old boy to be gay or bisexual? What are the signs? If he is, what do we do? My husband is against gays all the way.

—Concerned Stepmother

Dear Concerned,
Isn't the universe wonderful, the way it delivers gay children to people who are "against gays all the way"? In the absence of your stepson declaring he's gay, the signs you've listed are not conclusive proof; however, they've got the gaydar on pink alert. Yes, it is possible for a 16-year-old boy to be certain about his sexual orientation, just as it's possible for him to be confused about it. Apart from whether your stepson is gay, what does it mean for your husband to be "against" gays? He thinks homosexuality is an abomination? If so, I hope his minister is not the Rev. Ted Haggard. As for what to do—what is there to do but for your husband to realize that whatever his son's sexual orientation, he needs to continue to love and support him? It's too bad your husband reacted so badly when you raised this issue, even if it was a shock to him (although surely, if he's been paying close attention to this boy, the thought has flitted across his mind). Whatever your stepson is grappling with sexually, it would be wonderful if he had a father he could talk to about it. Your most helpful role could be to try to get your husband to be that person. Gently encourage him to consider the possibilities, and then open up communication with his son about this. If it turns out your stepson is gay, look at some of the many books on how families can deal with this (one is Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming-Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, & Their Familiesby Chastity Bono—yes, Cher's daughter—which gets good reader reviews on Amazon). And though this subject is difficult for you, you still might want to take a look at the completely delightful When I Knew, by Robert Trachtenberg.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I have been married for six months. My husband is a good man; he treats me great and never hesitates to tell me how much he loves me. I love him, too, but am not in love with him. I guess I got married because I felt like I was not getting any younger and finally, after years of dating losers, found a man who was good all around. Now, the love of my life has come back. We broke up a few years ago when he was having some problems. He is on the right track to cleaning up his life and wants me back in it. He does tell me he loves me, but I don't think he does as much as my husband does. However, I am certain about my feelings. My question to you is, do I follow my heart and go with the guy who has been unpredictable in the past but who still makes my heart flutter, or do I follow my head and stay with the stable guy who I know loves me but that my heart is not fluttering for?

—Heart or Head

Dear Heart,
It sounds as if all this heart fluttering has cut off needed oxygen to your brain. You finally found a good man, but you want to throw him aside after six months of marriage because one of your losers has returned. Since you married your husband because of your revelation about what direction time moves in, do you think you will be younger after you dump your loving husband, take up with Mr. Flutter, and then realize he's the same steaming pile of trouble he always was? (Hint: A guy who tries to break up the new marriage of a former girlfriend is a jerk.) I have another revelation for you: You are one of those women who gets excited only by men who treat her badly. You made an excellent choice to break this pattern when you married someone who is good to you. Now you have to decide if you are a decent enough person to actually commit yourself to your husband. If you're not, let's hope he finds someone who will really appreciate him.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I am currently taking a class with a star young professor who is dangerously overweight, to the point that I'm fairly certain he will have major health problems and die at an earlier age. I don't know him well, but this has already happened to a friend of mine, and I wouldn't want it to happen to my professor. Is there a polite way to tell him that he needs to lose weight? Though he's an academic star, he has a really good rapport with the students, but that doesn't make it any easier to bring up a topic like this. I feel like I'm watching a train wreck about to happen that I'm powerless to stop.

—Don't Like Train Wrecks

Dear Don't,
Let's say your professor was not a brilliant academic, but dumb as a Butterball turkey—do you still think he wouldn't know that he was morbidly obese? If wives can't make husbands lose weight and vice versa, the chances of a student getting a professor to slim down are slim to none (and "politely" telling your professor you think he is a physical train wreck is unlikely to improve your grade). Enjoy the brilliance of this man's mind and stop worrying about his body.

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—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
When I was 21, I got engaged to a wonderful guy. We didn't get married, and I haven't seen or spoken to him in two years. I'm now 26. I loved him, but I came to feel I hadn't lived my own life yet and felt trapped by coupledom. When I started pulling away from the relationship, he was incredibly hurt. In the end, he broke it off. One thing bothers me more than anything: My family loved him and he loved them. My mom was horribly upset when we started to separate and when he eventually left. If I even try to talk about it, she cries before three words are out of my mouth. I felt then, and still feel now, incredible guilt, like I'm responsible for her pain. It would be so much easier if he'd been a jerk and I could have had a good enough reason for not being with him. How can I get past this guilt so I can be happy?

—Single and Guilty

Dear Single,
You wisely broke off a too-early engagement. You were right to recognize that you needed to live your own life, even though that caused you and others pain. Now it's time you recognized that your mother also has to live her own life. She already got her chance to be young and choose the guy she wanted to marry. She can't do it again through you. You are not responsible for your mother's emotional health. If two years after your engagement ended she weeps whenever your former boyfriend's name comes up (and by the way, he broke up with you), then she should get some help. But you need to stop worrying about explaining, and justifying, and making it up to her. If anyone has anything to feel guilty about, it's your mother for acting like a character in some 1950s Freudian melodrama. Close this subject (you and your former fiance certainly have), and get on with finding out how exciting it is to be a single, young adult, so that when the right guy comes along, you'll be ready.

—Prudie