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It's time to come out of the closet

BY TARA SOLOMON

Dear Advice Diva:

I have been hiding a secret from the people I love for 25 years. The truth is, I am a gay man who is afraid to come out to my friends and family. I really do care about what they think about me. This situation has taken its toll: On the inside I feel all alone and misunderstood. My dilemma is how to stay true to myself and at the same time find the courage to deal with the criticisms I might face?

Stuck in the Closet

Dear Stuck in the Closet:

My dear friend, why be stuck in a dark, suffocating, aesthetically challenged closet when you can be outside in the sunshine, rolling in soft, golf-course grass and enjoying life? As feeb (or as canine-like) as that may sound, it's an apt metaphor for the self-imposed hell you have created for yourself. As you know, guilt and shame are wasted emotions and if you're going to make yourself feel guilty it might as well be for something good, like downing the entire top layer of a two-pound box of Godiva while watching Beaches for the 80th time or going crazy on shoes.com (hey, free shipping!) or clicking the ''Buy it Now'' button on that $5,000 Swarovski crystal Maria Theresa chandelier.

This all said, you hold the key to your cell, you just have to find it. And whether you do that through talk therapy, Theta healing, endorphin-pumping exercise or compassionate clergy, it's all good. Just do it. Find out why you are putting everyone else's feelings before your own, why you think it's OK to be trapped in emotional confinement while others are happy and healthy. It's time for you to break through that glass ceiling,

And about healthy: You can't possibly be if you're holding all that negative crap in. Release it (a liver cleanse would be a good idea, check with a good anti-aging doc -- read: MD -- in your community, or e-mail us back if you need help finding one) and start living and enjoying life. You can't be responsible for what others feel or think. But you can affect their response with a positive, self-loving attitude. In other words, if you accept yourself, chances are your family and friends won't even care if you're gay. They probably already suspect this and your admission will just help everyone sleep sounder.

OK, pep talk over. Let us know how you do. We want you to join the ranks of the healthy and happy, honey.

READER POLL: WORST PICK-UP LINES

I was at my best friend's birthday dinner when one of her guy friends walked in. She had been telling me for a while that he had a crush on me but I always laughed it off. He came in and grabbed a seat right next to mine and I politely said Hi, to which he replied, ''I just noticed you noticing me, and I just wanted to give you notice that I noticed you too.'' Needless to say he did not get my attention. How stupid was he????

Simone, Tampa

Dear Simone:

Ewwww. We are so over-arrogant and pseudo-slick. Interesting that his pick-up was more about him than about you. We just heard a really good line the other day, which was not meant as a pick-up (we think) since this guy made no other moves, and we've been engaged for light years and it wouldn't matter anyhow: He simply said, ''I love your voice.'' What a sexy comment.

The Advice Diva welcomes your questions -- particularly the more amusing ones -- as well as your worst pick-up lines. Write her at advicediva@herald.com.

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