Dear Annie: I am 19 years old and afraid that my brother is gay.
”James” recently made a new friend at work who is gay. He has been going to the library with this new friend and spending the entire day there doing homework. James doesn’t own a phone, so it is hard for my mother to get a hold of him. Sometimes he leaves for work at 6 p.m. and doesn’t come home until 9 the following morning, making excuses that he was at work. My mother knows he’s lying, because she calls his job and they often say he isn’t there. His friend has left messages on our home answering machine that make us all question their relationship.
A few days ago, my mom called me crying hysterically because James hadn’t returned all night after an argument in which she asked if he was gay. He screamed at her to never ask that question again and said that he is not gay.
I try to be open-minded toward everyone and don’t object if James is gay. But my mother was not brought up this way. In her culture, being gay is absolutely unacceptable. If James “came out,” my mother would throw him out of the house and disown him. It would ruin our family name. She even once said she would have to move away from our hometown.
My brother has always had trouble making friends, and I feel this latest friend is someone who just happens to accept him for who he is. I don’t believe James is interested in men. But I am worried for his sake. What do I do?
Dear Unsure: Please don’t pressure your brother. Having a gay friend will not change his sexual orientation, and finding someone who “accepts him for who he is” is not to be brushed aside lightly. James needs to navigate this in his own way. You can mention that he seems stressed and let him know that if he needs to talk, you are available. You also can give him the website for PFLAG (pflag.org) just in case he should find it useful.
Dear Annie: You recently printed a letter from a sociable man in his mid-50s who is having difficulty making new friends. My husband and I are in a similar predicament now that the kids are out of the house.
Your suggestion to find activities is a good start, but the reality is that people form true friendships over shared common experiences. Volunteer activity, work, team sports (like bowling or a walking group) and religious groups provide the most opportunity for forming friendships over an extended period of time.
But I wish you would have specifically addressed our age group. Perhaps the “sandwich generation” burdens are part of the problem, but we don’t see significant numbers of people our age anywhere except restaurants and church. Please provide more guidance regarding friendships for people over 40.
— Prime of Life
Dear Prime: You have already noted that activities where you see the same people repeatedly provide the best opportunities to create friendships, and once you are out of school, your age doesn’t really matter. Besides bowling leagues and volunteer work, we also recommend book clubs, gourmet clubs, choirs, community theater and civic organizations. Determine what your interests are, and then look for local groups or check meetup.com.
Dear Annie: May I weigh in on baby showers for second and third babies?
When she was pregnant with her second child, my lovely daughter-in-law was given a “sprinkle.” Her friends brought frozen dinners, cooked and labeled. All she had to do was defrost and heat.
What a blessing for a new mom, especially one with other small children. The meals lasted for weeks.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
— Creators Syndicate Inc.