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December 6-12, 2006

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, I am just starting a relationship and trying to figure out if I should give myself over to the connections and lean on them, or if I should strike out on my own and become financially secure. His location in Costa Rica makes it difficult to earn the money I need to thrive independently.--Worried

Dear Worried: You are wise to consider your financial independence. Not being able to make enough money to support yourself is debilitating, so if you are in the middle of something here--a course of study, for instance, or the first stages of a potentially profitable business--then take your time. Take flights to Costa Rica for visits, but don't abandon ship just yet. If this is a deep love and commitment, then a little time won't kill it. Finish up your loose ends at home so that when you do finally embark, you are ready for this new thing and not caught up with regrets and missed opportunities.

On the other hand, as long as you have no intention of ending up a single mother, broke and stranded in a foreign country, there's no reason why you can't just go and feel out new ways for making a living once you get there. After all, how do you know that something profitable might not come up for you? Take a good look at what you have going for you in the States. Do you have a lot to lose? A well-paying job? A house? What you don't want to do is give up all of the great things you have going for you here, arrive in Costa Rica with only a few bucks in your wallet, only to find out that Mr. Wonderful is really Mr. Asshole, have to call your mom collect, ask her to buy you a return ticket, and, oh, by the way, can you have your old room back for a while? Love is fickle and can often let us down, so it's really quite nice, when you land on your face, to have a few thousand bucks in the bank. If nothing else, wait until you have a small nest egg, then put it in savings and use it, either for a honeymoon or a return trip ticket depending on how things work out.

Dear Sydney, how do I approach my parents about the fact that they have clearly accepted my brother's girlfriend into the family but are slow to include my partner, whom they have known twice as long? They also insist that the fact that I'm a lesbian is not an issue for them.--Hurt

Dear Hurt: The best way to approach this is directly. You need to tell your parents how you feel. It's very possible that they have no idea that this is how you perceive their actions, and that if they did know, would make a valiant effort to revise them. You don't need to be accusatory, but just tell the truth: "Hey, it hurts my feelings that you rebuff my girlfriend but are all sweet with my brother's." That's all. Just let them know, and then give them the space to think about it for a while. They may be unaware of their own discrepancies.

To those of the firmly heterosexual bent, with little to no exposure to the lifestyles of the queer and fabulous, sometimes they just don't "get it." It's not that they have a problem with homosexuality per se, they just have a hard time conceptualizing a female-to-female relationship that's anything but platonic. Without even meaning to, they could be relegating your girlfriend to permanent "roommate" status, simply because when it comes down to it, even though they love you and even though they want to think they have no problem with homosexuality, they suffer from an epidemic of ignorance that exists because our society does not integrate alternative sexual identities into the curriculum of our lives. Queers are marginalized, left out and ridiculed, and everyone, including your parents, has been raised in an environment that is either in denial of or avidly opposed to homosexuality in any form. It's your job to introduce your parents into a new way of seeing the world. Coming out was the first step, but by no means the last.

Dear Sydney, I met a great girl when I was in Venezuela. We traveled together for two months, then she came to visit me in the states for a week, and we had a great time. Now she wants to move here to live with me, but I feel unsure. On the one hand, maybe this is the real thing, in which case I want her to come so that we can figure it out and have a relationship. On the other hand, part of me is worried that maybe this isn't the real thing, that it was just the romance of the moment, and that by telling her to come I am being selfish. She'll be leaving so much behind to take this risk--not to mention that she'll be coming in January! I like to think of myself as a really romantic guy, and having her come here fits with that image of myself, but this really isn't the best time. I'm in medical school and will have to move in May to complete my residency in another state. Do I tell her not to come? Or do I throw caution to the wind and go for it?--Not Sure

Dear NS: If you are in love, enough that you want to shack up and move to a new state together, then you should know it by now. You traveled together for two months. Were there any indications that you couldn't live without her? And how about now: Are you wrought with agony over her absence? Do you sleep with a lock of her hair clutched in your hand? If you don't, then you need to leave this whole thing on the beaches of vacation love-land, where it belongs. But if you haven't stopped missing her since that last kiss in the airport; if you have a picture of her, laminated, in the shower, then don't worry so much. Maybe she's looking for a reason to come to the States and feels ready for a move, regardless of whether or not things work out with you. Just be sure to let her know, before she comes, that you want her to make this decision based on two factors: her love for you, and her desire to move to the United States. If she doesn't have the second desire, then tell her to wait. Spend some more time together this summer, and make the decision once you have established residency and know exactly where you are going to be spending the next three years working your ass off.

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.