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It's time to launch a new life

Dear Carolyn: I'm gay. Congratulations, you're the first person I've told. I've had a number of miserable hetero relationships that obviously couldn't go anywhere, but I'm starting to go crazy. I live in a part of the country where there is no real "gay community," and my family isn't exactly gay-friendly. If I were to start over someplace else, I'd be doing it completely alone. Not to mention that I am in a doomed relationship with someone whose heart I don't want to break. I have no idea where to turn.

-- Huntsville, Ala.

A: This isn't about being closeted in Huntsville. Anytime you feel stuck, sort the reasons into two piles: constants, and choices. Then remind yourself as often as necessary that every choice can be changed.

Maybe it feels unsafe to come out; that's something only you can assess.

And maybe you feel too insecure/unstable to start over alone -- or you just take comfort in family, despite your secret. Fair enough. But: "completely alone" is the way countless people arrive in new locations to launch new lives, especially when the old lives aren't working. Starting from scratch is both a byproduct of our mobile society, and a catalyst for it; Americans treat a fresh start as their birthright.

Certainly some moves that are conceived as fresh starts can spiral into alienation and financial distress. The more vulnerable you are emotionally, physically, socially, financially and professionally, the more safeguards you need to build into your relocation.

For you, that might just mean you shop for your new community carefully, holding out for both professional opportunity and societal open-mindedness -- and also scout ahead for gay-friendly volunteer or community groups, so you can establish quick proximity to potential friends when you get there. Also, avoid strict leases and keep escape funds in savings. Your needs may be emotional, but be relentlessly practical in your plans.

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>Heed the limits on gifts

Dear Carolyn: This has bothered me since Christmas! In my boyfriend's family, they draw names so that everyone gives a gift to one person. Their agreed-on price is twice as expensive as in my family. So I spent twice as much on someone in my boyfriend's family as on my own sister, who is very dear to me. I feel that I was unjust.

-- Anonymous

A: Spending over limits often annoys people who observe them -- and can be a slap in the face to those who couldn't afford to spend more.

Heed the limit on your one gift, then satisfy your sense of justice by giving your whole family an extra something they all can enjoy. Good food or wine would do it.

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