Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Boys Who Like to Dance Have a Leg Up on Life

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing to reassure the mother of "Trevor," who fears that her son is gay because he prefers dancing and cooking to baseball cards and talking about girls. Twenty years ago, that could have described my brother, although you'd never guess it to see him today -- happily married to a lady who's happy to let him do the cooking in their home.

My brother was always small and shy, and although he had a number of female and male friends, he didn't date until college. While in junior high school and high school, a knee injury left him with only swimming and dance for gym class choices. He endured a lot of razzing about his sexuality when he dressed to go to a dance class with the girls while all the other guys were preparing to do "manly" activities such as wrestling.

Finally, my brother lost his tolerance and pointed out, "You are going into a class of sweaty, smelly guys in shorts and sweatshirts. I'm going into a class with girls in skintight leotards and tights. Who do you think is having a problem?" And that ended the discussion!

As for cooking, my brother has always been the better cook in our family, and he loved it at an early age. To this day, he takes cooking classes and cooks up gourmet feasts out of nothing.

The mother is correct to encourage her son's interests. Dancers are often in better shape than other athletes, and certainly the number of male chefs on TV and running restaurants shows there is nothing effeminate about cooking. Someday, the other boys will realize that Trevor actually has a lot of advantages they missed out on -- and they'll be envious instead of harassing. -- PROUD SISTER, PLANO, TEXAS

DEAR PROUD SISTER: Your brother handled the teasing with humor and confidence. However, not all children have the confidence to deal with it in such a sophisticated manner. A survey funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that one in 13 students has been attacked or harassed because he or she was suspected of being gay. Four out of five of those individuals were actually heterosexual. Weapons have been banned from our school ground -- and words that are used as weapons don't belong there, either.

DEAR ABBY: We're having a discussion in our office about dating. A co-worker is going out with her husband tonight. She considers it a date, but another co-worker and I disagree. Of course, if you are married, you're allowed to go out with each other, but it's not considered a "date," is it? Abby, what do you think? -- CYNTHIA IN EL PASO

DEAR CYNTHIA: My trusty Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th Edition) defines "date" as "an appointment to meet at a specified time; esp. a social engagement between two persons that often has a romantic character." That definition describes the engagement your co-worker has with her husband, so she does indeed have a "date." Dating while married is a terrific way to keep romance alive -- don't you agree?

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600