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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I spent my high school years chasing girls and participating in sports. I made good grades and was popular with peers and faculty.

I have since graduated and entered college. I have also come out of the closet as gay. Due to popular sites such as Facebook, I have reunited with old friends who are interested to hear about my "new life."

With those not "in the know," I feel uncomfortable having to come out of the closet again and again. I don't feel ashamed about myself or my boyfriend, but I feel a certain discomfort when my former and present lives meet.

I have many friends, old and new, gay and straight, who I care about. But I feel some anxiety over the reactions I get from some of those people, even though they no longer hold a prominent place in my life. I'd greatly appreciate it if you could tell me how to handle and deal with such situations. -- BETWIXT AND BETWEEN IN SAN ANTONIO

DEAR BETWIXT: I understand your anxiety, but the reaction you're getting from some of your old friends is a direct result of how effectively you hid your homosexuality behind chasing girls and the misperception that being a talented athlete has anything to do with a person's sexual orientation.

You need to accept the fact that people will be surprised because they assumed you were straight like they are. Some of them will be accepting; others won't. But the people who count will get beyond it. The way to handle this is with the same humor and compassion you would like from others. It may take some practice and coming to terms with your own feelings, but I have every confidence that you'll do it as thousands of other people have.

DEAR ABBY: I am 48 and recently divorced from my husband of 25 years. Like others in my age group, I worry about my prospects of finding another partner -- especially because I am no longer the "cute young thing" I once was.

A few days ago, I was at a local wildlife park and struck up a conversation with a pleasant senior couple. They looked as though they had been married more than 50 years, but they happily informed me they were on their honeymoon! When we finished our chat, the woman said to her husband, "I guess we'd better be going, baby," and off they went, hand-in-hand.

It just goes to show that it's never too late for love to blossom! -- WILLING TO WAIT IN NOVA SCOTIA

DEAR WILLING TO WAIT: I'll say! My lovely cousin Suzie is being married in about two weeks after 26 years as a widow. It never is too late for love to blossom -- all it takes is a seed of friendship and a couple who decide they're ready to make a commitment.

DEAR ABBY: I am a young woman in my 20s who, while very friendly, is funny about being touched. I am extremely uncomfortable when people outside my immediate family hug me, rub my shoulders or place a hand on my back or arm. Yet somehow, people tend to do this with me.

How can I express my discomfort without sounding antisocial or mean? I'd appreciate your advice. -- TOUCHY SUBJECT

DEAR TOUCHY SUBJECT: Do it with humor. Say, "If you do that again, you'll have to marry me!" It should work with members of both sexes, depending upon the state you live in.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)