DEAR ABBY: I'm a gay 44-year-old man with self-esteem problems. I have never seen myself as worthy of affection, and I don't consider myself attractive. I have never been in a relationship, and no one outside of my family has ever said "I love you" to me.
I have recently tried to come out of my shell. As a result, the network of people I associate with has tripled -- and I think that has compounded my problem. Aside from parties where everyone is invited, I never hear from any of these people. I have only a couple of good friends, people I can talk to.
I have leaned on my friends to try to help me with my problem. But I'm afraid if I keep unloading on them it'll wear them down, and I don't want to burden them.
I wish I didn't feel so worthless. I know part of my problem is the fact that I am unemployed and worried about money. But this is who I have been my whole life. How do I break the cycle and start feeling good about myself? I'm tired of being lonely all the time. -- LONELY IN CHICAGO
DEAR LONELY: One way to stop feeling lonely is to give yourself less time to feel that way. Because you are unemployed and have the time, volunteer some of it. Find a nonprofit that helps homeless gay youth or senior citizens -- or, because the political scene is heating up, the party of your choice.
And while you're at it, contact a gay and lesbian center and ask what kind of counseling services it offers, because your problems predate your unemployment. There is help available in your city. Once you understand why you feel "unworthy of affection" you'll be able to improve your self-esteem. There are better days ahead.
DEAR ABBY: My office was relocated recently, a bit farther away from home than the old one. My new commute involves riding public transportation and then a shared shuttle van.
One of my co-workers, "Phil," rides the same shuttle. He always waits for me to get off the shuttle so he can walk with me to the office. He seems nice enough and well-meaning, but my mornings are my time to prepare myself for the day. He also occasionally touches my arm, which makes me uncomfortable. He also talks about personal things I would rather not hear about.
I would prefer to walk without him, but there is no other way to get to the office. I have debated being 10 minutes late to work each day, but then I would need to stay 10 minutes later and it would be much harder for me to catch the later shuttle.
What do I do? Tell Phil I don't want to walk with him? Walk faster? Go in later? -- UNCOMFORTABLE IN SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: Tell Phil that as you walk to the office you meditate -- that it helps "center" you in preparing for the workday. Explain that when he talks to you or touches you it's distracting, so you would prefer that he go on ahead. It's the truth, and he should accommodate you.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)