Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Gay Man Wonders About Obligation to Former Girlfriends

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am in college, and I recently came out as gay. In high school I dated a few girls, some more seriously than others. I'm not on good terms with those girls as it is, but I was wondering if I'm obligated to tell them I'm gay. I don't want to cause any drama if they find out through other people, but I'm not sure if it is any of their business. What do you think? -- Out, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR OUT: You have no obligation to go back to previous girlfriends to tell them that you are gay.

Beyond obligation is being thoughtful. You say you are not on good terms with any of these girls, which means you weren't likely planning to stay in touch with them. If you think any of your serious relationships soured because you were gay and didn't realize it or you were hiding it, it would be kind to go back to those girls to express your regret that the relationship did not work for this reason. If you knew you were gay and grappling with it, say as much. If you did not realize it until now, say that. Essentially, tell the truth to whomever you believe deserves to hear it. In this way, you are in control of how the information is revealed to people who have impacted your life rather than having it spread via other voices. It is your choice.

DEAR HARRIETTE: A couple of years ago, I dated a guy whose mother didn't like me very much. I found out that even after we broke up she was saying rude things about me behind my back to my ex's sister, who in turn told one of my friends -- that's how it got back to me. I saw her at an event recently and didn't know what to do. In a situation like that, is it best to say hello and take the high road or just leave her alone? -- Snubbed, Atlanta

DEAR SNUBBED: It is curious that this mother continues to talk badly about you. Who knows what her agenda is? You have no reason to get entangled in it unless you feel that she is damaging your reputation. Speaking curtly and moving on would be fine. No need to be warm, knowing that she is being rude.

If you believe that she is actively attempting to malign your name, you may consider reaching out to her and proactively letting her know that you do not appreciate her comments. You could tell her that her comments have gotten back to you, and if she is actually saying these things -- which you should be prepared to enumerate -- you should ask her to stop. Remind her that you are no longer in a relationship with her son. You would appreciate her closing the door on comments about you.