Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Allergic Reader Has To Skip Trip

DEAR HARRIETTE: I suffer from allergies in a severe manner. I am allergic to everything from food to bugs to dust to flowers. The summer season is tough for me.

I try to downplay my allergies, but I’m not sure what to do. For the second time, my friend has invited me to stay at her summer home in the woods in a very buggy location. Last year, my family and I went. We had a great time, except that I was always on EpiPen alert, and I got a million mosquito and other bug bites, and my whole body was inflamed. I do not think it is wise for me to go back, so I declined the invitation. Now my whole group of friends is mad at me. They are calling me a diva and all kinds of names, when actually I’m just trying to protect myself. How can I make it clear that I am happy to hang out with them, just not there? -- Allergic Friend

DEAR ALLERGIC FRIEND: Your health is more important than making your friends feel good. If they don’t get that, there are two possibilities to blame: 1. You have downplayed your health issues so much that they don’t realize it’s serious, or 2. They are selfish and really don’t care. Either reason is bad. You have to make it clear to them that you want to be there with them but you need a location to sleep that is less dangerous for your overall well-being. See if anyone would share a hotel room with you. In this way you stay in the loop and go to what you can but sleep in relative safety.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that a close family friend’s son came out as gay. I was happy that they trusted me enough to tell me. Now I wonder what I should do with this information. I am a gay man. Obviously, I am not interested in this teenage boy, but I do know a lot about the scene. More, I know about dealing with family after they learn that you are gay. Should I offer to be in contact with him? If so, should I reach out to him personally, or just talk to the parents? How should I ultimately address any rapport that develops between me and this young man with his parents, since they told me about his situation in the first place? -- Gay Living

DEAR GAY LIVING: Tell the parents that you would like their blessing to develop a rapport with their son. You know a lot about living as a gay man, and you would like to be there to support him. Make it clear that you will not be a spy. Instead, speak in generalities. You may tell them about the fact that you are becoming friends and that you talk about his life, but you will not serve as a go-between. Promise to be a sounding board and a moral compass for this young man. Then give reports when needed about his general development. Encourage him to talk to his parents directly about his choices.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)