Q: I connected with this really nice guy on Facebook and have been perusing his profile ever since. We're actually going to meet for coffee—as our first date. So am I allowed to "know" as much as I do about him? I don't want to creep him out.
A: Unless your new friend has signed up for an app that reveals who's been reading his page, ignorance is bliss. But your instincts are good: People don't always like the idea of new friends or beaus knowing all about them. In fact, when the two of you get together, try to pretend you don't know what you do. Don't bring up out of the blue his entire work history (yes, that's creepy) and avoid comments like, "So, I saw you and Mike broke up on Facebook ..." But if you both love Lady Gaga or volunteer at the local LGBT center, it's fine—and actually very helpful—to talk about what you have in common to break the ice and discover what else you may share.
Online relationships are just like offline ones. Peeling back the layers of someone's life and personality should happen in a gradual way, as you build up trust. And hearing someone describe his life in his own words is a great way to get to know someone. It's entirely possible that your new friend would rather tell you himself about his beloved pets and what he wore for Halloween last year.
Q: Usually when I'm applying for a job I set aside the real me—the butch dyke, if you will—and dress up a little feminine (different hair, different suit, everything). As I get older, this makes me feel less and less comfortable, as though I'm not being the real me. How do you suggest I dress for interviews?
A: That's a tough question. Ideally, it's essential not to disguise yourself or to appear other than who you are. Still, there's something to be said for having your "interview suit"—and doing some extra grooming—especially because we all know how others' prejudices can work against us.
Think of it this way: The idea is to take appearances completely out of the equation so that you can explain your qualifications and sell yourself without distraction. Once you land the job, you can be freer in how you dress. You're not selling out to adopt a more mainstream look for the interviews; this is just another step to get you in the door.
In my experience, most people try to pick up a company's dress code once they start work. But if you don't think you can do that—or want to dress butch all the time—then go ahead and do it for the interview. If the company can't take it then, you're wasting your time considering this particular employer.
Q: I need to tell my ex that I contracted a venereal disease and that I may have passed it on to her, but I can't bear the idea of talking to her. Is it rude to just e-mail her about this?
A: One way or another, your ex needs to have this information and you have an obligation to get it to her. It's about being honest and respectful. While the medium you use is less important, receiving such news in a brief e-mail message could be pretty shocking. If you make the effort to actually talk with your ex, you're showing a modicum of respect for her feelings and saying that you're taking the matter seriously. This route also gives her a chance to ask questions, some of which you may be able to answer on the spot.
Nevertheless, if your animus toward your ex is too strong for you to pick up the phone, then go ahead and e-mail her. Ask her to let you know that she received your news—you wouldn't want information like this to wind up in a junk folder.
Another idea, although perhaps more appropriate for those who've had a casual sexual hookup, is to send one of the e-cards available through inSpot.org, an Internet service for sex partners and tricks. This site will deliver messages like, "I got diagnosed with an STD and you might have been exposed. Get checked out." You can either sign your e-card or send it anonymously.
OK, now you have no excuse.
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Steven Petrow is a regular contributor to the Indy and writes for The Huffington Post and The Advocate. He's also the author of The Essential Book of Gay Manners & Etiquette (www.gaymanners.com).