Dear Abby: I am a 29-year-old gay man. In my community, coming out at work isn’t an option. I really like my job and want to keep it. However, a female colleague is not only trying to persuade me that the two of us would make a good pair, but she has gotten all of our co-workers involved. I’m constantly pressured by my supervisor to “just go out with her and give her a chance.”
I have already told everyone, including her, that I’m not interested in mixing my personal life with my professional one, and I want to come to work only to work — not upgrade my marital status. However, because of my unwillingness to do what they “recommend,” the pressure from everyone has gotten worse. I dread coming to the office.
Would it be unethical to hire a “girlfriend” to stop by the office next week to bring me my lunch? Maybe if I kiss and hug her as I say goodbye, my co-workers will finally back off. If not this, can you recommend something else?
Can’t Come Out
Dear Can’t Come Out: You have described a classic example of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Your co-workers and supervisor may consider themselves to be “Cupid’s helpers,” but their actions could be the basis for a lawsuit. That you are gay has nothing to do with it. If you were straight and preferred not to involve yourself in an office romance that could turn out badly, or felt no chemistry with your aggressor, what is being done to you is intolerable. It’s embarrassing and distracts you from your job.
Document everything. Go to your supervisor’s boss if necessary and and state plainly that you need help to put a stop to this. You do not have to explain why you’re not attracted to this desperate woman. If it isn’t stopped, talk with an attorney.
I do NOT recommend hiring anyone to pose as a girlfriend, or you may have to put her under long-term contract, which could be expensive in more ways than one.
Dear Abby: I have a problem that I don’t know how to deal with and I’m hoping you can come up with a solution.
I’m undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. I’m happy to say that I’m doing well. I have a chemo session every two weeks, and afterward there is a bag I wear for two more days that pumps additional medicine into me. I do what I can to keep the bag out of sight, but it isn’t easy. Sometimes the tubing works itself loose and hangs down a bit.
My problem is people seem to feel free to ask me what it’s for, and it’s really embarrassing. I don’t know these people, and for heaven’s sake, why would they feel they have the right to ask such a personal question? Some of them have approached me and asked loudly, “Hey! What’s that for?” Then they stand there waiting for me to answer the question.
Going through chemo is hard enough physically and psychologically. I don’t need some ignorant clod asking me about something so personal. Some won’t take no for an answer. Do you have any ideas on how to deal with this? Every time it happens I feel depressed and upset.
Trying to Cope
Dear Trying to Cope: Say, “I’m being treated for a medical condition.” And if the person then asks what it is, say, “It’s personal. And if it was any of your business, you’d already know the answer to that question.”
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.