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October 18-24, 2006

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, can a long-distance relationship last for seven years? What do you think is the absolute maximum number of years that a long-distance relationship can work? Please help!!

Dear LD: There is no formula for this type of thing. Technically, you can maintain a long-distance relationship for your entire life. The question is not how long can it last, but how long are you willing to put up with it? From the number of question marks and exclamation points in your question, it seems safe to say not much longer. Unless you really love freedom to such an extent that you are willing to put up with only occasional intimacy, not to mention ridiculous phone bills, then at some point someone has got to move. If neither of you can or will--if locale is more important than being with each other--maybe you just shouldn't be.

Ultimately, your love for each other has got to be more important than everything else, and if it isn't, maybe you should both take a look at that. Then again, maybe you like things the way they are. Maybe the distance keeps everything fresh and exciting. But if what you want is to enmesh your life with your lovers', then both of you are going to have to make some kind of adjustment and compromise. If living together is absolutely not an option, then you need to decide how much longer you can keep this thing going while maintaining your happiness and, if necessary, let it go and look for something closer to home.

Dear Sydney, I want to come out to my family but I don't know how to come out. See, it's really hard for me because my family is Christian, and I know they will hate me. I need advice. Thank you.--Stuck in the Closet

Dear Closeted: More then anything, I would love to be able to tell you that a parent's love is impervious to change, that no parent would ever stop loving a child because of his or her sexual identity. But you and I both know that's just wishful thinking. This does not mean that your parents will stop loving you. You have no way of knowing how they will react until you tell them. And so while I cannot in good conscience tell you that your fear is unfounded, you need to consider that, despite the religiosity in which your parents are currently ensnared, they still might be able to love you as you are.

This is a heterocentric society, which means you will always live a double life to some degree. So it's not out of the question for you to consider not telling your parents. Perhaps the cost is too great. And that's OK. You don't have to tell them--or anybody, for that matter. Sometimes it's necessary to protect yourself against other people's harmful belief systems. On the other hand, it's exhausting to lead a double life, and the more you insist that there is absolutely nothing wrong with who you are, the stronger you will be. And no matter what, if and when you do tell your parents, do not apologize. You have nothing to apologize for.

Dear Sydney, I have a 13-year-old daughter, and I don't know what to do about clothes. I have always dressed her as I've seen fit. I don't really agree with a lot of the clothing the other girls wear--too sleazy! My daughter was picked on because her jeans were worn too high and her style was, well, not showing her body (no belly shirts, etc.). I don't let my daughter wear makeup, and although her friends are doing it, I won't allow body piercing. I don't want my daughter to be picked on, but first of all, I don't have the kind of money to spend on sleazy clothes, and secondly, I don't want my daughter to look sleazy. But I do want my daughter to be happy! Her happiness is the most important thing to me. What do I do?--Worried Mom

Dear Mom: The overt sexualization of girls at seemingly younger and younger ages is not something to take lightly, any more than it is avoidable. Every generation presents its horrors to the one that came before it, and your daughter's is no different. There's the world you wish you could provide for her, and then there's the world she actually gets. Unfortunately, in the world she gets, many girls wear skimpy clothes and are taught that their power resides in their sexuality. But your daughter doesn't care about any of that; she's entering adolescence. She wants to fit in and look like her friends, and you have to support her in this.

This doesn't mean let her put on a micro-mini and stiletto heels to go to school, but let her try out a more hip cut of jean. She doesn't think she looks sleazy; she just looks like the other girls, and that's what's most important to her. Don't go buy her an entire new wardrobe, but cut her a little slack next time she needs something new. Let her pick out what she wants. Being made fun of, at her vulnerable age, is so much more damaging then showing a little bit of tummy. If she wants to wear make-up, teach her how she can wear just a little bit. Then teach her how to be safe, no matter what she has on. Remind her that she's beautiful and likable not because of what she wears, but because of who she is. She probably won't believe you, but never stop telling her.

Dear Sydney, about four years ago my Grandmother died. I am a teen. However, I never got to speak to her before she died nor attend her funeral. She was cremated. I still find it difficult to deal with and feel like I need to say goodbye properly. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can say goodbye to her?--Miss Sarah O

Dear Miss O: You are suffering from the elusive sense of loss that so often accompanies the death of someone we love. In a way, it can feel like they just went on a trip, maybe moved to another country, and that they are still out there somewhere. Except that they never visit and never write. In order to keep your grandmother close to your heart, and to avoid feeling so lost, put mementos of her--a picture, a letter, a gift she once gave you, something to think of her by--somewhere that you can see them daily. If you have anyone you can tell stories to about your grandmother and your memories of her, then tell them; if you don't, write them down. Plan a ceremony of your own. Set up an altar, with candles and special things in your room or out in the garden. Invite your best friend or your dog, and tell your grandmother goodbye. Sometimes we have to create our own rituals, and now is a time for you to create one for yourself.

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.