Miscellany: Dear Serena: Modern Manners: Your Cut-Out-And-Keep Guide To Surviving The Minefield

Dear Serena,

I'm gay, but several times over the last year or so, since I split with my long-term partner, I've met women with whom I have fallen devastatingly in love. I've often found myself at parties gazing soulfully into the eyes of some adorable temptress rather than dancing at my own end of the ballroom. This is worrying me, as I'm afraid that I might not actually be gay after all, which will obviously cause quite a lot of disruption in my life. How do I work out where my mind's coming from, and how on earth does one go about going back in?

Stu, Battersea, London

Don't confuse these feelings for women with an urge to admit that you're actually heterosexual. True, the occasional gay man goes back in for reasons of his own, and this questioning is something a lot of gay men go through at some point, especially after the end of a relationship (and believe me, many a heterosexual woman has toyed with the idea of lesbianism after a nasty run-in with a man). But feeling enormous affection toward women is more likely to be a sign that you're well adjusted, and are capable of strong emotional bonds with people with whom sex is not an issue. Don't panic. Women are great; enjoy the fact that you've found some special ones of your own. You will know you've reached full maturity when you also make a close friend who is male and heterosexual.

I've developed a programme for a minority channel which was designed to appeal to the gay community and cause controversy in the wider world. Instead, there's been hardly a murmur in the press, and gay men seem to be switching off in droves. Help! Where did I go wrong?

X, Manchester

Quite simple, darling: you forgot the old rule that screen sex, unless you're deliberately using it for stimulation, is actually astonishingly boring, and the sort of thing you can show on television is hardly going to match up to the Jeff Stryker videos most of your target audience have stashed in their cupboards. Remember for future reference: even real porn movies make the odd gesture toward having a plot.

Judy Garland or Joan Crawford?

Lester, Prestatyn

Good God, Joan Crawford, of course. Judy Garland is such a simp.

My best friend has recently developed an obsession with "bareback riding" - having sexual liaisons without using condoms; he has become very militant about this theory that Aids is a form of biological weapon against gay men and has persuaded himself that he is fighting a guerrilla action against homophobia. I'm very worried. He means a great deal to me and I don't want to lose him. What can I do?

Gerry, Salford

Oh, dear. If this friend really means so much to you, why haven't you noticed the self-loathing thing going on here? I'm not saying that his problems are in any way to do with his sexual identity but, if you look around you, you will notice that most of the people who regularly take part in extremely dangerous activities, or volunteer for extremely dangerous jobs, are also acting out suicidal urges in a way that they feel would take the responsibility out of their hands if anything were to happen. Pleaseencourage your friend to get some therapy; his best chance of survival is working out why he wants to die.

What do you think? Is it OK for gay men to greet each other with kisses in public?

Magnus, Leeds

Sorry, love, but it still depends entirely on where you are. At parties, yes, in restaurants, yes, probably in most places where women habitually go without a male escort. But don't do it in, for instance, Stoke City Centre on a Saturday just after the football's turned out. It's a shame, and in an ideal world you could do it anywhere, but the sad fact of life is that many people live in certain areas, such as the country or Huddersfield, because it allows them to live with their prejudices unchallenged, and they can react with violence if their limitations are tested too vigorously.

I'm looking to expand my drag act and was hoping you could suggest some personalities who might go down well on the circuit.

Mauricia, Soho, London

I'd have said Hillary Clinton was admirably suited to life as a drag act, though Monica Lewinsky goes down better, at least according to rumour. Have you thought of doing Pauline Fowler out of EastEnders? There's an advantage in the savings on wardrobe costs. There is, I think, serious potential in Kate Winslet or, indeed, Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh, and ditch that Gaultier bustier: Madonna's upper arms have become so pumped up these days that the media are on red alert for an announcement.

Knotty problems with the world today? Write to The Independent, 18th Floor, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, where they will be treated with the customary sympathy

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