Dear Harlan,

I’m returning from my first year away from home in college. How do I deal with the restrictions of being home after enjoying the freedom of college life?

New Arrival

Dear New Arrival,

Your freedom? What about your parents’ freedom? Your homecoming means they have to change their behavior, too. They can no longer use your room as a walk-in closet. They have to plan and prepare for meals instead of being spontaneous. And they can no longer chase each other around the house naked and make love in whichever room they choose (so sorry about that one). On top of these restrictions, they have to worry about you. They cannot go to sleep at night until you’re home safe and sound. They can no longer pretend you’re sober and virtuous, because they’ll know if you’re hungover in the morning with a guest. They can no longer ignore the local news, because they’re always afraid you are the headline. They hear you more, see you more and think about you more. Everyone is restricted by your homecoming. Be compassionate. Thank them for being so loving and apologize for restricting their freedom while at home. Tell them you respect their space and want them to sleep easy at night. Don’t make demands.

Don’t tell them you could do it at school. Discuss what you want and how you can make it work for them. This is their land. Once you can embrace living in The United States of Your Parents, you will be in the right mind-set to be granted more freedom. If your parents won’t budge, remember, it’s 12 weeks of your life. Soon, everyone will be free again — including your parents.

Dear Harlan,

I’m gay and going to college in a few months. I’m worried about the fact that two of my suitemates are jocks. They both live 20 minutes away from me, and we have friends in common. I don’t know how to tell them that I’m gay or even bring it up.

Worrying Already

Dear Worrying,

Why tell them now? You’re still going to be gay in the fall. Telling them now just turns you into their gay roommate all summer long. You’re so much more than this one thing. Give the jocks a chance to know all of you in the fall. Give yourself time to get to know them. Once you move in, you’ll figure out if they’re people you want to tell. If you get the sense that sharing this part of you will make living with them too uncomfortable, keep it to yourself or find a more comfortable living situation. But before opening up to anyone, make sure you have a support network in place on campus just in case anyone gives you a hard time about being gay. Most schools have a GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) support system or organization.

Connect with members of the group, a counselor in the health center, and an adviser who advises a group. Consider doing this before arriving on campus. Once you and your roommates get into a routine this fall, find new friends and find support, the less your sexual orientation will be so worrisome. And really, you never know, you might find out the jocks play on the same team as you.

Harlan is the author of “The Happiest Kid On Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child)” (Sourcebooks). Write Harlan at [email protected] or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Ste. 223, Chicago, IL 60614.

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