DEAR ABBY:

I have an extremely difficult decision to make. I recently got engaged to the love of my life. However, with this comes the decision of who should be my maid of honor.

Until a couple of years ago, the choice was obvious - my cousin. Over the past couple of years, though, we've become distant. She's an extremely flaky person and can't be counted on for much. Now, I also have a best friend who is always there when I need her, but we've been friends for only a couple of years.

My immediate family says I should still ask my cousin to be my maid of honor because her feelings will be hurt if I don't. Abby, I don't want to give such a special title to someone I can no longer depend on. She has hurt my feelings countless times by not being there. She shouldn't get the honor just because I've known her forever. Please help.

- Stuck at a crossroads

DEAR STUCK: Talk to your cousin and also your best friend. When you do, remind your cousin there are serious responsibilities that go along with being a maid of honor and ask if they would create a problem for her. Tell her that if it's too much for her, she could be a bridesmaid. If she says she wants to be maid of honor, give her the chance. However, if she flakes even once, ask your best friend to step in.

Food for thought

DEAR ABBY: I feel much more comfortable eating gluten-free. But it creates problems when I'm invited to the homes of friends. What's the best way to deal with my dietary restrictions when invited to these affairs?

- Restricted eater

DEAR RESTRICTED: If catering to your dietary restrictions is a problem for your host, deal with it by asking if he or she will be serving salad and bring something with you that you can eat with it.

He's feeling like

the odd man out

DEAR ABBY: Last year I came out as a gay man. I'm 35, and it was a very difficult decision.

I haven't been in a relationship with a man before and have dated only women up until now. I have been on a few dates, and I feel like I fall too fast and easy for a guy. I'm struggling to fit into the gay community and understand what is acceptable and what is not.

I recently met someone I really like, but I'm not sure if he feels the same way. I have never felt this way about anyone before, and I am scared I'll mess it up. I don't want to be alone and I'm afraid that's what is going to happen to me.

I am not sure how to interact with other gay guys. It took me so long to come out, I don't want it to take forever to find someone. How do I get over this fear of being alone and be comfortable around guys?

- Feeling lost in Massachusetts

DEAR FEELING LOST: Make a conscious decision to relax and just be yourself because it isn't necessary to be anyone but who you are. In time, you will realize there are as many kinds of relationships in the gay community as there are in the straight community. Some men are looking for casual hookups while others want the same kind of solid, lasting relationship you do.

Because you are confused about "how to fit into the gay community," you might find guidance if you contact the nearest gay and lesbian center and join one of their talk groups. One that's comprised of individuals who are "newly out" would be perfect for you.