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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 16 December, 2018
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Dear Fifi: It’s time for another rapidfire round!

Dear Fifi has missed the entire heat wave.

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This edition of Dear Fifi comes to you from 6000km miles away. It’s also where I wrote this piece, about maybe not being as bad as you think you are.

You know the drill by now - tell me all about it anonymously and in confidence here.

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My girlfriend is 16 years older than me. Is this practical long term? 

Nothing about love needs to be all that damn practical if you both find that it feels right.

What’s the best way to broach mental health issues with people you’re dating? I would love to let someone know before a first date that I’m having a lot of anxiety for a lot of reasons and mainly because I’m excited about this and because I’m worried I’m caught in a loop of worrying that my desire for this to go well will actually ruin this before it starts. So I guess what my question is, when does honesty become self sabotage?

Before a first date is not yet technically dating someone, so there’s no need to lay all your cards on the table I don’t think. Go with your gut about telling people about your mental health, and try to bear in mind that any negativity says more about them than you (cold comfort but it’s true). However, protect yourself – there’s no real need to go in all guns blazing before the soup course is over either. It’s fine to tell someone you’re nervous about the date, but beware putting the cart before the horse by laying a lot of info on them blind. As with many things in the dating game, when it’s right, you’ll just know.

It’s important to tackle stigma of course, but also is it really any of their beeswax yet? Not really.

I do volunteer work providing a professional service that’s not otherwise available to the people who avail of it. It’s not vitally important work, but it is necessary.

My issue is that I do it through a Catholic Church-linked group. I initially approached non-church organisations but they didn’t get back to me, or were dismissive. This body does great work and doesn’t proselytise, but despite this, I’m very aware that it’s under the umbrella of a Church that I hate for the most part (ie, I hate the hierarchy and the overall conservatism/misogyny/homophobia, but love lots of Catholics and see the best of Christianity in the place I work).

Is it cowardice for me to continue this work if it even to a tiny extent props up any remaining vestige of moral authority the Church has here, or am I completely overthinking this and should just carry on? 

Two very salient facts: You tried to find a secular alternative and drew a blank. Second hard fact, the work you do is necessary. I think you’re all good here. There’s nothing cowardly about getting on with it sometimes for the greater good, while seeking out another way when you can.

I am an introvert who is constantly forced to be an extrovert… My job requires me to do this and I feel like my energy is sucked out of me at the end of the day. How can I convert myself into an extrovert since it is not possible for me to change my habitat and I have to adapt? 

Have you considered it may not be the people-pleasing and/or required gregariousness that is wearing you down, but something else about your work set-up? I’m saying this might just be a tough job, regardless of how you identify your personality.

Change what you can within the framework you’ve got, since you say you can’t necessarily leave right now. If possible, raise it with colleagues and management and try to best work your own skills and the skills of the team.

Failing that: fake it til you make it. And make sure you have some nice self-care bits ready to deploy when you get home and feel zapped from being “on” all day. These kinds of jobs can be taxing for even a committed extrovert. (Plus, be aware of the signs of burnout and be honest with yourself about how you’re coping. Ask for help if you ever need it.)

Longer term, think about how much of our lives we spend at work and figure out if this is really where you want to be. A job is a job and your overall well-being has to come first.

Going to university in September at 27 years old. Any advice for me? I feel like I have wasted my life up to this point and think this is hopefully going to be where I turn things around.

Nothing in your life was a waste, because it was all necessary to get yourself to where you are now. 27 is young, and your head is where it needs to be now and may not have been in the past. My advice is tear the arse off clubs and societies an newspapers and groups and classes and the library and all the rest. Study, but don’t forget to take in all the rest of the class stuff that colleges dole out for free or next to nothing.

Stop beating yourself up, as well - I bet you’re all the more interesting for having taken your time and people will notice that too. Try to own it. On that note, find someone age appropriate (maybe check the post-grad reading room) and ride rings around yourself, if that’s your thing.

So I’m 25 and have just come out and I’ve totally come to terms with the whole gay thing but one thing I seem to be missing is gay friends and I am at a total loss of to fix this. My straight friends have been great, I’m living in Dublin so the scene is there but I’m just not sure how to access it.

Fair fucks to you! I’m glad that you’re feeling good about coming out. Try gay nights spots like Panti Bar and Mother, and assorted drag nights and other one-off eclectic queer friendly nights like Club Comfort or Glitter Hole. There’s a plethora of drag nights on around the place too, if that’s your bag. Like some Facebook pages so you know when events are happening. Bring a straight friend along at first if you need to, and seek some friendly faces in the crowd.

If the whole club or bar aspect is a bit daunting or just not really your thing, try Twitter - follow like-minded people, and find out who they might be through inclusive groups like Radical Queers Resist or ShoutOut or Act Up. Twitter will recommend you accounts too. You’ll probably find a gaggle of people who you think are funny or interesting on there, then that’s your in. If that doesn’t appeal either, check out LGBT community resource center Outhouse in town or pick up a physical copy of GCN for listings and other bits. Have fun! (PS, if any LGBT readers have suggestions or want to make a new friend, DM me on Twitter and I’ll tweet out the responses or do some liaison.)

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Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

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