Dear Carolyn:

I'm a 29-year-old PhD candidate in political science. I have this feeling that my being so committed to poli-sci and having politics and government as some of my most passionate interests is a turnoff for many women. My guess is that it's partly geographic. I seem to be too different from what women are used to seeing in male Texans: I don't speak with an accent, don't share the same values/interests, don't even follow the Dallas Cowboys. Also that I seem to be terribly self-absorbed and that women might fear that I'm overdeveloped intellectually but underdeveloped emotionally.

I'm trying to move on to an assistant professorship somewhere else, so I'd like to know this: How do I keep my poli-sci-ness from being such a liability with women even when I'm so passionately committed to it?

--Texas

Zzzz.

Oh. Sorry.

If you could convert that Cowboy indifference to Cowboy hatred, you'd have a real future here in Washington.

You think I'm kidding.

When you're thirsty, you don't take camel lessons, you go where there's water, right? So why would you want to pretend not to be a guy totally absorbed by politics? All that'll get you is a lifetime deep in Cowboy country with a woman who hates the guv'ment. What you need is a lifetime deep in nerd country with a woman who hates football. Come north, my friend, to the land of milk and granite. Or hop next door; if memory serves, there're some political goings-on in Austin these days. Or stay still, be yourself and give the locals a chance.

Moving or networking or volunteering for campaigns, of course, will do nothing to correct any intellectual-absorption issues you may have. But I have a feeling that if you start walking among the wonks, you'll suddenly find that you fit right in.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm interested in a new hire in my department at work. We seem to have lots of things in common and our conversations are very stimulating. We have gone out for coffee and drinks, and we're going on our first "official" date this weekend.

Lately, I feel others on our team might be suspecting something going on between us. I love my job and would hate the situation there to change because of a broken romance. Some of my friends say dating co-workers is taboo and can only end in disaster. Should I break it off before the relationship gets too far along?

--Confused

Some of your friends are morons, says the woman who met her spouse at work and sits within spitball distance of four others who did the same. Though you're right, sharing a department could be classified as high-risk sexual activity.

Still, you'll achieve disaster only if the principals can't act like adults, or if the principals can't figure out that it's bad for a supervisor to date the "new hire." That knocks your confusion down to one basic question: Which do you think is harder to find, a job you love, or love?

Dear Carolyn:

I usually date guys, but in this instance, my current beau happens to be a woman. This is the first time, and I very much enjoy the situation. My parents know her and know she has dated women before. When I told them about this relationship they totally freaked out, and blamed her for influencing my decision. I don't want them to hate her or blame her, and I don't want them to be mad at me, but I also don't want to end this wonderful relationship. What should I do?

--Trapped

Isn't it interesting that the people who are most freaked out by homosexuality--and are therefore, you would think, the straightest people out there--are the ones who seem to believe you can catch homosexuality by brushing up against it in the supermarket?

Just for grins, ask your parents if they could be recruited into being gay--then sit back and enjoy the are-you-out-of-your-mind? chorus. Then point out the absurdity of their saying that you were straight until you were "influenced" otherwise. These are your feelings, and you chose to act on them, and you're sorry to cause them pain--but not so sorry that you'll let them foist all their doubts and frustrations on a convenient third party.

Once you've taken full responsibility, they may decide, sadly, to hate and blame you. Or her still, or both of you, or themselves for a little variety. There's not much you can do about that except stay in touch and stay patient. Chances are, it took time and an open mind (which you may well have gleaned from your parents) for you to embrace this part of yourself. So you can't expect them just to accept it overnight.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon today at washingtonpost.com/liveonline