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DEAR ABBY: A new co-worker started a few weeks ago. (FYI, I'm a gay man.) We share similar interests and have a lot in common. As I am getting to know him, I have become increasingly attracted to him and his personality. My joking around with him is borderline flirtatious. He hasn't said anything about it or shown signs of being uncomfortable, and he jokes back.

Should I tell him how I feel, risking our professional relationship and things becoming awkward if he doesn't feel the same way? Or should I back off for a while? I don't know what to do. I honestly feel like we have a connection, but I have been out of the dating scene for a long while and therefore am ... — CLUELESS IN MINNESOTA

DEAR CLUELESS: This person has been working with you for a very short time, which is why I'm urging you to put the brakes on. Let the relationship develop for a few months. Your co-worker may already be involved with someone or may not be gay. If he is spoken for, do not risk your job by making any moves. However, if he isn't, then it wouldn't be out of line to ask him to join you for coffee, lunch — something innocuous — as friends only, and then see where it leads. I view workplace romances as potentially dangerous, because if they don't work out, they can cause discomfort in the workplace. And some companies have rules against "fraternization."

DEAR ABBY: My significant other and I recently bought an old farmhouse. We have been together for five years and have a great relationship. He has his quirks, just as I have mine, but one in particular has surfaced since buying the house. He stomps going up and down the three flights of stairs. It's annoying and rude. If I head to bed early, it wakes me up. He claims he can't help it. What can I do? The steps are wood and have thin carpeting on them. Am I being a nagging partner? — SICK OF STOMPING IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR S.O.S.: You're not being a nagging partner. It appears you need thicker carpeting on the stairs. For the sake of your relationship, buy it SOON.

DEAR ABBY: The other day I had to leave my house in the morning because my son's school called. He wasn't feeling well and wanted to come home. I just threw on what I had worn the day before as I headed out the door. On the way out to my car, my neighbor yelled out, "Isn't that the same outfit you wore yesterday?" I didn't answer because I thought it was none of her business. Should I have explained the situation? — IN A HURRY IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR IN A HURRY: You were not obligated to explain anything to your neighbor — who may have just been trying to be friendly, or may be overly interested in your attire. Unless her intrusiveness escalates, let it go!

P.S.: I hope your son is OK.

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Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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