DEAR HARRIETTE: Is working for free ethical? I struggle with this topic with both family and friends who have their own views about it. But the overall consensus would be that those days are over, and whatever skills a person has should be compensated in some way. I do have some people who say the opposite and believe that working for free is crucial in proving one’s self and gaining necessary knowledge. What are your thoughts about both arguments? — Working for Free

DEAR WORKING FOR FREE: This is a hot-button topic that has no easy answer. I certainly believe that people deserve to be paid for their service. I can also tell you from firsthand experience that the reason I got my first job in New York City as a magazine editor is because I had created two unpaid internships for myself when I was in Washington, D.C., where I was able to get my work published and prove to a potential employer that I could do the job that I really wanted.

Because of my own experience, I have always had interns. Typically, they start off unpaid, but often get high school or college credit. Others I have given a chance when no one else would. Many go on to be hired at my company. I have helped to launch dozens of careers in this way. I’m just one example.

On the flip side, if a company can afford to mentor people and pay them from the start, I believe they should do it. Compensation comes in many forms — from dollars to experience to connections to academic credit.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have gained a lot of weight, and I feel self-conscious about my body.

I have been in a relationship for almost a year now with a guy I really like. He is respectfully romantic, so he hasn’t pushed me to do anything, but I know he wants to be intimate. I do, too. I just feel like he will reject me if he sees my body in this state. I always dress nice when I am with him, so I make myself look as good as possible. But the very idea of taking off my clothes makes me so nervous.

I think I could be overreacting a bit, but I can’t seem to help myself. My boyfriend is overweight, too, but he seems perfectly comfortable in his skin. I am not. How can I relax? — Too Fat for Intimacy

DEAR TOO FAT FOR INTIMACY: Since your boyfriend is being so thoughtful and patient, he probably is willing to do a little talking, too. Open up to him. You don’t have to talk about your physical insecurities directly, but you can say that you are shy about intimacy. You can tell him how much you like him and that you want to explore that side of your relationship, but you are a little nervous. This may open the door for further discussion about what the two of you want in life long-term, what you appreciate about each other and what makes you nervous.

If you feel up to it, you can admit that you feel apprehensive about intimacy given that you aren’t the size you used to be. In all likelihood, this man will encourage you by telling you that your body size is not an issue for him. Why do I say that? Because he sees you, even though you have your clothes on! He knows that you are not thin. He already likes you for who you are. You now have to like yourself for who you are — even if you want to shed some pounds, too. Take a risk and let him love you.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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