Carolyn Hax: Advice

Wanting the gift of clean air for family Christmas

Dear Carolyn: I do not smoke nor does my husband. His family smokes. His grandma holds Christmas Eve at her house and his whole family gathers there.

I am now pregnant with our second child and our first is 8 months old. Last year for Christmas Eve, his mom said they would just smoke outside because I was pregnant and did not want to be around it. Well, his grandma grabs a cigarette and lights up right next to me and turns the fan on. His mom gave her a dirty look and asked her to go upstairs or outside and she said, “I’m not leaving my house to smoke!”

K.

Forget being entitled to a smoke-free environment — though you are when that’s what you’ve been promised — you’re entitled to decide how to spend your time. Even on holidays, even when the Smokin' In-Laws have a tradition.

Great Grandma herself was a child once, a young adult, a new parent, and presumably a guest for much of it at some other ancestor’s ashtray home for holidays. Then came a time when she planted her flag and started hosting her own Christmas Eve.

You get to do this, too; call it the Wreath of Life. You decide what’s meaningful and doable for your family and plant your own flag. Maybe you envisioned that transition for a distant someday, but finding new clarity in a defiant smoker’s cloud is nothing to apologize for.

Hi, Carolyn: I’m pregnant and work as a museum tour guide. I’m often asked, “When are you due?” and other pregnancy-related questions by guests. I’m a private person and don’t care to discuss my pregnancy with strangers. Subtle efforts to ward off questions (pretending I didn’t hear, smiling and continuing the tour) only work about 30 percent of the time. How do I strike a balance between making it clear that I am a professional in a working environment and don’t want to answer personal questions, and not seeming rude to museum patrons? I feel it takes away from the tour when I’m backed into answering questions about my body.

I admit I’m irritated by the general thought that, merely by going out in public, visibly pregnant women are “fair game” for unwanted attention.

Annoyed Mom

If you can pull it off lightly: “I’m better at discussing exhibits than being one.” If not, then send out a buffer and then, “I prefer not to discuss it while I’m working.” It gets your message across (most of it, at least) in a compact, professional way.

You could also anticipate interest and shut questions down with a friendly announcement at the outset — but, full disclosure, I’m not sure I could do that myself without betraying my annoyance at having to.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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