DEAR AMY: My partner “Mike” and I have been in a relationship/cohabiting for many years. We go to his mother “Peg’s” house for holiday meals. She cooks the entire dinner, which is very nice.
However, she smokes cigarettes while doing so – before, during, and after – and after being in her home (even without her lighting up), one exits reeking of smoke.
I have asthma, and even with medication it is barely managed. My partner has not asked his mother not to smoke around me because he thinks she would take offense. Honestly, she probably just really wants to see her son and wouldn’t miss me very much if I weren’t there.
When someone has invited you to her home, is it impolite to ask that person to not smoke while you’re in it – or should I find somewhere else to celebrate the holiday?
DEAR ASTHMATIC: Your partner’s mother isn’t a random “someone” inviting you into her home. She is your de-facto mother-in-law, and rather than simply disappearing from this holiday dinner and leaving the explanation to your partner, you should at least be brave enough to explain yourself, giving her the opportunity to adjust.
Say to her, “Peg, I enjoy coming to your house and I’m so grateful for your hospitality. I don’t know if you are aware of this but I suffer from asthma. Being exposed to cigarette smoking makes it worse. Would you be willing not to smoke while I’m there? If not, I understand, but if that’s the case I don’t think I’ll be able to come with ‘Mike’ this year.”
Be aware that the welcome mat points in both directions. Peg might enjoy an occasional meal at your home.
DEAR AMY: I am throwing a dinner party and I invited a couple I have socialized with for many years.
They observe kosher dietary laws. They told me I must buy kosher wine for them, and when I suggested they bring a bottle of their own, they got huffy. They said that because I am the host it is my responsibility to make sure everyone is accommodated.
Does this also go as far as ordering a separate meal for them (which is outside my caterer’s menu and which I would have to arrange some other way) on top of everything else I have to do?
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Wow – the roles of Huffy and Demanding are usually played by family members, not friends, but regardless, a good host should try mightily to accommodate all of her guests.
The opposite is also true: A good guest should try to be as low-maintenance as possible. So far these guests are failing miserably; I assume you will do a far better job.
If the caterer is not able to provide a kosher meal then you should ask your guests for suggestions. If after all of your efforts you are not able to guarantee they will be served a kosher meal, you should tell them ahead of time. If you are serving wine to other guests and your local wine shop carries kosher wine (it probably does), it would be thoughtful for you to provide it. But you are under no obligation to serve alcohol to any of your guests.
You should do your very best to be a good host to all – after that, guests’ behavior (including demonstrating gratitude for your efforts) should be taken into account when you contemplate future invitations.
DEAR AMY: I objected to your response to “Upset.” Her husband had received a wonderful gift from his sister of a trip to see family members in England. The catch was that the husband wouldn’t be taking his wife on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Your advice was terrible. Upset’s husband should have turned down this gift, saying that if he couldn’t bring his wife, he didn’t want to go.
DEAR ANGRY: “Upset” didn’t ask me what her husband should do – but what she should do. My advice was to be happy for him. I sincerely believe that if she could manage to do that, it would yield a much better result for everyone.
Write Amy Dickinson at email@example.com.