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Start a smoke-free tradition

Dear Carolyn: I do not smoke. Neither 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!”

I don’t expect them to cater to me. This Christmas Eve, his mom is excited to share it with her only grandson, but I refuse to go over to Great Grandma’s house and be around a cloudy haze. How should I tell them we will not be going to Great Grandma’s this Christmas Eve? Please help!

– K

Dear K: “We will not be going to Great Grandma’s this Christmas Eve.” Ta-da! And: “We’re starting our own tradition – you’re, of course, all welcome at our house.”

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.

Unwanted attention

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 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

Dear Annoyed: If you can pull it off lightly: “I’m better at discussing exhibits than being one.” If not, then send out a buffer – “You’re kind to ask,” etc. – and then “I prefer not to discuss it while I’m working.” It gets your message across (most of it, at least) in a 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 facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.