Dear Starshine,

Is it normal for adults (late 20, early 30s) to leave a restaurant table before the main course to smoke weed in an alleyway? Because recently, my dining companions did just that. I'm not a stodgy grump with weed phobias, but I find the action of removing oneself from an evening of drinks and dining with friends to smoke a J rather rude, and I'm taking it personally. Is my conversation so dull and unappealing that you must get stoned to tolerate it? I'm thinking of extracting myself from future dining adventures with these "friends" in favor of those who enjoy my company in a more sober state. Am I overreacting?

I'd like to help you but I'm too busy imagining all the fun things I'd do if I were allowed to duck out of dinner table conversations when they dipped below my standard for "scintillating." I'd keep my Kindle in my purse and a hula hoop in my car for this very purpose — if it were even within pissing distance of polite behavior. Which, of course, it's not. 

You know what bothers me most about this situation? It's not the weed. It's not the alley. (Where else can you smoke, really?) It's the fact that you had to hold down the fort and wait for their food while they snuck off to satisfy an ill-timed, untamable urge. That's no different than saying, "Hey, I'm going to go masturbate in the men's room. If the waitress comes, order me a crème brûlée." 

I don't know from "normal" but I'd rather have dinner with my Kindle than have to babysit a table of self-centered, antsy-pantsed companions with impulse-control issues. Especially because they're likely to eat all of your dessert. 


Dear Starshine,

I'm about to have my first child and am really excited about this big change in life. My well-intentioned mother-in-law wants to throw a baby shower for me at her home — several states away. The gesture is very sweet, but not necessary, and honestly, a bit weird. Not only does she live far away (I'm at a point in my pregnancy when I'd rather not travel far from home), but I don't know anyone who would be there. I feel like a jerk for declining and I don't want to hurt her feelings. She's a nice lady, just not pragmatic. And I know this is going to come up again once the holidays come around and my husband and I aren't going to want to fly with an infant. Any recommendations as to how I can get her to understand the stress and impracticality of these trips?

Mazel tov, mama! You stand poised — ripe and round-bellied — on a precipice. Your relationship with your mother-in-law is about to change forever.

Once she's a grandma, she'll become more annoying than you ever thought possible, issuing unsolicited know-it-all advice about diapering and nursing bras and the Right Way to Raise a Child. (This seems a good time to remind you that MY know-it-all advice was solicited.)

But she'll also become dearer to you than you ever imagined an annoying know-it-all could be. I'm serious. You will need this woman for her two strong infant-holding arms, and for her just-in-time offers to take Junior for a walk while you shovel cold pasta into your starving face or weep with exhaustion in the shower (new motherhood is rough), and for the stories she'll tell you about the humiliating but ultimately inconsequential eff-ups she made with your husband when he was a lad.

So it's OK to decline the shower, but acknowledge her intent: She wants to feel involved. As a parent yourself, you'll realize quickly that your child's "firsts" are must-see moments; and the birth of your child's first child is especially unmissable. So find another way to involve her.

Invite her to stay with you for a week while you prep for the baby: painting, shopping, assembling furniture. Or ask her to come help out after the kid is born, so that you won't have to hand the child to your FedEx guy just so you can change your spitup-caked bathrobe. (Did I mention that new motherhood is rough?)

Sorry, though: You're going to have to suck it up and head to your in-laws' house for the holidays. And look on the bright side: If you never change the full diaper of a wailing, squirming infant in an airplane bathroom, what humiliating stories would you have to tell your future daughter-in-law?

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