Metro-East Living

Here’s how to handle uncomfortable political discussions, grasping neighbors and more

Neil Nakahodo color illustration of two people yelling about a political issue. Originally appeared in The Kansas City Star.
Neil Nakahodo color illustration of two people yelling about a political issue. Originally appeared in The Kansas City Star. MCT

Q. Am I being totally rude if, when I am with friends having a glass of wine at a winery, they start talking political subjects and events going on in our country and they become obnoxious and say terrible things, and I politely ask them several times to change the subject, they don’t, and I get up, excuse myself, leave and go home?

Then I get calls from two people in the group after I get home chastising me for leaving. I politely told each one I thought the heated discussions were socially unacceptable and that I wasn’t having any fun and decided to leave. This occurred several weeks ago and they haven’t asked me to join them since. Do I need to apologize?

A. Feeling uncomfortable and realizing the expansion of the subject had taken over this social event, causing you to politely ask them to change the subject is not rude and does not require an apology. The fact that they ignored your polite request and continued their apparent volatile conversation to the point that you wanted to leave is totally understandable and warranted. The follow-on telephone calls were probably “glasses of wine speaking out.”

Please do not be concerned regarding not being asked to join them since this incident. Believe me, there are many other individuals with whom you can choose to associate and have fun without feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable. The bottom line, however, is this: if you feel you like these individuals enough to want to be around them again and be included in their social activities, you may have to be the one who makes the initial call. I suggest you not bring up what took place at the last social event; just keep the conversation light and upbeat and ask if they “have anything planned”, and go from there.

Q. Some time ago, my neighbor offered to help me clean out my garage and said to let her know when I was ready. I called her the following week and told her I was ready and said “I would like to start on Friday” (this was Monday when I called her). She said she couldn’t do Friday, but how about the next Friday? I just didn’t want to wait that long, so I told her I would probably just start at it slowly myself, which I did on that Friday.

She came over that Friday night as I was about to close the garage door and said: “Well, since you wouldn’t wait until I could help you,what did you throw away that I would have wanted?” I then realized the motive behind her offer to help me. I told her I didn’t throw anything away of any value and that I had boxed up some things to take to charity. She then actually asked if she could go through the boxes. When I told her I had the boxes all taped and in my car, she huffed and went back to her house. I was so exhausted by this time that I didn’t call her or go over and tell her I would open the boxes for her and maybe I should have. She hasn’t been over since and that was over three weeks ago. Guess I am now in the “bad neighbor category”. Should I call her and apologize?

A. Anyone who has cleaned out their garage can totally understand why you did not offer to open your taped boxes. Put the incident behind you and make a point of engaging your neighbor in some light conversation next time you both are outside.

Q. What is it with letting little children scream when they are eating in a restaurant? Am I the only one who gets perturbed when this happens and the parents do nothing to quiet the child? Can a person ask the manager to say something to the parents about it or is it up to me?

A. Neither of the options you mention is appropriate nor advisable. Either option may cause a very undesirable scene to evoke. If the child is sitting at a table next to you, and you are in the preliminary process of looking at your menu, you could get up and ask the manager to select another table for you away from the screaming child. You may, however, have to be willing to wait until a more suitable table is available.

As to “getting perturbed”, it is not just you.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Dianne Isbell at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427,120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to

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