Dear Amy: Recently, I decided to permanently forgo drinking. I was a very light social drinker to begin with, and I naively did not expect any issues to arise from my choice.
When I go out and order my water (I never drink soda), it turns into an inquisition. For new people I meet, a simple, "I don't drink" suffices. I find that people I have met before complete their inquiry with guilt trips and occasional inappropriate questions as to whether I am in recovery or pregnant (I am neither, just trying to be healthy).
In the past I have tried making excuses, but the pressure has been grating on my nerves, so for future gatherings I transitioned into a more definitive, "I am not drinking/I chose to stop drinking" declaration, which then makes the meal, conversation, or other gathering awkward (not on my account), because they become self-conscious of their consumption. They act as if I have blindsided them.
You may agree with me that this seems like an overblown reaction to what liquids I am ingesting. It is ridiculous that others care to the extent that it is consistently affecting my socialization. No matter how discreet I try to be, I cannot avoid this reaction.
What is a script you can recommend that is polite yet shuts down any further inquiry, does not act as an excuse, and does not appear as if I am taking some moral high ground? Also, are there any considerations I can make beforehand that would put others at ease before I order my water? — Living Sober
Dear Sober: Congratulations! In addition to living healthfully, you are also walking on the cutting edge of the newest (and welcome) trend of people adopting a lifestyle sometimes referred to as "sober curious." The popular concept of "dry January" (forgoing alcohol post-holiday season), seems to have morphed into more people exploring sobriety as a year-round lifestyle.
More bars and restaurants are offering a variety of "mocktails," where you can order a non-alcoholic drink that looks, tastes, and overall seems more like a traditional cocktail. You might want to try ordering one — but — if you only drink water, that's up to you.
Generally, whether the topic is illness or health, if you don't want to discuss something you consider personal, then don't offer up any details, excuses or explanations. If people ask, you can say, "I don't drink alcohol." If they ask why, you can say, "I don't like it."
Dear Amy: We are planning for a costume party at my workplace.
We all decided to dress up as people from an iconic TV show. However, two of my co-workers, who are light skinned, are going over the top to change their skin tone to match the darker-toned cast members.
I personally do not feel comfortable with this and I think it is not only insulting, but very unprofessional.
I'm not sure how to get that across without being rude and my attempts at reconsideration have fallen on deaf ears — it is clearly innocent and meant as a joke in their minds.
I personally do not see it as a joke, and I don't want to be involved in a group photo with two people doing something I don't agree with. What can I do? — Insulted
Dear Insulted: Artificially changing the color of your skin in order to use another person's race as part of a costume is demeaning and racist — no matter who does it.
Iconic TV characters likely have many characteristics aside from the actor's skin tone that your co-workers could use as part of their impersonation.
Given this rude, ill-considered, potentially career-ending behavior on the part of your co-workers, why are you worried about being rude?
You should say, "I get that you think this is lighthearted and funny, but I'm not comfortable with it. I think this is racist, and not cool or funny at all."
Do not, under any circumstances, appear in a photo with these "jokers."
Dear Amy: Sorry, but I don't think a distant relative has any business searching for and outing people who may have a genetic connection.
Mind your own business out there. Stay out of the genetic pool.
I think encouraging such butting in is detrimental to all. You shouldn't do it. — Disappointed
Dear Disappointed: The thing about the genetic pool is this: you can't actually "choose" to stay out of it. A person can definitely choose not to search for (or reject) DNA relatives, however.
You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.