No More Smoking…Paying An M.D. Friend…Book-Club Dismissal

Q: My cigarette-loving roommate just quit after living with me for five years in a smoke-friendly apartment. And now, like some downtown-chick version of Mayor Bloomberg, she’s pressuring me to quit, too, or at least to smoke outside. Otherwise, she’s the perfect roommate, and I hate giving up our great place. But I feel so betrayed. Do I have to stop puffing in the house just because she has? (Don’t tell me to kick the habit; that’s out of the question.)

A: There comes a time in every smoker’s life when she must choose between cigarettes and something else, be it an unborn child or a $400-a-month share above the coolest bar in the most happening neighborhood in town. Such is your crossroads. You and your roommate have, despite a perfect five-year run, become incompatible. Yes, it’s technically her fault, since she’s the one who changed her lifestyle, but try to forgive her; it would have happened eventually anyway. You might have started dating Carrot Top, she might have inherited a “New Yorkie” pup … Only crazy sisters live together in perpetual platonic harmony. So either make some deal whereby you can smoke when she’s not home , suck it up and smoke outside, or admit defeat and flip her for the place.

Q: After a bad fall while snowboarding, I had headaches for a week, and even blacked out briefly. Needless to say, I was concerned, but I hadn’t got around to seeing a doctor when I bumped into my neighbor the neurologist and told him everything. He insisted on examining me at his home immediately. After several tests, he told me I seemed okay but should have an MRI, which he wrote a prescription for. When I asked about paying him, he wouldn’t hear of it and shooed me out. I fully intend to get him a great gift for his trouble, but should I also call his office and have them do up some paperwork so that my insurance company pays?

A: Were you, by any chance, on the Letterman show when you crash-landed? If so, Les Moonves should pay every doctor you see for the rest of your life. Otherwise, it depends on the nature of your neighbor’s refusal. Did he genuinely let you off the hook, or was this the polite no-no-no that more commonly accompanies a feint for the check at a business lunch? If you’re really not sure, make the offer again, pointing out that it would be your insurer paying. Then if he declines, let it go. But always be on the lookout for ways to repay him in services. Ah, the beauty of the neighborly barter system: You assess my brain function; I rotate your tires.

Q: My book club has been meeting the first Sunday of every month for four years now. And for four years, we have tolerated Amy. At first, she seemed great—she had an M.F.A. in creative writing; she brought cupcakes. But it was a bait and switch: Right away, she got really into Derrida and some nutty sugar-free diet. Last week, I was biting into a piece of her faux-carob cake when she started ranting about how Toni Morrison is a post-post-modernist and then went off into some other mumbo-jumbo none of us understood. We just can’t take her anymore, but how do we kick her out?

A: It’s ugly when book clubs go bad. Luckily, they are only tenuous social arrangements, far less binding than some of the institutionally imposed ones by which we live—but they can still be sticky to get out of. You could try the relatively painless pretend-you’re-disbanding-but-then- continue-meeting-secretly-without-her ploy. Better to just get it over with: Draw straws and make the loser break the news. Or, along those lines, assign Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” for next month’s meeting, and while Amy’s brewing up a cup of her decaf negative-carb coffee in your espresso-maker, pile up some rocks on the coffee table. When she comes back into the room, tell her you’ve finally taken her advice and begun questioning the existence of the reality-fiction dichotomy.

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No More Smoking…Paying An M.D. Friend…Book-Cl [...]