DEAR AMY: My in-laws have recently relocated to a town approximately seven hours away. They are very excited about retirement and about their new home, and they are hoping that we (along with other family members) will visit often, including over holidays. They used to live closer to us and when we visited, we would stay just for the day. However, now with the travel distance my husband wants us to stay with them for two (or more) nights. My issue is that my in-laws are both heavy smokers (they have been heavy smokers for many, many years). I find the cigarette smoke very offensive and toxic. I feel unhealthy being around it. Every article of clothing and item we bring into their home reeks of smoke when we leave. Getting a hotel room for these future visits is out of the question — my husband has said that they would be offended and very hurt. I fear that this will be a wedge in my marriage and that it will possibly divide us during holidays. I need some advice on how to approach this without "calling in sick" each time we are invited to stay with them.

Smoke-Sensitive Wife

DEAR SMOKE SENSITIVE: You are presenting your dilemma and then dismissing the most logical solution to your problem, which is for you to say to your in-laws: "I hope you understand my choice, but I really struggle being around cigarette smoke. I'm eager to see you and spend time with you, but I know it would be best if I stayed overnight in a hotel during our visit. I'm looking forward to our time together."

This simple, polite, statement of fact is nothing more than a summation of your own needs.

Smokers know that their habit is toxic to themselves and other people. That's why they can basically now only smoke in their own homes (and sometimes, not even there). You are not asking your in-laws to change anything about themselves or their lifestyle.

Despite the health risks, your husband might prefer to stay overnight with his folks in their house. And your response to that should be, "Of course, honey, I understand completely." Must married couples be joined at the hip? I hope not.

DEAR AMY: I met a girl in my TOEFL English course. We are a group of four students — me, a Korean dude, this girl and her friend. We sit at a round table mainly to practice conversation. I noticed the girl looking at me a lot. But last class, she did not even pay attention to the class contents. She kept on watching me. When I looked at her, sometimes she looked away. But some other times we kept on looking at each other, as if she was waiting for one of us to laugh. She's really good at steady looking. She's also very sexy. She's kind of chained to her friend. They are always chatting together and hanging together. This prevents me from talking to this girl. We live in the same neighborhood. But I haven't asked her where, exactly. When we engage in a conversation, we suddenly start acting as if we are chatting in a bar (and she laughs about every comment I make, in a good way). But after that role play, the bubble pops, and I go blank. So far, I haven't dared to talk to her after classes. I end up going back home, talking to myself and saying, "What am I gonna do?"

Shy Guy

DEAR SHY: Here's what you're going to do. You're going to go for it. Say to her (and her friend), "You want to continue our English lesson over coffee (or bubble tea, or a drink)? I know a good place. Let's keep practicing!"

Don't leave out the "Korean dude." Perhaps he could make conversation with the friend while you concentrate on your crush.

DEAR AMY: Regarding the question from "Selective Searcher," who is stalking a therapist via the bank's electronic account records. I'm a former IT specialist in banking. Searcher should be aware that her activity is being audited by the bank's system software. The system's logging and auditing functions will correlate that their customer's records are being accessed by the same staff member without any corresponding account transactions. Subsequently, stuff will get real in a hurry for the Selective Searcher.


DEAR JOHN: Yes, this was quite alarming. I think it would be best for "Searcher," as well as the therapist, if they were caught.

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