DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I was recently at a friend's house to attend an in-home demonstration. There were a number of attendees with whom I was not acquainted. I was introduced to an elderly woman and began to make small talk. She was very quick to steer the conversation into an area with which I was very uncomfortable. She does not approve of the "movement to include homosexuals" in our society. She then asked for whom I was voting in the next gubernatorial election. Evidently, there is a candidate who meets with her approval. I told her I was not that into politics, which made me sound a bit idiotic, but I did not know of another way to extricate myself without being rude. I thought religion and politics were off-limits in a social situation such as this one. I feel a little like I betrayed the gay people in my life by not standing up for them. It was not the time or place. Right?
-- CLASSY OR COWARDLY?
DEAR CLASSY GUEST: The old lady was either socially inept or she was baiting you. If you started to discuss your views on gay rights and political candidates you would not have changed her mind and you would have provided her the opportunity to blast her views. When you redirected the conversation you avoided an awkward situation. You did not betray your gay friends. It is not necessary to always carry a political banner or a sign that says you support gay rights. The party was not the right place to enter a dialogue that easily could have become confrontational or argumentative.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I have a friend who is constantly putting down Americans for being overweight and eating fried foods. Her husband is an executive at a major fast-food chain. I do not believe that this corporation made its customers obese, but I know if one wanted to lose weight he or she would definitely take care to avoid its menu. It galls me that the people she denigrates are the same ones who have put a roof over her head and given her a very nice life. It seems hypocritical to me. What comeback would you recommend the next time she slings her insults?
-- REALLY? YOUR HUSBAND WORKS WHERE?
DEAR OFFENDED: Raise the level of your conversation to address the intricacies of the obesity epidemic. Ask your friend what menu challenges her husband's company faces to encourage healthier eating. Her trash talk about fried food consumption gives a simple answer to an extremely complex global issue. Your friend's criticism is abrasive, however her husband's fast-food employer is only one contributor to our overweight society.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.