DEAR STEEL ADVICE: This really gets me. People keep asking me, "When did you realize you were gay?" My answer is, "When did you realize you were straight?" Why are people so ignorant?
-- GAY MAN
DEAR GAY MAN: When an ignoramus asks a personal question about your sexual orientation, deflect the comment and redirect the conversation. Some rude questions are from the uninformed curious and are meant to pry and then be repeated as gossip or babble. You are wise to have a few stock comebacks so you are not caught off guard. Smile and say, "That's a long story," and then change the subject. A sincere answer opens your vulnerability gate, and a nasty retort makes you look like you have a chip on your shoulder. Beware of the trap of giving away too many of your own particulars when you are given a few tidbits of their story. Their lead question may be they have concerns about their child's or relative's sexual orientation, when in fact they are digging for your details. Remember the weather. When shocked by the audacity of a question just start to talk about the weather. It has to be raining somewhere.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: My father-in-law, my brother-in-law and my brother-in-law's wife carry handguns routinely, and they have permits to carry concealed weapons. Personally, I respect the weapons and do not begrudge their belief and right to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
However, when they come to our home for occasions, notably my son's recent birthday, I know they bring their pistols, because my brother-in-law's wife invariably declines either my or my daughter's attempt at being a gracious host by taking coats upstairs to the bedroom. It's because of the pistol in her coat pocket as well as the one in his. There was one occasion where they were showing off their guns in our home when the topic came up.
My wife and I decided that we don't want guns in our home, for all of the statistical reasons and risks noted of increased risk of injury to ourselves. However, our guests ignore this when they come. I am not on good terms with my brother-in-law from a past falling out and exchange only the bare minimum in pleasantries. I often debate politics with my father-in-law and suspect he'll view it as another rhetorical exercise. I have no sense of how my brother-in-law's wife will react. My wife is a peacemaker and won't rock the boat with her family. Is there another option beyond directly (and discreetly) asking them to leave the guns at home or in their vehicles? Any advice on how to approach this would be greatly appreciated, thank you.
-- TIRED OF GUN-TOTING RELATIVES
DEAR DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Step up to the plate and deliver the bullet. The issue of a gun-free home is not debatable. The armed relatives should respect your right to call the shots on your own turf. You do not control how they will react, and if the anti-gun stance means they initially stay away, continue to invite them to different events but do not waffle on your position. No one needs to pack a pistol at a child's birthday party. The other option you have is to wean away from all-inclusive family gatherings. Begin observing birthdays and milestones on a different scale. Every celebration in your life does not have to take place in your home or be celebrated with all of your relatives.
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.