You don’t mind if I smoke, right?

So tonight I had dinner with an old classmate—a very, very nice, smart, perky woman who I hadn’t seen in nearly two decades (Translation: I’m old).

After eating we went outside, sat on a bench and talked. About five minutes into the conversation she said, “You don’t mind if I smoke, right?”

I’m 36 years old. I’ve got a college degree, a wife, two kids, three books, etc. To this day, I still don’t know how to answer that question properly.

Do I mind if you smoke? Are you kidding me? Of course I mind—and any non-smoker who tells you otherwise is full of it. Who wants to breathe in cancer-causing fumes? Who wants his clothes and skin to smell like a toilet? Who wants that crud oozing up his nostrils? Man, I loathe cigarette smoke with all my heart and soul. Loathe it. But would you say that to somebody you like? Would you say, while sitting outdoors, “Uh, actually …

It’s an interesting question—would love to hear some thoughts.

Truth is, as I age I feel increasingly sorry for cigarette smokers. It’s a devilish addiction to kick, and as fewer and fewer Americans smoke, those who do become greater outcasts. I always feel sad/sorry for the poor schlub standing outside his NYC building in the middle of winter, wind howling, -40 degrees, puffing on a cig. Clearly, nobody would aspire to be in such a position. It just grabs people and pulls them in.