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Dear Urban Diplomat: How do I skip my office Christmas party without looking like a total Grinch?

Every year, my office throws a fancy holiday party at a bar on King West. I stopped drinking half a decade ago and no matter how many times I try to explain this to my co-workers, it never sticks. Instead, I get stuck dealing with a ton of insensitive questions and comments. I’m out of patience and would much rather sit this round out. —Nightmare Before Christmas, Parkdale

There are about a thousand reasons a person might miss an office holiday shindig: appointments, family obligations, a long-standing aversion to seeing Dave from accounting get sloshed, the list goes on. There’s no harm in taking a year off, and you’re also under no obligation to explain why. If the season has you in a generous mood, you could leave some Christmas treats in the office kitchen, with a festive note. But since your colleagues sound more deserving of a lump of coal, a polite email declining the invitation and wishing everyone the best should suffice.


Dear Urban Diplomat, My roommate is suddenly obsessed with having a chemical-free home. I’m happy to use biodegradable cleaning products, but I recently had a tomato-sauce emergency involving my favourite shirt, so I broke down and bought a bottle of Tide stain remover. When he saw it in the laundry room, he freaked out, gave me a 15-minute lecture about our endangered planet and refused to talk to me for the rest of the day. How can we find a middle ground between clean living and my occasional need for bleach? —Prince of Tide, Baldwin Village

If stain remover is the biggest point of contention in your home, you should consider yourselves lucky. It could be worse: at least he’s not stealing your food, or blaring Aerosmith’s greatest hits in the early hours of the morning. Don’t let this turn into a bigger deal than it needs to be. Stash the chemical-ridden stain remover in your room so it’s not a constant reminder to your roomie, then humour him by investing in an eco-friendly product on the next purchase. It’s a nominal price to pay for harmony at home—and a ­happier planet.


Dear Urban Diplomat, I’ve known my best friend since we were kids—she’s basically a member of our family. My parents invite her to everything: holidays, birthdays, anniversary parties, you name it. A few months ago, she started dating someone new and insists on bringing him everywhere, which would be fine, but my family absolutely hates him. He’s loud, tactless, has terrible table manners and doesn’t seem to have much respect for women. Is there a way to cut him out of our lives while still keeping her around? —Matchbreaker, Trefann Court

Short answer: no. Friendship means taking the good with the bad, even when the bad comes in the shape of an etiquette-devoid tagalong. If his behaviour extends beyond obnoxiousness, and he’s mistreating your friend or hurting others around you, then you should speak up. Otherwise, hold your tongue and do your best to tolerate him. Perhaps once the novelty wears off, she’ll be cured of this perceptual blindness and see his jack-assery the same way you do.

Send your questions to the Urban Diplomat at urbandiplomat@torontolife.com

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