Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: The Pregnant Pot Smoker

by Rachel Kurzius

Last week, I fielded a question from a person planning a big move. The writer was concerned about a friend who had served as the closing lawyer during the family's previous move, and apparently did not perform to satisfaction. He felt concerned about hurting the friend's feelings, though remained opposed to having her work on their behalf again. I recommended that he make as little a deal over the whole thing as possible, and chalk up the lack of rehiring to a change in strategy.

You all had some interesting suggestions and additions for this case as well. One reader wrote, "I believe in telling little white lies to keep peace and friendships. If the lawyer friend asks, tell her that the seller received a discount on the closing fees by using a  'closer,' recommended by the real estate agent."? I totally agree. The idea of telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth is unrealistic and, at times, selfish. If you value the friendship, sometimes you have to shut your trap.

Another reader noted, "Traditionally, the settlement agent or title company is selected by the buyer, not the seller.  So this may be far less awkward than the letter-writer assumes! But regardless, I agree with the advice.  The sellers should be very matter-of-fact.  It'll then become an issue only if the lawyer friend, not the sellers, make it one."? My understanding here is that often buyer and seller both choose to have representation at the table, because their interests often conflict with each other. I agree with this reader that the issue of the tone is important here. It would be condescending to sit the friend down and explain in painstaking detail why she's bad at her job. But you're not obligated to hire your friends for any given task. (This letter showed why it's often a bad idea). If the friend reacts with anger, then just be glad you're moving!

And now, on to the advice...

Dear Rachel,

A few weeks ago I was at a party with friends and friends of friends. Later in the evening a girlfriend of a friend of friend (still with me?) arrived. At the time she was about seven months pregnant. Throughout the course of the evening I noticed her ease her way towards where people were getting high, and she eventually joined in and smoked herself.

As a health advocate, I was torn and admittedly uncomfortable. In the end, I chose not to say anything and respect her autonomy as a person and her right to to make her own choices. Now I wonder, was that the right thing to do?

Leaving Baby in the Corner

Dear Leaving Baby in the Corner,

Your question gets at the heart of whether it's better to accept people's decisions (and fear that others are getting hurt and you're just letting it happen) or try and impose your judgment on them (and potentially be the one doing the hurting).

I feel really strongly tied to the fetus in this instance. The mother here is potentially endangering her child, who has no say in the matter but will surely be saddled with the consequences. Her partner stayed silent too. Whether this is a common occurrence for this soon-to-be mother or not, who knows. But as an outsider, you could definitely jar them into thinking about their actions in a new way.

What fascinates me is that these same arguments are often used by anti-choice people and groups. The distinction, as far as I'm concerned, is the element of choice itself. This woman, this couple, chose to commit to this pregnancy and carry it to term. Almost all choices involve sacrifice, none more so than the decision to have children.

I suspect that part of your inaction had to do with feeling uncomfortable speaking up. Don't be ashamed of that. If it wasn't hard to stand up for someone helpless, then it wouldn't be such a brave act. Try to think of it as advocacy instead of playing the role of the killjoy.

All the best,

Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or advice @

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