No Smoking On My Turf

What a coincidence that Yi wrote about standing up for herself, because her Ma just did last Thursday night.

Hub had his usual bunch of schoolmates (usually 2 to 3 of them) over for their once-a-month or so wine-and-chat session. I don't usually join them because I think they prefer to b.s. on their stories, you know, boys' talk. But C brought his wife, and Lily was here too, and so I joined them, all 6 of us. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself listening to them talk about what mischiefs and misfortune they endured thus far. Then an hour later, a surprise: one of their MIA classmate joined us. I absolutely have nothing against this guy, and in fact, I told Hub years ago that I admire MIA's guts in sticking out like a sore thumb if he had a differing opinion.

MIA sat next to me and asked me for an ashtray. I think my excuse about what I did next is the standard excuse Malaysians use when they fall for a con job: I was hypnotised. I hypnotically gave him the can that had held the camembert. Now, those who know me will know that I practise zero tolerance when it comes to cigarette smoke. I move away if the people at the next table in a restaurant light up, I loudly complain (and dramatically choke) if there are no tables to move to, and I would rather not eat in a restaurant where smoking is allowed. When Hub and I first met, he was an occasional smoker and I told him to quit cold or I'm scooting off. He quit.

Anyway, MIA was puffing harder than Puffing Billy but nobody dared to tell him to stop. At one point, C and his wife and I started complaining among us about how we hate cigarette smoke (I want to commend them on broaching the issue openly, and in a way supporting me). The others heard but they ignored us (sort of like covering up for embarassing MIA), and they continued with their super important discussion on whether beef taste best with red wine in between bites or chewed with the meat. MIA, who had earlier talked about how people should be sensitive to different cultures and beliefs, had the cheek to join our conversation by asking if we knew that it is now against the law in Australia to smoke even in open places.(It didn't occur to me until 30 minutes later how ironic that was, given the predicament I was in.) By MIA's 6th cigarette, C hinted a headache, his wife's eyes and my eyes were red from the smoke and the wine, and I was wondering what the ### I was doing, inhaling second-hand smoke. By his 10th, I told him to stop. He shrugged and walked to the edge of my patio and lighted up again. Then within 1 minute, he was back into the amusing and disgusting conversation about how well the China Chinese can spit (L gave a story of how he saw not one, but two guys spit, not downward but horizontally into the side opening of a bin. He said those were powerful spits, and someone said "Must've flown like a sword" and that sent us all howling. Then they went on about how the Chinese love to jump queues. Poor Lily).

Okay, to cut my story short, it was a really enjoyable evening, everybody left at 1:30 am and Hub and I spent the next 15 minutes arguing about whether, under those circumstances, it was proper or not to tell a guest off. My point was that Hub should've joined me in stopping his friend from smoking in our house, and would he stop MIA from smoking next time he's here? I was totally upset that he did not speak up, knowing my adversion to smoke. To me, why should I save a guest's face if he blatantly disregards my rules in my house, even if it is in an open area? What is this about face if the other person does not respect your feelings? Lily, who was staying over, summarized it this way: Hub is a peace-loving person who knows his friend's character and doesn't want to embarass him whereas I am out-spoken and assertive like a westerner. What the? It sounded like he's the good guy again. (Truth though was, when Hub went upstairs, Lily said, pumping a fisted arm into the air triumphantly, "I want to speak up like you!") I want my husband to stand up for me, and he could've done it nicely without being rude to MIA. What is so difficult or wrong about that? How many of you read Bo Yang's The Ugly Chinaman? Lily tells me that it is a Chinese thing to not embarass a person in front of others, for the sake of not causing strife and so people prefer not to speak up. Tell me what you would have done.
p.s. And if MIA should be reading this, I want to state that I am not against him, but against what he did. There's a difference and it is reflected in the fact that I would welcome him with open arms if he just doesn't light up in my house. Period.