Q: I have friends who smoke, and that means that when we go out to eat, or to bars, they periodically step outside for cigarettes. As a non-smoker, sometimes I am left completely alone for various durations while they smoke, which feels awkward. In addition, I feel it may be improper for a woman to step outside to smoke with a man who came with another woman. Is there any intimacy imputed in that act, or is it ‘just smoking a cigarette?’ Is it fair to expect friends to let you know before they step outside, or even to be invited along with them?
A: Yes, it is fine for a woman to step outside to smoke with a man who is not her escort. No one should assume any intimacy aside from the desire for the both of them to have a cigarette. Nonetheless, it is appropriate for them to tell you they are going outside to have a cigarette. You shouldn’t be expected to be invited to join them since you don’t smoke but you certainly may elect to join them. Their intention is to have a cigarette, not to exclude you from their conversation.