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Dear Karma Cleanser: This is an embarrassing question. I was at a dinner party at a friend's house; there were maybe six people at the dinner table. The gentleman sitting across from me, whom I have known for three or four years casually, was drinking lots of wine and speaking loudly. He is a great storyteller, so no one appeared to mind his behavior, even though it was starting to weigh on me after a while.

At about the midpoint of the meal, I looked up and realized that this person had something stuck to his neck. I tried to look closer without being too obvious about it. The host had served a rice dish, so I was convinced at first that a small piece of rice had gotten stuck below his chin.

I was going to say something to him about it, but there was no way of doing so without alerting the entire dinner table. The more I sat there, the more I questioned my own judgment, because I started to worry that maybe it wasn't a rice grain at all but was actually some sort of facial mole or even a nick from shaving. I didn't want to embarrass the man by pointing out something that he could not easily wipe away with a napkin. And I also found myself somewhat enjoying the situation, given that the man was making a spectacle of himself and looking ridiculous while doing so. After dessert was served, this gentleman went to the restroom. When he returned, the particle on his neck was gone. I then felt very guilty for not telling him it was there all along. Now when I eat in the presence of others, I'm also very afraid that I have crumbs stuck to my face or spinach in my teeth. Is my dinner-party karma ruined?-- The Unwelcome Guest

The situation you describe is indeed a precarious one, because there's no surefire way to save face for both yourself and your messy tablemate. Letting your acquaintance make an ass of himself as he wears half his entree certainly wins you no karmic rewards. At the same time, accidentally pointing out an unsightly skin growth in front of a half-drunk circle could only prove disastrous.

The question you have to ask yourself is: If the tables were turned (literally) and you were the one with a mutinous crumb, would you have preferred someone to mention it? We're pained to say you probably chose the right path by remaining silent -- which seems to be the same strategy adopted by the rest of the table.

Been bad?

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