Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I stop my friends giving me Christmas presents?

6 July 2013

9:00 AM

6 July 2013

9:00 AM

Q. Over the years my close friends locally have been giving each other birthday and Christmas presents. Now, as I reach 60, it seems ridiculous to worry about choosing and buying all these presents for Christmases ad infinitum, as well as remembering each of their birthdays. Some of them have new daughters-in-law or sons-in-law and grandchildren on the scene, and more presents to buy, so they might welcome a truce. On my part, I am overwhelmed with stuff and don’t need any more. How do I stop the present giving/receiving without hurting their feelings?
— Name withheld, Hampshire

A. No doubt most of your friends are also overwhelmed with stuff, and would welcome a truce on present-exchange, but none of you wants to be the killjoy who suggests it. This is good, because your current complacency cannot last. Remember that while numbers of friends are peaking to near unmanageable levels when you are 60, by 70 it will be a very different story. By that age you will have reverted to a more babyish and sentimental persona who can once again enjoy exchanging presents among her diminishing circle of friends. So do not rock the boat. Instead ride out the overwhelming years with patience because all too soon you will be underwhelmed. In any case, what is wrong with recycling through the traditional present cupboard?

Q. When my boyfriend and I split up, his flatmate said some rude things about me to mutual friends. He knows I know. Now we are back together. What should my stance be when this flatmate and I next meet?
— Name and address withheld

A. Greet him with warmth and reassurance that you know he did not mean the rude things he said. You know they were only his kind attempts to make your boyfriend go off you, so as to ease the parting.

Q. Most weekend hosts are delighted if their guests leave promptly after Sunday lunch and rush back to London, but when they would actually prefer you to linger, how can you make a tactful early exit? As a single man, people rightly assume I could have nothing urgent to get back to London for and ask why don’t I stay and enjoy the countryside. The fact is that since I stopped drinking I am very happy to leave even before coffee, but would never want anyone to think I disapproved of them.
— Name withheld, London SW7

A. Why not give the excuse that you must rush back for your ‘fix’ of a swim in the Serpentine? The Lido closes at 6 p.m. on a Sunday so this could rationalise your early departure as well as reassuring your hosts that you too are addicted — even if not, like them, to alcohol.

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