Q. To ask for money in lieu of a wedding present (Dear Mary, 3 August) is ghastly, but an established couple can overcome the issue by having a list at John Lewis and converting presents to vouchers. Thus a toaster can be readily converted to something else, even some groceries from Waitrose. For those offended to be asked for cash, a suitable sum can be used to buy a voucher, from John Lewis or a St James’s wine merchant or an art gallery. If you’re really offended by being asked for straight cash, however, a ticket or scratchcard for the National Lottery would make the point well, with a high chance of benefiting a ‘good cause’ and a low one of fixing the avaricious couple’s financial woes.
— C.R., Greenwich
A. The John Lewis voucher-conversion option is excellent. Scratchcards and lottery tickets are inappropriate. Wedding presents are props to help support a romantic union and allow it to flourish. Any present linked with uncertainty would therefore strike the wrong note.
Q. My partner and I are not very good at synchronising our valedictions. Quite often when taking our leave after lunch or staying with people, I find that I have got to the end of the valedictory spiel with one of the hosting couple while my partner is still in mid-spiel with the other. So I begin a new spiel and then my partner too has to start again. This must be very tiresome for our hosts, who naturally are longing to get rid of us expeditiously. How can we improve our spiel synching and thus our acceptability as guests?
— O.R., Pimlico
A. Make a habit of holding hands while you say goodbye. This makes you seem like rather a sweet and united couple. It also allows the partner who has finished talking to transfer his or her gaze to the one who is still talking and smile benignly as though interested. Meanwhile, however, he or she is exerting discreet palm pressure, mounting to pain. Obviously you will have cleared it with your partner beforehand that palm pain will be your new shared body language for ‘wind it up now’.
Q. My best friend (a man) and I spend most of our time laughing but it has only just dawned on me that I fancy him. How can I take things further without spoiling everything? I don’t think he fancies me, but he might. Mary, help!
— Name and address withheld
A. Quickly book a mini-break in a hot spot — then use the age-old trick of pretending his back is getting burned and offering to apply suncream. Do this very thoroughly, ideally while sitting behind him in rowing-team mode. You will soon be able to tell if he would welcome further intimacy but if not, he need never know that you would have done.
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