Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I make my shy friend’s generosity plain?

Plus: Kissing elderly ladies, and avoiding annoying phone calls

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

16 May 2015

9:00 AM

Q. I have a friend who can be shy and inhibited. Recently, he was invited to stay on a Caribbean island by a generous and rich host, so wanted to take the host and his wife and the other members of the house party out to dinner. The host suggested a beach restaurant which, despite its informal appearance, then produced a bill for £700, with no facility for credit cards. My friend had £600 in cash but had to borrow £100 from the host. Unfortunately, this resulted in the other members of the party thinking that the host had paid for dinner. How could my friend, without appearing vulgar, have conveyed that in fact he had been astoundingly generous?
— E.S., London W11

A. Ideally, the following day your friend would have made a song and dance about his need to get to a cashpoint machine so he could repay the host the £100. Should he now be back in this country, perhaps he could ask one of the house party members if they happened to have their host’s bank account details, saying: ‘I really want to pay back that £100 he lent me in the restaurant because they didn’t take cards and I only had £600 in cash. I fear that if I send him a cheque he won’t pay it in. But I want it to have been entirely my treat, so I reckon the best way round it is to just pay it directly into his account.’ News will quickly spread to the other members of the house party.

Q. What is the etiquette regarding the social kissing of aristocratic ladies in their eighties and nineties? I have some friends in this category but I notice they tend to cringe or duck when I kiss them by way of greeting. I understand that this is because social kissing was just not done in their day and they have never got used to it, but I also feel it seems so standoffish to leave them out when one is kissing everyone else in a room. What do you recommend?
— H.C., London W12

A. The correct protocol is to take the older woman’s hands and beam warmly and respectfully as you say how lovely it is to see her. Hang on to her hands for slightly longer than necessary. In this way you will not have ‘left her out’ since she will perceive your clear enthusiasm for her and, should she feel a kiss is in order, she can then draw you towards her.

Q. I am a writer, working from home. A friend who doesn’t work rings me up each morning and wants to chat at length. I don’t want to hurt her feelings by saying I don’t have time for this disruption. What do you recommend, Mary?
— Name and address withheld

A. Why not ask her to ring you at a set time each morning so you can plan your ten-minute coffee break around her call? Say it would be such a treat for you to be able to look forward to her ringing at this moment.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • Chamber Pot

    Good grief ! First World problems.

  • Mark Lucas

    Hello every body my name is Cynthia Morgan, am from United Kingdom England, I just want to share my experience with the world on how Dr iayaryi, help me, I got my love back and saved my marriage… I was married for 3 years with 1kid and we lived happily until things started getting ugly and we had fights and argued almost every time… it got worse at a point that he filed for divorce… I tried my best to make him change his mind & stay with me because I love him so much and don’t want to lose him but everything just didn’t work out… he moved out of the house because it was a rented apartment and still went ahead to file for divorce… I pleaded and tried everything but still nothing worked. The breakthrough came when someone introduced me to this wonderful, great spell caster who eventually helped me out… I have never been a fan of things like this but just decided to try reluctantly because I was desperate and left with no choice… He did special prayers and used his power… Within 4 days my husband called me and he said he was sorry for all the emotional pains he had cost me, moved back to the house and we continue to live happily and our kid is happy too and we are expecting our second child… I have introduced him to a lot of couples with problems across the world and they have had good news… Just thought I should share my experience because I strongly believe someone out there need’s it… You can email him through his email.(

  • willshome

    On the working from home issue, simply explain that the phone will be unplugged during working hours, so not to worry if she can’t get an answer. On the who paid for dinner issue, if someone needs people to know that he was being generous, he was not being generous at all, but ostentatious.

    • Mary Ann

      How the other half lives.

  • Bonkim


  • News

    I hate it when I leave a tip in a cafe, and nobody sees me.

    Is there a way I could record the noise of coins being dropped onto a saucer, then amplify that noise when I play the sound back on my phone?

    In fact, once I have created this Tip Noise app, there would be no need to leave an actual tip in future. I could just hide the phone from site and play back the Coins Crashing onto Plate noise.

    Come to think of it, why am I leaving a tip anyway? Sometimes, the only service they offer is to put a teabag in some boiling water and plonk it wordlessly onto the counter.

    Only after questioning do they divulge the information that “milk’n’sugars over there mate”. If they were offering a ‘service’ they might volunteer this information. Or, they might even give me a finished cup of tea instead of leaving me to complete the process.

    Now I come to think of it, bollocks to them and their heavy hints for a Tip.

    These are often giant multi nationals that don’t even pay any tax and hire desperate economic migrants on a sub minimum wage. And they somehow expect me to subsidise their wage bills.

    The Bloody nerve of these people!