Dear Mary

Dear Mary: I always end up subsidising my greedy friend’s lunch

5 November 2015

3:00 PM

5 November 2015

3:00 PM

Q. I have lunch once a month with an old university friend. Over the years we have both thickened out but I now make a serious effort to curb my appetite. I will usually order one glass of white wine and a starter-sized mozzarella salad, but my friend invariably has the main course, the cheeseboard and three glasses of wine followed by a digestif. We’ve always split the bill but now that my ‘share’ is, for example, £20 to his £120, I have started to feel a tiny bit bitter about paying £70 — especially since I don’t think he has noticed the anomaly. After all this time, how can I suggest we divide the bill differently, without giving the impression that I have been harbouring a resentment? I love my friend and I know he’s not exploitative, it’s just that he doesn’t think about these things and hardly notices what I eat.
— Name and address withheld

A. Bring a slim friend to one of the lunches. Rehearse her to say, as you sit down, ‘Is it all right if we each pay just for what we eat, rather than splitting the bill three ways? I deliberately haven’t got much cash on me. It’s my way of making sure I don’t overdo it because I’m naturally very greedy.’ This will allow you to cry: ‘What a brilliant idea! I’m going to start carrying a tiny amount of cash every time I go out to lunch so I can curb my greed too.’ Then turn to the bachelor — ‘And you must promise you won’t lend me the money if I go over my limit.’

Q. I am troubled by the sudden appearance, in fashionable areas of London, of young women with long shanks of hair dyed grey. I believe this unfortunate trend originated with Lady Gaga. How may I dissuade impressionable young godchildren from sporting this horrible hairstyle?
— C.C., Pershore

A. When you next chance on one of these victims of fashion, scream and clutch your hand to your heart. Then gasp, ‘Your hair gave me such a fright! Now I realise you must be still in your dear little Halloween disguise.’ Smile sweetly and continue the conversation normally. The young will soon realise the error of their ways.

Q. Newly minted new neighbours came to dinner the other night. Afterwards one of these went through to the kitchen and I glimpsed her through the door talking to my butler and cook as she openly tried to poach them. Fortunately my couple are loyal, but how could I have reprimanded this woman, as I feel she should know it’s unacceptable?
— A.P., Malmesbury, Wilts

A. You might have said ‘It was so nice of you to thank my couple. None of my other guests ever dares to because of how it might look to me.’ She would have inevitably have asked what you meant. You would have replied: ‘Round here, poaching a couple is considered the ultimate breach of etiquette — and no one would normally risk it.’

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