Q. I recently made an arrangement with a flaky friend from university to go to my gym together. Half an hour after we were supposed to meet she called saying she was at the cash machine looking at her bank balance and she didn’t think she could afford the £20 guest entry fee. She suggested cancelling but I was dressed and raring to go so I offered to lend her the money. She politely declined saying, ‘I don’t like owing people money.’ I volunteered to pay the fee. On the way to the gym she said she was hungry and, opening a wallet stuffed with cash, bought luxury snacks costing roughly £25, and once inside the gym, ordered a cashew-nut smoothie at £6.50. What should I have done, Mary? She has a large (by my standards) allowance from her father.
—R.G., London SW6
A. Speaking in teasing tones you should have cried ‘Oooh! Can I borrow some of that cash?’ You would then have continued to smile affectionately at her until she had given an answer.
Q. I have been told by my sister that, since having had (slightly too much) Botox, I now look standoffish. In my line of work (PR) I meet people all day and it’s important that I appear friendly. I won’t make this mistake again and the effects will eventually wear off, but how can I mitigate this disaster in the short term so that people do not think that I am disapproving of them?
— Name and address withheld
A. You have no option but to take the ‘touchy-feely’ approach. Obviously you would not pinch buttocks or any other intimate area, but reassuring squeezes of the forearm are welcomed almost universally. Warning — only try this on people of lower or similar professional status to yourself. People of higher status will not feel insecure about whether you like them anyway.
Q. I am having a health MOT in a wonderful German clinic. The clinic has made it clear that when I go back to London it’s vital I adhere to the system they have taught me of chewing food 40 times before swallowing. All the other patients have been taught the same thing, so no one tries to strike up a conversation with someone whose jaws are working — but what about when I get back to England and am having food in a restaurant or at a dinner party and someone addresses a question to me? If I signal to show that I am still chewing they are bound to lose patience when they have to wait for 40 chews, and it will seem very rude.
— R.J., address withheld
A. Clearly the regime cannot survive outside the clinic — but in the short term, if you are determined to give it a go, then have an apology and explanation printed onto credit-card-sized pieces of paper and pass them to people who are waiting impatiently for your answer.
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