Dear Mary

Dear Mary: is it ever acceptable to use a dental brush at the dinner table?

5 January 2019

9:00 AM

5 January 2019

9:00 AM

Q. Whenever I go to the theatre or cinema with any man of 60-plus, he falls asleep, even when the play or film is of a high standard. Should I wake him up? With a West End play particularly, it seems an awful waste of a ticket. (I am referring only to silent snoozing. If snoring occurs, I will of course give him a sharp dig with my elbow.)
— E.S., London W11

A. Smelling salts — as used in Victorian Britain to revive fainting women — are unfashionable but still perfectly legal. Mackenzies is a traditional brand and is available online. The tiny bottle contains a pungent mixture of eucalyptus and ammonia. Once the lid is uncapped the fumes trigger an inhalation reflex as blood vessels in the nasal passages suddenly expand, opening the floodgates for a rampant surge of oxygen to the brain. This replenishes consciousness. Bring a bottle with you and, when necessary, discreetly pass the salts at a three-inch distance under the nose of the dotard. He will be immediately jolted from his stupor with no idea why.

Q. Twice recently, men whom I previously thought of as civilised, have amazed me by bringing out interdental brushes at the table and dislodging food from between their teeth following dinner. They did this quite openly, as though it were not disgusting. My husband suggests that, since wooden toothpicks always used to be a feature of smart restaurant tables, perhaps this is just the modern and more effective version and therefore considered to be acceptable. What is your view?
— F.J., London SW7

A. Dental dislodgement is not acceptable at the table and has never been. Don’t be misled by the jar of wooden toothpicks in traditional restaurants. You are supposed to take a stick and dislodge the matter out of sight in the gents or in the taxi home.

Q. My husband and I have opened an art gallery in the centre of a university town. Our private views have been well attended. Our problem is that, although the invitation clearly reads 6.30 to 8.30, a hard core of drinkers, invariably made up of hangers-on who have not bought anything, are quite happy to stay on for the whole evening, as long as the drink is still flowing. We don’t want to spoil the feel-good factor if it has been a successful show, but we and our waiters are exhausted after all the preparation and want to go to bed. How can we tactfully ask people to leave?
— Name and address withheld

A. Continue to be pleasant but at around 9 p.m. tell guests as you circulate that tragically, although the party is going so well and you are enjoying it so much, you have an arrangement with the alarm people that the premises will be vacated by 9.30.

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