Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I deal with overly demonstrative colleagues?

10 August 2019

9:00 AM

10 August 2019

9:00 AM

Q. A friend constantly walks around with his bootlaces undone. His wife declines to nag him on the grounds she doesn’t want to be in a ‘co-dependent relationship’. We all enjoy this man’s company but we cannot work out whether his habit is attention-seeking (for example he often has to kick his legs out at right angles when walking while carrying a lot of equipment) or just a manifestation of his natural slobbishness. Either way it will not make for a restful atmosphere in a forthcoming week-long fishing party. What do you suggest?

— S.H., Church Stretton, Salop

A. Get hold of the boots while the irritator is in bed and tie each single lace up in a tightly knotted double bow to stand smartly, but not dangling, by the eyelets on either side. The laces will be still intact should he want to do them up — but, since he never does, it will be no inconvenience to him.

Q. The experience of your correspondent O.R. (Dear Mary, 3 August) of not being asked a single question at dinner is not confined to politician neighbours: a lady friend of mine sat next to a man who, similarly, asked her nothing until, somewhat begrudgingly towards the end of the meal, said: ‘And what do you do?’ Completely fed up with his rudeness, the friend, who is in her sixties, replied: ‘Oh, I’m a hostess; my husband’s income is just too small to cover our costs so I have to find other ways.’ This stimulated the conversation!

— P.F., Mere, Wilts

A. Thank you for sharing this tip. What a marvellous punishment she meted out. The timing was crucial,of course; it had to be done in the last moments of their sitting together so he wouldn’t have time to find holes in her claims. Instead he — anyone — would have been kicking themself at having left it too late to request the spicy details.

Q. A few times a year I travel to Rome on business where I spend time with a team of 12 colleagues. I always receive a warm welcome. Upon arrival at their office they each proceed to stand from their desks in unison and to greet me with a double-cheek kiss, forming a receiving line in doing so. This becomes a lengthy and repetitive process resulting in the receiving of each individual’s welcome feeling formulaic — I also feel more than a little awkward at being on show. How best to reduce this anxiety while not wishing to reject their warmth?

— P.B., London, NW1

A. There is truth in the predictable answer when in Rome — but is this really a problem or are you subconsciously using Dear Mary as a means to proclaim your popularity? If you are bothered by the display of affection (or politeness) you can side-step it by saying you have been in Africa recently and your doctors have advised minimal physical contact. Otherwise grin and bear it.

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