Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can I stop my sister-in-law pinching food off my plate?

1 May 2021

9:00 AM

1 May 2021

9:00 AM

Q. Since the relaxation of lockdown, my brother and his wife have started coming to our garden for takeaway meals. My sister-in-law always says she isn’t going to eat at all, so we mustn’t order anything for her. But when the food arrives, she gets a fork and enthusiastically begins picking off everyone else’s plate. Sometimes she just uses her fingers. I do like her very much but, as they married just before Covid, I feel I don’t know her well enough yet to comment or to suggest she orders something for herself. I am always left feeling slightly hungry and a bit irritable, as the whole time I am anxiously anticipating what she will help herself to next. My brother clearly doesn’t mind and my husband, who has perfect manners, pretends he doesn’t. Any suggestions?
— Name and address withheld

A. Why not announce you have embarked on a ratio-controlled diet: for example 30 per cent carbs, 30 per cent vegetables, 40 per cent protein? When the food arrives you can briefly, but theatrically, weigh and calculate your own ‘portion’, claiming you are preventing yourself from having too much or too little. If you are doing the ordering yourself, quietly order too much and she will be tempted to go straight for the excess left in your box.


Q. I currently work alone in a West End gallery while my colleagues work remotely. Since the shops reopened I get a constant stream of people asking to use our facilities as they probably think our loos are a better bet than using a big department store. I don’t have the time or desire to keep cleaning the loos to Covid-safe standards. How can I deter this, Mary?
— V.F., London W1

A. Place a large ‘out of order’ sign outside the loos.

Q. Pre-Covid, my wife and I were the guests of a well-known celebrity who we first met when he looked around our house when it was open to the public. On the Saturday, the house party was joined for a lavish dinner by more celebrities from his world. My wife, who is a little shy, found herself opposite a woman who was clearly wondering — since neither my wife nor I is a celebrity, and indeed we both look rather dull — what the ‘point’ of her might be and asked where she came from. When she replied ‘Yorkshire’, her interlocutor was perfectly friendly but apparently astonished that my wife does not have a Yorkshire accent. She rather kept on about it, a bit patronisingly. We are fond of this celebrity friend and, in the event that he invites us again, wonder how my wife should explain her lack of a Yorkshire accent without appearing to pull rank?
— Name and address withheld

A. Your wife should simply reply: ‘Oh, it’s because my parents sent me away to a boarding school and I picked up this accent there.’

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