Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do I stop my grey-haired friend giving away my true age?

25 September 2021

9:00 AM

25 September 2021

9:00 AM

Q. I never lie about my age but I try not to think — or talk — about it. Now an old school friend, who has been living abroad for many years, has just come back to the UK and is planning to move here permanently. Unlike me, she is letting her hair go grey. Admirable though her authenticity may be, when virtually all the women from her old circle have highlights or full colour she, known to be roughly our age, but three-quarters grey, shows the rest of us up. At a recent wedding, more than one of us was quietly, but tactlessly told, as though it were a compliment, words to the effect of ‘you look decades younger than your exact contemporary’. We know we are shallow but we don’t appreciate our true ages being ‘outed’ like this at social events. What to do? — Name and address withheld

A. On a practical note, if this friend is trying to remake her English social life, the reality is that the grey hair may put off age-deniers who would otherwise invite her. Consequently it’s your duty to intervene. Start by ordering an affordable (£20) wig in her old colour, from the online suppliers Spell Beauty. Chuckle that you found it in your fancy dress box and urge her to try it on. Gush that her natural old colour still suits her skin tone and so much more than the grey! Why doesn’t she make an appointment with your colourist? If she fails to bite, you must explain why exclusion from shallow society may be the price she will pay for her authenticity.

Q. A university friend with an idyllic country cottage often invites me and other mutual friends for weekends. We always drive down together in his car and stop at a big supermarket as we leave London on the Friday night and buy all the food and drink, then split the bill. Unfortunately our host has started to add to the trolley things like bumper packs of laundry powder, crates of pet food, even garden tools. It seems really petty to resent these extras but, apart from our host, we are all impoverished students so we can’t afford to pay towards them. How can we say something without sounding ungrateful?

— Name and address withheld

A. Next time sneak in some extras of your own. At the checkout say: ‘I’m afraid I’ve added some things I personally need to the trolley, but I don’t expect anyone else to pay towards them. So let me have the bill and I will work out what everyone owes, just for the food and drink, before we split it.’

Q. What side of the church do you sit when you know both bride and groom equally well?

— A.E., Pewsey

A. Ask this of the ushers when you arrive and let them make the decision for you. In this way neither family can take umbrage that you appeared to show more allegiance to the other side.

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