Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How can we avoid making friends on our cruise?

12 February 2022

9:00 AM

12 February 2022

9:00 AM

Q. My partner’s work involves him seeing and talking to people all day, every day. I booked us on to a slightly naff though luxurious 12-night cruise in the Med, thinking this would be the perfect antidote since most of the other passengers will be elderly Americans and we would be bound to know no one else on board. I now hear that most people on cruises want to make friends and we are bound to be invited to join others for dinner. To answer truthfully I would say: ‘I’m afraid my partner is suffering from People Poisoning and doesn’t want to meet anyone new.’ But of course we couldn’t possibly say that. Any suggestions, Mary?

— P.B., London SW1

A. If invited to join others, sigh heavily and explain that you need to eat at an antisocial hour so that after/before it you can take Zoom meetings with clients in another time zone before they finish for the day. Consult the website before settling on a plausible country to be doing business with between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Americans like to eat early.

Q. My husband is a youngish GP from a very traditional medical family. He believes that mutual respect between doctor and patient is more attainable on a ‘Dr’ and ‘Mr/Mrs’ (or whatever) basis than on a first-name basis. Recently he saw a new patient in his (private) surgery who introduced herself by her first name and insisted on knowing his. Unable to think of a reason not to supply it, he did so, after which the consultation proceeded smoothly. Looking ahead, how can he avoid such requests and maintain his professional integrity, without seeming pompous or causing offence?

— Name and address withheld

A. He could reply pleasantly: ‘Well my first name is… but as a matter of fact we don’t use first names in this practice. We found it so hard to remember who likes to be formal and who likes to be informal that we now have a blanket policy of everyone going by their title. What is yours, by the way?’

Q. Close friends of many years moved permanently to their country house during lockdown. We had hardly seen them since, but following a recent weekend stay found that the dynamic has changed within their relationship and the woman now berates the man virtually nonstop. It was deeply embarrassing. We had already arranged that they will come for a return visit with us but we now are dreading it. Any suggestions, Mary?

— E.A., London W8

A. Why not implement a policy of inviting couples separately from each other. Make a joke of it. Say: ‘We are inviting all our married friends to come and stay singly as everyone has been getting on so badly because of lockdown. Why don’t you toss a coin for which one of you comes first?’

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