Q. My brother’s social life has dried up since his divorce (which coincided with the pandemic). So when he received a ‘save the date’ notice to a big mixed-generation party in August, I was happy to think of him catching up with old friends. Now he has been told that the party is to be themed and guests are expected to dress up as their favourite fast food. I am sure the younger guests will embrace this idea with enthusiasm, but my brother is balking at the thought of having to create such a costume. The hosts are great fun but are being quite bossy about the dress code and I fear that, without his ex to nag him, my brother will cancel rather than face this challenge. Any ideas, Mary?
– K.B., East Sussex
A. Don’t waste too much time on this. Just order an inflatable cow costume from Amazon at £29.99 and have it sent to your brother. He can show willing by arriving in the claustrophobic costume (explaining that burgers are his favourite fast food). Once he has made his initial impression, he can swiftly abandon the plastic prison. Other guests will no doubt be drinking and may even fail to notice he is in normal clothes again. If they do he can explain that the hooves for hands make it impossible for him to hold his drink.
Q. Every so often I am asked where I am originally from – most recently by a mini-cab driver who, like me, was brought up in North Yorkshire. He then asked: ‘When did you lose your accent?’ What is the best way to reply to this question when you sense that the truth might make your interlocutor feel awkward?
– J.F., London SW4
A. Confide that you picked up the accent you now have when your parents sent you away to a boarding school. ‘My parents meant well,’ you can chuckle, ‘but it was a traumatic experience which I prefer not to talk about.’ Then change the subject without further ado.
Q. Due to having recently gone down with Covid, we had to cancel a weekend at late notice. Our host was very understanding and has rescheduled so I don’t want to annoy him by being difficult. My problem is that the last time we went there our host served moutabal, an aubergine dip, which he had cooked himself. I found it revolting. However when thanking him, I stupidly wrote that I had particularly enjoyed the moutabal. Now he has mentioned he will be making ‘a huge batch’ especially for me to dip into over the weekend. Mary, how can I change my tune without admitting I was only being polite on our last visit?
– C.F., Farnham
A. Quickly text and say that sadly Covid has been ‘palate-changing’ for you, and, weirdly, you have gone off one of your favourite dishes – moutabal.
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