Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How do I avoid getting waylaid at a packed party?

16 July 2022

9:00 AM

16 July 2022

9:00 AM

Q. I have found parties frustrating this month because they have been too crowded. Is there a polite way to get through a really packed event without stopping to talk to any number of people you know and like and have things to say to, when someone you particularly want to talk to is at the other end of the room and may leave before you can get to them?

– B.A., London SW1

A. It’s always worth picking up two glasses when you walk into a busy party. They will allow you to plough purposefully on towards your target. Hold the two glasses up and tell your old friends as you pass: ‘Back in a minute – let me just deliver this.’


Q. I have invited an old friend to Sunday lunch, thinking he was bringing a special lamp to illuminate an artwork he has restored. However, after accepting (I have only just had him to dinner which he enjoyed) he then said he would notbring the lamp, as it would be confusing to erect it at a lunch party. Am I justified in disinviting him? I already have too many people coming.

– E.S., Sussex

A. Your old friend may be spinning things out in the hope of receiving a third invitation to your house. Why not outwit him by explaining that one of your many other guests may be in the market for his restoration services – which is why you have invited him to that particular lunch. To this end he should arrive an hour early so that he can get the erection of the lamp done before the guests flood in.

Q. My son is relieved to have landed a well-paid first job. It’s with a tobacco company. A problem sometimes arises when he’s out with friends and meets someone new and this person starts to lay into him when they find out who he works for. None of these combatants is mollified when told this is a comparatively ethical tobacco company whose declared aim is to turn all their customers off cigarettes and on to vapes. They just want to grandstand and tell him he should be ashamed of himself. My son doesn’t want to lie about his job, but how should he defuse the situation if its revelation is the trigger for a social event to turn toxic?

– Name and address withheld

A. He would do better to avoid naming his employer in the first place. Instead he should truthfully confide that he is working in ethical transformation for a company that has historic negative associations but say: ‘I’ve given up trying to explain what I’m doing at this sort of event – because a lot of people can’t grasp it and then they go off on rants about their own ethical positions and that’s kind of bad manners at a party, don’t you think? But tell me what you do?’

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