Dear Mary

Dear Mary: What can I do about my neighbours’ downmarket recycling?

Plus: Rules for flirting, and a smoking 21st birthday

3 January 2015

9:00 AM

3 January 2015

9:00 AM

Q. Since recycling was introduced in our village, the wall at the end of our drive has become the depositing point for some neighbours as well as for us. Unfortunately their detritus is not sophisticated and while our green boxes are filled with wine bottles of respectable appellations, theirs is crammed with cheap lager tins. The recycling lorry comes before our friends are up so I’m not concerned about them, but more distant acquaintances on their way to work inevitably see the boxes, and we can’t invite them all to dinner to establish our credentials. How can we persuade our neighbours to keep their empties to themselves?
— J.C., Taunton, Somerset

A. This is a non-problem. In fact you should be pleased. There is no point in trying to impress drive-by acquaintances with displays of sophisticated empties if you are never going to invite them to dinner anyway. Far better that there should be a can pile outside your home. All the connotations of multiple empty lager tins can only make them relieved you have so far not included them.

Q. I notice that when certain men find you attractive, they start openly flirting with other women, as though this makes them more desirable. The other day I was with an ex-boyfriend (who wanted to get back with me) who started flirting with a much younger hotel receptionist, even inviting me to join in saying how great she was. It stiffened my resolve not to have any more to do with him, but it also made me angry. I would love to have a put-down phrase which would put a stop to this, without making me seem jealous or undignified.
— E.S., London W11

A. Thank you for reminding female readers of this scientifically proven but little discussed phenomenon. It will boost their morale when interacting with males in whom they have a romantic interest to know that when the males flirt with other women overtly they are engaging on a practice run before flirting with the real object of their desires. No need to punish them. Better to enjoy the insider knowledge and decide what to do with it.

Q. My daughter is planning her 21st birthday dinner in January but she says that there must be a smoking room or all the guests will be standing outside in the freezing cold all evening. She says that everyone agrees the best 21st of last year was successful because the guests could smoke in the marquee. Despite years of health warnings apparently many 21-year-olds smoke like chimneys. What should we do?
—Name and address withheld

A. Supply e-cigarettes at the tables. Many youths have never tried them and will be surprised at how authentically they replicate the sensation of smoking a toxin-rich cigarette — and they don’t have to stand in the cold to enjoy them.

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