Dear Mary

Dear Mary: How to stop a host turning his dinner party into a debate

2 April 2016

9:00 AM

2 April 2016

9:00 AM

Q. Twice recently our host has clinked his glass, required us to stop relaxing and instead take part in a round-table discussion. My wife and are involved in the maelstrom of the Westminster village by day and we have had enough of it by the evening. Is there a courteous way to reject the request of a host attempting to hijack his own dinner party in this way?
— Name and address withheld

A. Clink your own glass and say your doctor has ordered that in the short term you don’t blur the boundaries between work and play and, since you would find it impossible not to join in, would they mind pausing the discussion until you have gone home.


Q. My godson recently turned 18 and I invited him to dine with me at my London club to receive his birthday present. He was surprised and delighted to discover that this was not just dinner but a six-year membership of the club, fully paid. We had an excellent evening together, but ten days later I have not had a thank-you letter. He usually has excellent manners. I don’t want to be heavy-handed and he is of course working hard for his imminent A-levels, but I do think he should be gently made aware that this is a bit much. Any ideas?
— Name and address withheld

A. Text the boy and say you have been away for ten days, are now on your way home and looking forward to reading his letter on your return. In the meantime you would like to say how much you enjoyed seeing him.

Q. I am presented with the prospect of one, if not both, of my beloved daughters getting married in the next few years. My problem is that, as a result of my own divorce, I know that without physical restraint I will not be able to maintain my composure in the same county as, let alone in close proximity to, their mother. I also feel that it would be rank hypocrisy to endorse the institution of marriage, via speeches or by attending. I could no more publicly endorse the use of the same razor blade or toothbrush for the rest of my life. Aside from seeking sectioning, what should I do?
— N.S.T., Newmarket

A. No doubt both your daughters are dreading the ‘happiest day’ of their lives being spoiled by a possible parental confrontation, to say nothing of the contents of your speech. Why not set their anxieties at rest now by assuring them that in the event of their marrying you will record a short film in which you wish them well, to be broadcast on the day, but you will not attend either ceremony. This is because you love them. Your absence will achieve the effect you desire — everyone will wonder why you hate your ex-wife so much. And it will let your beloved daughters know their weddings need not be overshadowed by the fear of their father’s inability to ‘play the game’.

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