Dear Mary

Dear Mary: how can I hide that I’m no longer drinking?

23 February 2019

9:00 AM

23 February 2019

9:00 AM

Q. I have given up drink except on certain occasions when it would be really rude to refuse. What’s the best way of telling kind hosts at parties that you’re not drinking, without causing their faces to drop with disappointment? I’ve tried accepting a glass and then not drinking it, but that means a wasted glass for the host.
— F.R., Suffolk

A. The disappointment swiftly evaporates when you flourish a can of something which looks exactly like alcohol, such as Pils Infinite Session craft lager (0.5 per cent), which you have brought with you. As long as you are faux-mirroring your fellow socialisers by drinking what looks like alcohol, they will quickly forget that the stupefacient quota of your intake bears no comparison to what they themselves are glugging back. You will find that the merriment may proceed untrammelled.

Q. How can I persuade weekend visitors from town not to flush enormous quantities of loo paper and heavens knows what else? We love entertaining, but Sunday evening often involves my husband deploying a plunger and Jeyes Fluid to unblock our superannuated plumbing. I don’t want to put naff little signs above every loo but am at my wits’ end. I would appreciate any suggestions!
— S.P., Dorset

A. There’s no need to be coy, since most lavatories in the private quarters of stately homes have warning signs about the historic plumbing. Commission some signs in calligraphy on card and distress them to give a historic patina. Then have an attitude switch and train yourself to regard such lavatory signs as status signifiers.

Q. I have a problem when travelling on public transport with my elderly parents. My father has a very loud voice and they both have old-fashioned opinions which they cannot grasp should not be aired publicly in 2019. Since they live in the country surrounded by those of similar mind, they are disinclined to moderate their views when out and about, as they are not used to any one objecting. I am dreading some of the cross-country rail journeys we will shortly have to make as I must now escort them to weddings and memorials. How can I drive it into their arrogant heads that times have changed and that behaviour which all their lives may have been regarded as charming eccentricity now risks being seen as offensive?
— Name and address withheld

A. You can gag your parents on public transport by warning them that these days anyone who behaves in an old-fashioned way that is perceived as antisocial runs the risk of being filmed on the phones of other passengers. Explain that these films are now posted on the internet, where they can attract a worldwide audience. Once the barrage kicks off, just mouth to them ‘You’re being filmed’. This will soon take the wind from their sails and they will concentrate on their reading for the rest of the journey.

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