Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Plastic or wooden loo seats?

2 March 2019

9:00 AM

2 March 2019

9:00 AM

Q. Please advise on how I can move on from a social impasse. My best friend of 50 years claims she cannot afford to pay for a taxi to bring her a few miles across London to my house where I want to give her dinner and invite mutual friends who she would love to see. I know she can easily afford taxis because — despite being mentally and physically fit — she receives various disability benefits from Social Services. She is angling for me to pay for her taxis, as she thinks (correctly) that I am richer, but I refuse to do this on principle. At this rate we will never see each other again.
— G.K., London SW3

A. Conspire with one of the mutual friends that he will offer to pay for her taxis on the grounds that he has some one-off business expenses he needs to work up. You can pay him back later. In this way you can break the impasse and neither of you will set a precedent.

Q. On the doorstep of a party, I met for the first time the writer I most admire. He apologised, saying he had to dash, but wanted to congratulate me on something of mine he had recently read. Just at that moment two (rather unsympathetic) acquaintances came along the street shrieking with excitement at seeing me. I panicked and was gauche. Desperate to hear my hero’s comments, and worried he might think the pair were typical of my social milieu, I did not introduce them. Mary, how could I have handled this better?
— Name and address withheld

A. It would have been suave of you to greet the pair with false enthusiasm (five seconds) and then include them in the happy moment by introducing the writer as ‘my hero — who is just dashing away, frustratingly, as he was about to pay me a compliment’. Any writer worth his empathetic salt would have understood your difficulty and the acquaintances would have remained silent while he enlarged on his praise.

Q. My husband says the fact that plastic loo seats are so much more hygienic than wooden ones trumps the aesthetic case for the latter. We need to replace one of our lavatory seats, so can you rule?
— P.D., Bruton, Somerset

A. Wooden ones are more acceptable. Paradoxically, just as with plastic vs wooden chopping boards, the wooden loo seats also turn out to be more hygienic.

Q. How can I encourage my teenage sons to clean their teeth without giving them complexes or appearing to be a nag?
— Name and address withheld

A. Go to a chemist and buy about six or seven of the most eye-catching tubes of toothpaste you can find. Display these in the bathroom so they will constantly fall into the boys’ fields of vision. They will thereby be unconsciously prompted to clean their teeth without feeling nagged.

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