Q. I sent a WhatsApp message to a Lib Dem friend of 15 years. ‘How are you finding being a Lib Dem? I must say a £50 billion Remain dividend would be rather nice — perhaps something to put on the side of a bus so I can prosecute your leader when it never happens! Clearly, Boris is the only contender for PM.’ This message was intended to be provocatively humorous and I expected a witty and combative reply in return. Instead she has told me she can’t understand why I would ‘swipe’ at her like this. Should I try to explain that I was joking, or accept she is now so woke that she has lost all sense of irony and just leave the relationship to wither?
— S.F., London WC1
A. Perhaps she would have laughed in the past, but now that virtue-signalling has replaced religion she would have seen your tease as a form of heresy which she could not countenance. It’s important to keep old friendships in good repair, however, so humour her by apologising and then move on. And in future, just ‘don’t mention the war’.
Q. I have invited a small house party to stay over New Year. Now one of the number has started dating someone who’s a bit pushy and I am worried that he will ask me if he can bring her. I really don’t want her to be in the group — nor do the others particularly, not just because she would alter the vibe as the rest of us are all old friends but especially because I was hoping to get with him myself and it would make me miserable to see them together, using my parents’ rather wonderful house as a platform to cement their relationship. But if he does ask, how can I say no without seeming unfriendly and bitter?
— Name and address withheld
A. Say yes and let her come. This house party will provide an excellent chance for him to properly audition this pushy person and with any luck find her unfit for purpose in the context of old friends. Meanwhile he will unconsciously conflate you with your parents’ wonderful house as he gets to know you better.
Q. Now that I am a bit north of 80, a few well-meaning people ask ‘How are you keeping?. I find the wording of this question rather patronising. One would never ask a young person that. I wish I could make a little joke about ‘keeping’ and move quickly on. Have you any suggestions?
— M.B., Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk
A. Issue a gentle reprimand by replying: ‘What fun! I haven’t heard that quaint old question for many years. I’m keeping really well. How are you keeping, yourself? Of course, in my day we only asked someone how they were keeping if they were in a nursing home on their last legs. Does it have a different insinuation today?’ This should alert the questioner that they have made something of a gaffe, and they will not make the same mistake again.
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