Dear Mary

Dear Mary: As an actor, how do I cope with strangers who think they know me?

7 February 2020

10:00 PM

7 February 2020

10:00 PM

Q. I have hired a private room in a restaurant in order to give dinner to a large number of old friends. One of these, with whom I’ve discussed the elaborate seating plan, asked early on if she could sit next to a certain man whom she’s always admired, but doesn’t know well. I said yes. She was thrilled, but now the man in question has begged not to be next to her. What should I do?
— Name and address withheld

A. Spare her feelings by asking the man to come half an hour after the time you have told everyone else to turn up. When your friend queries why her name is not
next to his on the seating plan, explain that you had to rearrange it as her preferred choice has told you he is going to be very late and you didn’t want her to be next to an empty chair. Then glaze your eyes over and move on to the next conversation.


Q. A friend and neighbour whom I see a lot of anyway calls me up every day for ‘post-mortems’ and ‘debriefs’, but mainly to bang on about herself. I love her but although I might — theoretically — have the leisure time for these calls, I haven’t got space in my mind for them. Unfortunately, although this much-loved figure is clearly insensitive where others are concerned, she is highly sensitive about herself. How can I discourage her from ringing so often without hurting her feelings?
— Name and address withheld

 A. Use flattery to put a stop to the calls. Tell her that because she is so witty and interesting you find you are spending far too much time thinking about her fascinating life, rather than your own dull one. In fact, you’ve realised that you are almost living vicariously through her, and it’s preventing you from getting on with your own life. You’ve decided it is self-indulgent of you to chat on the phone to her so much, so can you just text each other brief updates instead? She will soon find a more willing audience for her outpourings.

Q. I am an in-work actor. Strangers often come up to me in places like Peter Jones and greet me, sometimes even kissing me on both cheeks. These people have obviously spotted a familiar face and muddled me with someone they know in real life. When I explain their mistake, however, they always start over-apologising and lamenting their stupidity. This takes up so much time that we have almost become friends — or at least acquaintances, and they then feel obliged to ask me what they might have seen me in. Mary, what should I do?
— Name and address withheld

A. Look pleased. Cry: ‘Great to see you! Send my regards to your family!’ Move swiftly away. By the time you are out of sight they will remember that they don’t actually know you. But the warmth of your response will leave them with a little glow of happiness./>

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