Q. How can one politely stop predatory kissers? I am (or was) an affectionate and demonstrative person but I don’t wish to immediately go back to kissing and hugging — even close friends — at social events, let alone people I have just met. I accepted an invitation to my first (garden) lunch since lockdown because I was told we would be only six. I arrived to find we would be a much less manageable ten. One of the un-billed guests, a neighbour I’ve only met a few times, came immediately towards me saying: ‘Are you kissing?’ When I said ‘no’ he bore down on me anyway, saying ‘Well I’m going to kiss YOU!’ as though it were a compliment.
— A.W., Halifax
A. Your host should not have put you in this position. The irony is that although we feel no compunction in telling much-loved friends to keep their distance, it feels unfriendly to reject the enthusiasm of the second division. While safety concerns still prevail it is the duty of a host to declare a blanket ban on kissing on his or her premises.
Q. How can I ask a neighbour to pipe down with his business calls now that he is working from his garden? His sometimes boring, sometimes interesting, sometimes indiscreet calls go on for most of the day. The problem is that his wife left him during lockdown so there is no one to rein him in, and I feel nervous about pointing out this boorishness to someone so recently emotionally wounded. He clearly doesn’t realise how intrusive he is being.
— Name and address withheld
A. Next time you are chatting, boost his wounded self-esteem with flattery. Say that you can hear his business calls when he’s in the garden and you’re beginning to feel guilty because his life is so interesting you can’t help eavesdropping. To counter this new, pernicious addiction, therefore, you are going to bring a portable radio into the garden and turn it on whenever he’s on his phone so you simply won’t be able to eavesdrop. You will soon see a Pavlov’s dog-style response to your blaring radio and he will start to go inside to make calls. Yet he will do so with pride rather than humiliation.
Q. I have a far greater social appetite than my husband, who has adored lockdown. Now that I feel it’s safe to invite friends to our garden, it is awkward when my husband refuses to join. He says that I am welcome to invite them but he doesn’t want to see them himself. I can’t say that he is working, because he is retired — so how do I explain his non-appearance when people know he must be in the house?
— M.G., Lymington
A. Confide in your guests that your husband would love to see them, but since you are cooped up together 24/7, you yourself are desperate for a break from him./>
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