Q. My girlfriend and I have started using a personal trainer for some joint sessions at our local gym; the sessions are generally very good and we are really enjoying them. The issue is that the trainer spends quite a lot of the time on his mobile phone and it often distracts him from what he is meant to be teaching us. Sometimes we have to ask him what we are doing next while he is scrolling on his device. We are paying a lot and expect a better service, but I find it awkward saying anything to him about his phone habits. Any suggestions?
– Name and address withheld
A. When he starts using his mobile, pull out your own and exclaim jollily: ‘Oh good, we’re having a break are we? What a relief!’ This should embarrass him into desisting. If it doesn’t, ask if he is finding new exercises on the phone to torment you with. Take a teasing rather than a bitter tone, and even jostle the mobile from his hands if necessary.
Q. My wife has recently given birth to our first child. We are obviously thrilled. However we have a problem: my mother. She is a retired midwife (who hasn’t practised since l974 after having children) and is very keen to give us the benefit of her experience. This isn’t always particularly welcome as she is a rather forthright character. Mary, how can we politely ask her to desist with the ‘helpful pointers’ without causing offence?
– J.D., Rogerstone, South Wales
A. This is not the time for you and your wife to assert self-sufficiency. Forthright or not, your mother must be allowed to air her views for self-validation and other reasons, to say nothing of your obeying the fifth commandment. Humour her. She will be the most reliable babysitter you could hope for.
Q. In later life (our mid-seventies) a male friend and I find ourselves in a rewarding relationship. We want to know how we should describe this relationship to others in a way that shows we are more than friends. We feel it would be grotesque, at our age, to talk of having a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and neither of us likes ‘partner’, ‘squeeze’ or ‘we are now an item’. It is none of anyone else’s business, of course, but we would like to be invited as each other’s plus ones.
– F.S., London SW5
A. The word ‘admirer’ is under-used where relationships are concerned. It is pleasantly non-graphic but still conjures up the commitment message. ‘By the way I have an admirer these days – may I bring him along?’ Moreover in day-to-day life it will pay psychological dividends for you to think of each other as admirers. Who wants to behave badly in front of someone who admires them?
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