Dea Mary Your Problems Solved

The Spectator, October 23, 2010 | Go to article overview

Dea Mary Your Problems Solved


Q. I recently spent three hours in the hairdresser undergoing an expensive hair straightening technique (£200) so that my hair now looks sleek, like Jennifer Aniston's, rather than frizzy. I was delighted with the result, which is expected to last for three months - but as I walked into a party, on the first outing for this new look, an old family friend greeted me with the words, 'What on earth have you done to your hair? For heaven's sake see someone and do something about it! You can afford it.'

I was very hurt and just whimpered, but what should I have replied? This man is not a nasty person or a drunk and I know he has my best interests at heart.

-T.B. , London SW6

A. There is a time and a place for delivering home truths, however well intentioned. The correct response to such tactlessness is to look concerned on behalf of the offender and murmur to them, 'Are you all right? How much have you had to drink?' This normally serves to bring them up sharp.

Q. As part of my work I travel around the country and invariably have to eat lunch in cafes or restaurants. I often feel I would like to invite my local opposite number to join me but, although I would like to treat them, I simply do not have the budget for this any more. When someone offers to direct me to a good local restaurant and asks if I would like him or her to join me, how can I make it clear that we can only go if we split the bill? I dislike having to use the expression 'split the bill' in the first place. 'Shall we go Dutch?' is worse. Both lack subtlety in my view and add an undesirable commercial note to what is meant to be an overture of friendship. …

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