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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Is there a tactful way to shorten the guest list for my 21st?

Plus: How to tell your goddaughter she has BO

1 November 2014

9:00 AM

1 November 2014

9:00 AM

Q. I am organising my 21st birthday party at our family house in Italy. It is a fantastic location, but it means that I can only invite about 20 guests. The result of this is that I am unable to invite a group of friends from a university society of which I am a member, despite several of them having invited me to their parties. I will be inviting one person from the group (I knew him away from the society), so the rest will become aware of it. I feel bad for not inviting them, but they are simply not any of my 20 closest friends. Is there anything you would suggest I do to show that I have not ignored them?
— H.G., Plaxtol

A. Ask your parents to plan, but not implement, a ‘themed’ weekend, with activities chosen to be unappealing to the members of your university society. If they are art lovers, for example, a triathlon should do the trick. If sportsmen, plan tours of archaeological sites. In this way, you can inform them that since you don’t want to disappoint your parents, who are out of touch with your current enthusiasms and planning some nightmare activities, you will spare these friends the Italian ordeal and invite them instead to a much more fun 21st drinks party, which you will give in your own house and to which you will be able to invite many more people.


Q. My goddaughter has started working for me but, although her work is tireless and she is industrious, my recent meetings with her have made me reel from her BO. How on earth do I tell her? It’s not as easy as it sounds.
— Name and address withheld

A. Follow the template of nit-reporting to parents of pupils and send every worker an email alert that a case of BO has been reported by a client. Ask that every worker be vigilant and enhance their hygiene with daily showers or baths and the wearing of clean clothes. No one whose conscience is clear will be offended.

Q. Don’t you think dinner parties go on for too long? Would it be acceptable to issue invitations for 8–10.45 p.m.? This would forestall that anxious watch-glancing and those yawning periods on sofas from 10.30 to 11.40, or whatever time in our absurd social system is thought appropriate for departure, while still providing ample concentrated interaction.
—Name and address withheld

A. Secretly, everyone loves boundaries. Moreover, being good value is tiring. Consequently, you will find that the majority enjoy early-ending dinner parties. One of society’s most popular hostesses, based in Woodborough, Wiltshire, even asks people to leave by 9.30, while 10.45 is good enough for London. Let the diehards go on to a nightclub if they feel so inclined. The key is to issue the ‘Carriages’ edict when you issue the invitation — never as guests are coming through the door, as the insecure might link the request to their appearance.


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