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Dear Mary

Dear Mary: Do I really have to take my shoes off indoors?

Plus: Avoiding new friends, and how to not go dutch

29 November 2014

9:00 AM

29 November 2014

9:00 AM

Q. There has been a marked increase in the number of people who have pristine flooring and are so keen not to have outside dirt brought in that it has, in my view, entered the value system of good manners for me to offer to remove my shoes when arriving at their homes. That’s fine. But in the evening, especially if I’m invited to a dinner or drinks party, I think about my shoes according to the rest of my outfit. To then have to take off the soft, possibly Jimmy Choo, suede shoes or delicate leather boots and spend the evening in barely stockinged feet is, to me, uncomfortable and a wasted opportunity of dangling around in lovely footwear. To be offered a disposable Muji slipper would be even worse. Is there any way I can stay sartorially intact without causing offence?
— T.R., Devon

A. Why not outwit such pristine floor owners by arriving in disposable Muji slippers and changing into the Jimmy Choos at the front door?


Q. Someone I knew vaguely at university has moved in nearby in the country. His girlfriend has rung twice to invite us to dinners we could not accept as we were already busy. They are perfectly nice but we hardly have time for our more long-established local friends and really don’t want to take on any more relationships that we won’t be able to ‘service’. How do I say this to these persistent new neighbours without making them feel snubbed or that we are in a clique they cannot join?
— Name withheld, Wilton, Wilts

A. Next time, reply that you and your husband have thought about her kind invitation and have decided that guilt decrees you must refuse for at least a year. This is because you have had so much unreturned hospitality from other neighbours that you have determined that you must not court any more until you have processed some of your backload.

Q. I went out with several people I didn’t know well because the guest of honour invited me. I was not hungry and was careful to order the cheapest thing on the menu, which was £10. I didn’t drink, because I didn’t want to pay for it and it wasn’t one of my drinking days. I was not part of the discussion where it was agreed that everyone should split the bill, each share coming to £31. What should I have done?
— B.T., London SW5

A. In future, be prepared for this eventuality and say beforehand, ‘I’ve left my card behind and I only have £10. May I still join you if I eat very little?’ But in this instance, not having done so, you should have negotiated in an unfurtive manner, announcing, as though you were normally the most famously generous of hosts yourself, ‘I’m so sorry. I rushed out without my card and I’ve only got £10. Please may I contribute it and then can you recalculate?’


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