Q. My partner, a leading political commentator on a national newspaper, recently agreed to shave off his hair at the suggestion of his editor, in order to write and illustrate a feature piece on the charms of baldness. The timing, at the height of the summer season, could of course not be more embarrassing. He is due to attend a dinner at your magazine in the next few days. Mary, how do I explain this horror to anyone we meet before it grows back — if it ever does?
— J.G., London
A. It seems likely that your partner may have been nursing a secret urge to upstage you. Now he has used the opportunity of this commission to gratify it. By showcasing his new look, as you note, at the height of the summer season, he can be sure that all eyes will be on him and not on you. His ego will be further boosted by the widespread relief he witnesses on the faces of admirers as he serially reveals that chemotherapy has played no part in his transformation. Let him have his moment — but remember that, in general, only one member of a couple can take centre stage. In future, you may have to broker a private deal between yourselves whereby only one of you will be witty and glamorous at any one social occasion. This will allow you to take turns in the limelight.
Q. I recently stayed for a weekend in the house of a friend of a friend, a mature man with impeccable manners who is in fact an Old Etonian. I like and admire him but I nevertheless thought it frankly pretentious when I saw him stand up for a nine-year-old boy who had walked into the breakfast room. Do you agree with me, Mary, that men should only stand up for women?
— S.B., London SW7
A. Your host was correct. What could be more motivating for a nine-year-old than to see he is clearly thought worthy of respect at such a junior age? The consequence can only be that the child will rise to the compliment and try to follow the grown-up’s lead by according the same respect to others.
Q. My mother has booked a four-day all-inclusive coach holiday to St Ives in Cornwall, with the visit being very much one of a personal and sentimental nature rather than a typical summer break. She has no great wish to take part in organised excursions or evening entertainment that may be offered and would much prefer to do her own thing. How can she best respond to any requests from fellow travellers to join in without giving offence or prompting unwanted sympathy?
— A.B., Malmesbury, Wilts
A. How about if she acts the part of a convalescent? She could laugh off her inability to join in communal fun by invoking a promise to her family or doctor that she would treat the holiday as a chance to rest and recover from some unspecified illness.