Q. One of my very best female friends has got into the habit of lecturing me on gender equality, in a manner that sometimes borders on aggressive. Now, I identify as a feminist man, and understand the need for healthy debate. However, her hypocrisy is irksome and hard to overlook (I’m still expected to buy drinks, dinner etc, even in a platonic relationship). This is coupled with the fact that she consistently reports back to having not offered to pay when out with male suitors. Any advice on how to breach the topic? Not least to save my wallet…
— E.C., London
A. Confide your confusion to another female (not known to the one you write about). Ask her to help you solve the mystery once and for all. She will need to identify as a feminist, at least for an evening. Let’s call your very close friend ‘Feminist One’ and the helper ‘Feminist Two’. Invite Feminist Two to join you in a restaurant with Feminist One. When the bill comes, Feminist Two should slap her card on the tray, then turn to Feminist One as she declares that she believes a feminist must always pay for herself in a restaurant — and does Feminist One agree? And if not, why would she let a man pay for her? Listen quietly while Feminist One explains herself.
Q. A good friend has given me the draft of the first half of his novella asking for my suggestions. How do I determine if he wants genuine feedback, or praise and encouragement to help him finish?
— D.W., London SW19
A. Whatever your friend’s motive, he has put you in an impossible position. All writers know that even the smallest criticism, direct or implied, valid or invalid, can crush a writer’s self-confidence so utterly that they abandon the literary project involved. It is safer for you to tell him that, on reflection, you would rather not read the novella until it is finished. However, you will still help him to finish it by using the following incentivisation scheme. He pays you £1,000 which you will return when he hands you the completed novella. You will read it then.
Q. I have been giving Christmas gift vouchers from carefully chosen shops to teenage godchildren. Now a friend tells me this is a bad idea as the young are so flakey they lose the vouchers before they get to the shops. What should I do, Mary? A bank transfer of cash seems very un-Christmassy.
— O.H., London SW3
A. The Spectator’s own Rory Sutherland tells me that some £300 million per year is pocketed by retailers in the form of lost, expired or unredeemed gift cards. He suggests you give disorganised people printed-out Amazon gift vouchers instead, but take a note of the number. ‘After six months, try adding them to your account. If the vouchers haven’t been redeemed, spend the money on yourself.’ (Thank you, Rory.)