Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 1 December 2016

Plus: How to get invited to a party which your friends are going to

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Q. I don’t go to my club that often but the other day I found a letter there waiting for me from an elderly cousin, also a member, whose home is in Scotland where he lives alone. The letter announces that he is down south until January and asks whether he might spend Christmas with my family here in London. I am well aware of the meaning of Christmas and have no wish to be mean-spirited, but my wife and I have a relentless social life throughout the year and our children are as yet unmarried, so Christmas Day has become the only time we can be sure of being together unencumbered by friends or partners. Since I might easily not have gone to the club and might therefore not even have received the letter in the first place, I wonder if ignoring it would be the best thing to do?

— Name and address withheld

A. Your cousin has displayed exquisite manners by writing this letter to you and leaving it for you at your club since this gives you a perfect let-out clause to reject his overture (by pretending you had not got the letter). It is worrying to think that you might view any future in-laws as encumbrances. Perhaps you should limber up for them by having this harmless-sounding cousin. Why not compromise by leaving a letter at the club inviting him to join you at 1 p.m on Christmas Day, explaining that you have to go out again at 5 p.m. to visit friends, but he would be very welcome for the lunch. In this way you can salve your conscience by being welcoming in the spirit of Christmas, but be reassured that the invitation is not open-ended.

Q. I am gay, and although my parents would have preferred me not to be, they like my boyfriend and have invited us both for Christmas. He is very good company but he has no experience of being in houses with good furniture and I am dreading the rows about him putting down his glass on polished surfaces and leaving rings, and swinging back on his chair at the table. What do you suggest I do, Mary?

— Name and address withheld

A. Bamboozle the boyfriend by telling him that the thing you are dreading about Christmas is that your parents never stop nagging you about swinging on your chair and putting your glass down on a polished surface. Say ‘Let’s have a pact. Do you promise you’ll watch me like a hawk and say a code word if I’m about to do something like that? I’ll do the same for you.’

Q. Six of my friends are invited to a party just before Christmas. I know the host but I haven’t been invited myself. How do you suggest I get an invite?

— P.R., London W11

A. Why not ask the six friends to dinner or drinks at your house on the same night? One of them will be bound to pressure the host to allow you to swarm on with them to his party.