Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 10 November 2016

Plus: The question of wealthy but stingy relatives; Christmas drinks parties

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Q. A man I know (but not very well) has invited me and another girl to stay in a villa he’s been loaned. He says the only thing I’ll have to pay for is my flight but I suspect that though we’ll probably have picnics on the beach each day for lunch, we’ll go to expensive restaurants at night and split the bill three ways. I like them both, but they are spoilt while I’m an artist and just can’t spend what they can. It would be so uncool to start saying, ‘But I only had the salad and water and you’ve had the oysters and champagne blah.’ Nor would I want them to subsidise me every night. So I would love to go but how can I get around this bill-splitting problem? Should I pretend to be on a diet and let them go out to dinner on their own each night?

— Name and address withheld

A. Don’t pretend to be on a diet. That would be a killjoy motif for the holiday. Instead make your non-presence in the restaurants into a positive by alleging you are doing a series of artworks based on dark landscapes and are ecstatically happy at the thought of the opportunities this hot country will present to you and you will choke down sandwiches to allow yourself to achieve this artistic ambition. You can splodge away while they are out. You never know, you might learn something.

Q. A small question as Christmas approaches, and the hearthside unwrappings loom: how do you deal with close relatives who are habitually late and thoughtless (and also niggardly beyond belief i.e. charity shop) in their present-giving? Needless to say, they have pots. I have tried to smile and wave, maintaining stout generosity as a matter of principle, but after years of abject lopsidedness, I yearn for revenge; failing that, to bring contrition or at least an acknowledgement of this state of affairs. It is the children who suffer.

— N.B., address withheld

A. Your frustration is understandable but none of us has any right to expect our well-funded friends or family members to shell out for us just because they can. Indeed it has often been noted that many members of the super-rich are famed for their penny-pinching — to the extent that it’s almost a mental illness. And yet it doesn’t stop them from being lovable. If you don’t find them so, then perhaps this explains everything about their failure to deliver.

Q. I am being pressed to RSVP to a Christmas drinks party invitation that was sent out to me on 1 October. What if less efficient but important (for work) people ask me on the same night?

— Name and address withheld

A. Accept the invitation but explain you will only be able to make a fleeting appearance due to other commitments. Most of your fellow guests will be in the same boat. Stay on at the first party for longer if no other invitations manifest.