Q. We have been trying to invite a very particular couple to supper for over a year and have finally broken down their resistance. Would it be better to have them alone, we asked ourselves, or should we play it safe and invite another couple? We decided on the latter, but late in the day, our foils have cancelled. Compatible people are thin on the ground around here, especially at such short notice, but would it be better to dilute the company with second-raters rather than to subject this distinguished duo to an intense à quatre with a couple they hardly know? We have no servants.
Name and address withheld
A. You should invite a single person rather than another couple. This formula will increase your chance of having a successful dinner party since hackles tend to rise when a couple is faced with two new couples. They know from experience that everyone will subconsciously fall into double-act mode, singing from the same song sheet, etc. Yet when a couple has to address a singleton, there is a special chemistry that often works surprisingly well and more big talk is likely to take place. While you and your wife are scurrying about, the couple will be bonding with the singleton whereas with another couple they would be more likely to be competing.
Q. I want to be good friends with someone at school and do not want her to be annoyed with me, but this girl, who is in the next dorm to me, constantly asks if she can copy my physics and chemistry prep. I find this irritating considering that while I have been working on my prep, this girl has been making better friends with other people who I could have been making better friends with.