Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 19 January 2017

Also: my son’s academic rival is pretending he isn’t revising for mocks

Dear Mary | 19 January 2017
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Q. At a drinks party at Christie’s this evening my face was splattered with flecks of spit from the guest I was talking to. I desperately wanted to wipe them off but felt that would have been impolite (and in fact I had no handkerchief anyway). What is the top way to deal with this problem?

— F.I., County Down

A. Ideally you would drop something and then quickly wipe your face with your hand while your interlocutor is bending to pick it up for you. Should he/she fail to perform this courtesy, scoop it up yourself with one hand while wiping with the other.

Q. My son goes to day school in London and is preparing for mock GCSEs. His best friend,who is equally bright, has told him he isn’t bothering to do any revision and has advised my son not to bother either. It’s obvious to me this boy will be working very hard (not least because his parents are pushy), and I remember from my own school days that an academic rival of mine used this well-worn way to see off the competition. Unfortunately, my gullible son is in thrall to this boy and is now making a conscious effort not to revise. How can I expose the other boy as a fraud?

— Name and address withheld

A. Why not contact the pushy mother and ask her to suggest a date in the next couple of weeks when the boys could get together, as you would like to buy theatre tickets for them? When she replies that her own son will be busy revising till after mocks, you will have all the evidence you need.

Q. I have a tip. The other night the woman on my right raised a topic, of which I know nothing, with the woman on my left. The two began a lively discussion. I was pleasantly surprised because, although it’s technically rude to talk across someone who can’t contribute to a conversation, the neighbour on my right placed a friendly arm around my shoulder as they chatted. The gesture made me feel included emotionally, if not conversationally.

— A.B., London W8

A. Thank you for your observation. It is interesting that women can still ‘assault’ men at the table, while a man doing the same would risk opprobrium.

Q. Some people write very long emails and it worries me that it might appear rude if I send back only a short reply. I am not a very speedy typist. What is the correct etiquette over this?

— T.L., Wantage, Oxon

A. At the end of these short replies you could copy and paste the ‘Sent from my Smartphone’ sign-off from another email. Recipients would be pleased that you had gone to the trouble of answering them while clearly on the road or not at home. Moreover, they would be impressed that you had managed the chore while using such a vintage device.