Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 24 November 2016

Dear Mary also has advice on suitable suitors and the signing of visitors’ books

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Last week I went for an interview with the Irish Guards. My father and his father were both in this regiment. I put on my smartest suit and grabbed a tie from my dad’s dressing room. The interview went well but when I got home my father was absolutely horrified, exclaiming that I was wearing an ‘Old Guards’ tie, something sacred and reserved only for those who have served. I had had no idea that was what it was and, while the recruiting officer did not mention it, I can only imagine his dismay that I was wearing one. Should I email him to apologise? Or would it make things worse?

— Name and address withheld

A. There is never any harm in follow-up emails after interviews and, since the recruiting officer will certainly have noticed the tie, it will be good for you to flag up your delayed realisation of your error and to apologise. By pre-empting a possible no, you will improve your chances of a yes.

Q. How can I find out if a young man who seems suitable for my daughter is single? The two overlapped briefly when his team visited my house as part of an ongoing project and I saw a spark there. Although he will come again, my daughter no longer lives at home. Before I arrange for her to visit while he is here, I need to know whether or not he is single. I can’t ask other members of the team as any sort of pressure could kill it. Nor would I dream of revealing my plan to my daughter.

— Name and address withheld

A. Next time the team comes, chatter pleasantly to all. Once alone with the favourite, produce a luxury good of the sort that only a woman would want — such as a pair of Wolford tights — saying casually: ‘I offered these to my daughter but she turned them down. Do you have a girlfriend you would like to give them to?’

Q. To celebrate our husbands’ 60th birthdays, my sister and I rented a comfortable mini-castle in Scotland for a long weekend and asked six other couples. As we were about to leave, the owner said we must ‘sign the book’. This was a visitors’ book where guests had written effusively about everything. I’m sorry to sound mean-minded, Mary, but we felt we were being overcharged and I couldn’t bring myself to use the words ‘thank you’. What would you have done?

— A.P., Wells, Somerset

 A. There was no need to ape the effusions of your predecessors. Instead you could have signed names only. If challenged to be more expressive, you could have explained that you had been strictly taught by your parents never to sign more than your name. (This is genuinely the case with uber-grandees.) The contrasting ‘silence’ of your combined entries in the book would have spoken louder than words.