Mary Killen

Dear Mary | 25 January 2018

Also: I pretended to have a brilliant career and now I’ve got to give a career talk...

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Q. Several friends have reached an age and wealth that means they take unreasonably long holidays or even entire gap years. I enjoy being in regular touch with them when they are at home and am sad they will be away for so long. But should one stay in touch? And how, without the intrusive help of Skype and webcams? Some of my acquaintances post Instagram pictures (one or two too often). Is mutual Instagram following a satisfactory way ahead?

— B.F., Barnham, West Sussex

A. You should resist the urge to maintain your usual levels of dialogue. People go away for many reasons and sun-seeking is only one of them; they may also seek mental liberty. To achieve a quasi-meditative state and a perspective on their normal personas, they need to put emotional ties from home on hold. Tell them only that you look forward to their return. Freed from guilt, they will be in touch in a couple of weeks, after which you should aspire only to a ‘maintenance dose’ of communications. Absence, given the chance, really will make the heart grow fonder.

Q. My daughter, 15, is a middle child and a bit of an attention-seeker. Now she has texted (from her boarding school) to say she’s vegan. My wife’s brilliant cooking (for carnivores) is what attracts our friends/clients at weekends. Our daughter will be present over half-term and Easter. How can we cope with such a disapproving presence at the table?

— Name and address withheld

A. Let your wife cater for carnivores while simultaneously producing top-of-the-range vegan dishes, not just for your daughter but also for you. If her father were to become vegan himself for the duration, this would almost certainly dampen your daughter’s need to signal her own virtue. By the way, has it occurred to you that with friends and clients staying every weekend, it’s not surprising if she is attention-seeking?

Q. During a chance encounter with an old schoolteacher on the London Underground, I was asked about my current employment. I decided to take some liberties with the truth and puff up my career success. At the time I thought nothing of it, but I have now been asked to deliver a short career talk at the annual school reunion, where I will have absolutely nothing to say without further fabrication of the truth. Is there any way I can attend the event and avert this horror?

— Name and address withheld

A. Turn your gaffe to your advantage by giving a blow-by-blow account of your failure to rise on the career ladder. The reveal should be your final humiliation at having misled your old schoolteacher. Your tale will set the benchmark for more honest accounts from the frontline of the real world. You will be a great success.