Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary: I always end up subsidising my greedy friend’s lunch

Plus: young women who streak their hair grey; and new neighbours who try to poach your home help

Q. I have lunch once a month with an old university friend. Over the years we have both thickened out but I now make a serious effort to curb my appetite. I will usually order one glass of white wine and a starter-sized mozzarella salad, but my friend invariably has the main course, the cheeseboard and three glasses of wine followed by a digestif. We’ve always split the bill but now that my ‘share’ is, for example, £20 to his £120, I have started to feel a tiny bit bitter about paying £70 — especially since I don’t think he has noticed the anomaly. After all this time, how can I suggest we divide the bill differently, without giving the impression that I have been harbouring a resentment? I love my friend and I know he’s not exploitative, it’s just that he doesn’t think about these things and hardly notices what I eat.
— Name and address withheld

A. Bring a slim friend to one of the lunches. Rehearse her to say, as you sit down, ‘Is it all right if we each pay just for what we eat, rather than splitting the bill three ways? I deliberately haven’t got much cash on me. It’s my way of making sure I don’t overdo it because I’m naturally very greedy.’ This will allow you to cry: ‘What a brilliant idea! I’m going to start carrying a tiny amount of cash every time I go out to lunch so I can curb my greed too.’ Then turn to the bachelor — ‘And you must promise you won’t lend me the money if I go over my limit.’

Q. I am troubled by the sudden appearance, in fashionable areas of London, of young women with long shanks of hair dyed grey.

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