Mary Killen

Your problems solved | 24 January 2004

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary

Q. I believe I have fallen in love with another member of the VWH hunt. Whenever I go up to him on my horse, he has been friendly but since he hacks home I have only ever seen him mounted and with his riding hat on. I therefore have no idea what he looks like with it off, indeed whether he is totally bald. Neither do I know what he looks like in proper clothes, how tall he is or, most importantly, whether he might feel the same attraction towards me. I do know that he is unmarried, so what is my best course of action, Mary?

Huntress of West London

A. Take advantage of the fact that men are normally hopeless at planning their social life. Tell him you have a spare ticket for the Countryside Alliance Valentine’s Day party, which is being held at the Royal Academy School’s life-drawing rooms on 12 February. Would he like to come and see Stubbs’s model of Copenhagen, Wellington’s horse, and the cast of a flayed man? Alcohol will flow freely at this key bonding event in the countryside calendar, and although the tickets are £100 each it is rumoured that benefactors including Pickett, Thomas Pink, Emma Hope, Johnny Boden and Lulu Guinness have been so generous with their gifts for the take-home party bags that there is a good chance of recouping one’s outlay. (Tickets available on 01672 519470.) Time your arrival at the flayed corpse carefully so that you can swoon faintingly into his arms.

Q. Because I have been swaddling my ageing neck in cashmere by day I had something of a shock when planning what to wear for a forthcoming important event at which television cameras will be present and during which I will have to wear décolletage. I had no idea how badly things had deteriorated. There is no time for a surgical ‘procedure’. How can I face this emergency, Mary?

R.B., London SW3

A. I am grateful to my correspondent BT who has suggested an improvement to the existing crepe-neck solution. He recommends commandeering a reliable friend to apply vertical strips of colourless toupee tape (available from Screenface 0207 221 8289) to the back of the neck. These can be linked by a drawstring of beige-coloured elastic, which can be tightened to fit. The whole can then be concealed under jewellery or a velvet choker.

Q. I am a 46-year-old male. My partner has suggested visiting a local ‘Showgirls’ revue. She did not explain exactly why. Perhaps it is a test to see how I react. ‘Quizas, Quizas, Quizas’, as Doris Day once sang. If we attend, how should I respond to a nubile 18-year-old gyrating nether-naked only inches away? Should I drool lasciviously, suavely appear indifferent, smile with a worldly condescension passing for vague but polite appreciation of the nubile’s dancing merit, or suggest a quick retreat to a Novotel for a cognac and quiet philosophical conversation?

S.G., by email

A. It is a mistake to attend such performances at all, but to do so in the company of a romantic partner is an even graver error. The result will be that you thenceforth view all intimate congress with this partner through an indelible filter of concupiscence. You should not risk sullying a wholesome relationship by viewing vice in each other’s presence.