Mary Killen

Your problems solved | 25 February 2016

Plus: a rude response to a kind invitation; and an unconventional birth announcement

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Q. Former colleagues, with whom I got on very well in the context of the office, are buying a house near my own and say they are depending on me and my husband to introduce them to ‘all’ our friends in this area. This has been giving me nightmares. Like us, our friends down here are busy with jobs and children and would not thank us for foisting on to them new neighbours who would not be on the same wavelength. It’s a sense of humour thing. We are so tired we just want to relax when socialising. But I don’t want to be unneighbourly. How can I tactfully dispel the newcomers’ presumption that we will provide some kind of springboard into a ready-made social scene?

— Name and address withheld

A. You don’t have to introduce them to your real friends. Usher them instead into a parallel local world where they will find compatible souls. Buy tickets for charity, musical or sporting events. They will have no way of knowing that the non-wavelength people you enthusiastically introduce (fellow parents at your children’s school, for example) are not your preferred friends. They will soon make firm bonds outside your set.

Q. Most people my age living in London don’t have big enough flats to give dinner parties for ten, but occasionally a kind family friend lets me have one in her house. I have been under the impression that the dinners were successful. Everyone seemed to be enjoying sitting around a table in a Georgian panelled dining room with lots of food and wine, and dancing afterwards. So I was thrown by the text I received from the couple at the top of my wish list, who have been twice before. When I texted to invite them to my next dinner they replied, ‘Yes we’d love to come provided you mix up the guest list this time. We need fresh candidates, fresh meat.’ How I should respond to this?

— Name and address withheld

A. You shouldn’t respond at all. Silence will be more eloquent than any reprimand. After a couple of days you will receive a back-pedalling call or text announcing that the couple are looking forward to the party and that they were only joking about the provisos.

Q. I have received a joint photo-card from three people, two of whom I know, announcing the birth of a baby boy. The two I know are a gay couple who live abroad. I assume that the woman pictured has either provided the ‘host womb’ or is the biological mother. It’s not clear which of the two men is the biological father — allegedly by design they don’t know themselves. So who should I congratulate when I write back?

— Name and address withheld

A. The trio clearly take the view that presenteeism trumps biology and they are ‘all in it together’. So just write and congratulate all three on this fait accompli. A baby is always a blessing — no matter what the nature of its conception.