Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 26 March 2005

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. I am 43. I am starting to develop terrible furrows on my forehead. I do not wish to go under the knife nor do I wish to have any more Botox because I do not like the ‘Botox delay’ effect. What do you recommend, Mary?

S.F., Sunningdale, Berkshire

A. Some readers may be unfamiliar with the expression ‘Botox delay’. This effect can be viewed when an injectee’s facial expression fails to run concurrently with views being expressed, but manifests itself, inappropriately, a few seconds later, when the subject has moved on. This is unnerving for interlocutors. Why not try the ‘Polyfilla’ version of make-up which comes highly recommended by Sarah Stacey, co-author with Josephine Fairley of The 21st Century Beauty Bible, published by Kyle Cathie, £14.99. The product is Prescriptives Magic Invisible Line Smoother, £27/15 ml. Having tested thousands of products while compiling the Beauty Bible, Sarah declares that this one has had excellent results where furrow-filling is required.

Q. I have been brought up to write thank-you letters, but I feel increasingly out on a limb as so very few of my contemporaries ever seem to bother. In the circumstances, do you think it is priggish of me to continue sending out these letters where they might serve to highlight the rudeness of my friends who have attended the same parties but have not written? I am 22.

M.B., Wootton, Oxfordshire

A. Everyone is delighted to receive a thank-you letter — even if they would not have written one themselves — because it indicates an appreciation of the effort that has gone into entertaining. Also, in today’s helter-skelter world, the tangible evidence that an event has taken place is of value to the general archive. There is a scale of pomposity, however. It would be excessive at your age to have your own cards from Smythson. Stick to National Gallery postcards (or similar), in envelopes, until you are 25. Leave your friends to suffer the consequences of their discourtesies. As a general social rule, to adapt the SAS motto, ‘Who cares wins’.

Q. My friend E’s son is about to have what she calls an ‘illegitimate’ baby — her son is not married to the mother of this child. Her problem is how to introduce this woman without using the word ‘partner’, which she finds an abomination no matter how fashionable it has become. I too find the word not only irritating but misleading. Deborah Ross in your journal is an arch-perpetrator of this trend. I am intrigued to know whether her ‘partner’ is a business partner, a tennis partner, the father (or mother) of her child or even a partner in crime. Please find us a more elegant and informative word.

R.Y., Cobbitty, NSW, Australia

A. Since you ask, the partner Miss Ross refers to is the father of her son and therefore a romantic partner. Yet ‘partner’, with its business connotations, is generally agreed to be an unsatisfactory term where open-ended romantic relationships are concerned. Perhaps your friend should jolt her son into recognising just how casual is the status of his relationship with the mother of his child by introducing her as his ‘impregnee’.