Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 29 January 2005

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. I am a 22-year-old man and I recently left university. While I had thought that I would at least be engaged to be married by now, the truth is that I find it almost impossible to date girls. It seems to me that girls of my age adopt a herd-like strategy when they go out, making it terrifying or threatening for boys to approach them individually. When you do so, if you talk to one girl, the others in the herd all stare expectantly or titter. On top of this, every time I pass a news-stand, I see girls’ magazines shouting out ‘demand four orgasms a night from your man’ and similar. The girls all seem so confident, yet most of my male friends feel as reticent as I do. What should we do, Mary?

M.G.B., Boars Hill, Oxford

A. The truth is that, despite appearances, the girls in question are also very far from confident and move in phalanxes for bodyguard-provision purposes. The main problem is that they, too, have no experience of even the first physical manoeuvres of romantic love, having been media-led into believing that full barnyard mating is the norm on first encounters. Therefore they dread taking the first step. To break this impasse, a social service you and your friends could usefully perform would be to throw a party, billed as ‘ironic’ to cover charges of nerdiness, at which, instead of vertical binge-drinking, old-fashioned kissing games are played.

Start with a version of Postman’s Knock wherein the ‘postman’ hands round a sack of ‘letters’ to the girls and the girl who picks out the ‘gas bill’, for example, has to go behind a screen and kiss him. Then a postwoman does the same. The person who notches up the most kisses after ten rounds is the winner. You can google for other games such as The Kiss. The youths are given cards with numbers, the girls cards with letters. All players stand in a circle concealing their cards. A leader is chosen and stands in the centre of the circle calling out at random a number and a letter. The girl whose letter was named must kiss the leader. But the youth whose number was named must try to seethe forward and kiss the girl first before she gets to the leader. If he manages to do so, he becomes the leader himself. The player who stays as leader longest is the winner.

You will find that the party-goers will be falling over themselves with excitement at the chance of having their very first kiss. Once this experience is under their belts, everyone will feel much more confident about moving on to stage two on subsequent occasions.

Q. I have written a memoir which will be published in September. I do not expect a huge audience, but there will certainly be a degree of interest shown in Scotland and by the sort of people who buy books in John Sandoe and Heywood Hill. My worry is that quite a few potential purchasers may just browse the index for their own name, read the references, then put it down again without bothering to buy it. I could dispense with an index but I myself resent a memoir without one, so how do I get round this, Mary?

Name and address withheld

A. Point out this pitfall to your publishers. No doubt they will be happy to supply the memoir shrinkwrapped in the manner of luxurious photographic tomes and ask booksellers to keep the seals intact.