2 JANUARY 1993, Page 39


Dear Mary. . .

Q. My partner and I have suffered the social inadequacies of a mutual friend for too long and we feel we must seek your advice to counter this problem. The person in question seldom washes his hair and, When he actually does, seems to insist on using an inferior shampoo and, to boot, no conditioner. (Hence the rather unattractive Split ends.) How do we convey to this per- son that it's high time he washed his hair, and what's more, cut it?

S. and M. J., Manchester - Enlist, as an accomplice, a friendly, Junior, local hairdresser. Junior hair- dressers are notoriously badly paid, so he or she will no doubt be happy to co-operate With you for a small fee. Give the hairdress- er your friend's address and arrange for him to receive a letter along the following lines: 'Dear Sir, I'm sorry I do not know your name but I have often seen you walk- ing past our salon and once or twice have noticed you go into this house. I have taken the liberty of writing to you and wonder if You would think it very cheeky of me to request that I might be allowed to wash and cur your hair at no charge to yourself. I

want to specialise in 'transformation hair- dressing' and the local paper has agreed to do an article about me if I can find a suit- able client whose appearance would be dra- matically improved by a washing and cut- ting treatment. I feel that you are a perfect subject for me to practise on as you have such potential to be transformed by hair- dressing and would be grateful if you would consider this request from a junior hair- dresser and be in touch with me to arrange a time suitable for yourself. Yours sincerely . . . etc.' This should do the trick.

Q. I write as a great admirer of your social acumen and wit. Imagine, therefore, my astonishment at your advice to F.B. of Lon-

don (21 November) as to how to refer to her lover: you cannot be serious in suggest- ing that she should use the word 'fiancé', however ironically. This, as my mother-in- law, Mrs J.H. of Newmarket, told me very firmly, is extremely common. Only 'future husband' will do. Perhaps F.B. could refer to her consort as 'my just-good-friend', thus avoiding the need for a knowing wink, which can present difficulties for contact lens wearers.

M.M., London A. Thank you for your comments. You are obviously unaware of the stirrings of a type of revolution in the upper reaches of soci- ety whereby words such as 'meal', 'toilet', 'pardon' and 'fiancé' are being deliberately employed by its members in a snook-cock- ing gesture against etiquette books and their aspirational readers. I therefore still feel that the expression 'unofficial fiancé' is a good all-purpose one to indicate that you are not 'just good friends' with someone, but there has also been some kissing going on.

Mary Killen