Dilemma: Should Dr Jekyll be invited to the party?

When Miranda asked whether it was possible to drop a good friend from her party guest list because she couldn't bear to invite her drunken husband too, she added those sad little words 'without hurting her feelings'.

After sifting through readers' replies, it seems the answer is probably 'no'. I mean, would you like to be told by a good friend that as space was so limited, you had determined whom to invite by picking names out of a hat?

That idea came from Ann Goude, of Bowdon, Cheshire, who softened the blow by suggesting that Miranda could then invite this couple to a smaller supper party - 'more controllable, as in this setting the husband would not have a free hand with the drinks. As hostess, she could make sure the amount of alcohol was limited.'

We-ell . . . she would have to be incredibly wily. Real drunks bring their own, gallons of it, having been caught this way too often before. Or they have a hidden hip- flask to top up from.

The answer to Miranda's question should be to ask her friend, cross her fingers and hope that he won't make a scene. But from her letter I assumed that the man had a serious drinking problem.

That's why I didn't feel that Mrs M E Currall, of Brighton, was being realistic: 'Mention to her friend that she is planning a little party but that she doesn't think it would be their sort of thing as she's not thinking of providing a lot of drink. I think the friend would take the point.'

Me too. And I think she'd either say: 'What are you really trying to say, then?' Or she'd say: 'Oh, fine. We'll bring our own booze because you know that my husband's only happy if he can get really stuck in.'

Mrs J Lansley, of Broughton, Hampshire, had the bright idea of having two parties: 'Invite the friend with the husband who gets drunk with guests who would not mind his behaviour too much.' Like Mrs F S Cockburn, of Wimborne, Dorset, I think she believes that 'among 30 merry guests, one drunk won't spoil a party'. But an unpleasant drunk can.

Some picked up on the fact that there is more to this problem than just party manners. Alison Turnbull, of Herne Hill, London, wisely wrote: 'Some of your readers will doubtless say that Miranda should confront her friend about her husband's drinking behaviour, but this, like tackling a friend's personal freshness, is easier said than done.'

And Mrs F S Cockburn believed in confronting it - but in a rather curious way. 'The fact that her husband gets completely drunk must be a source of pain to her friend. Therefore the invitation will affirm Miranda's support for her.' Support, yes, but surely not of a kind that involves pouring drink down the man's throat.

No, the least hurtful approach - because there's no completely painless way - is to tackle it. Personally, I feel a hostess should make no conditions on what friends do at her parties - demanding people don't smoke in your house is the height of bad manners in my opinion. But I don't think a hostess need put up with a guest who changes personality during the evening. In other words, if you invite Dr Jekyll, you should not have to put up with the gatecrasher, Mr Hyde.

Like Marion Blundell, of Sutton Coldfield, I believe Miranda must approach the friend directly. She should say: 'I'd love to ask you both, but the fear of your husband getting drunk upsets me so much I'd prefer not to invite him.'

If the friend swears she will ensure he remains sober, or, if not, remove him early, then fine. But manipulative behaviour, excuses, different parties, invitations lost in the post - all these are devious tactics. And since drunks - and often their partners, too - usually have double firsts in devious behaviour, you'll never outwit them.

By being honest Miranda can enjoy the smug, warm glow of knowing she has handled a difficult problem bravely. And she can enjoy her party, too.

Dear Virginia,

About a year ago, when I was on holiday, a colleague who I thought of as a friend took over my job at a theatrical agency. She manipulated her way into it. I felt completely betrayed, particularly as she is well- off, had a job of her own, and had no need of it; it was simply ambition that drove her to it. She knew, too, that I was a single parent with two small children. As a result I was unemployed for six months.

However, thanks to the help of a real friend, I now have another job in the theatre - one that suits me much better. It pays me more and leaves me time to pick up my children from school.

I have recently had a letter from this old 'friend' congratulating me on my new job and suggesting she takes me out to lunch. Some friends say I should bury the hatchet, that I should be 'big' enough to forgive her and that anyway she could be useful to me in my work. Others say I would be demeaning myself by even answering her letter.

I want to do the right thing, but every time I make a decision one way or the other it seems wrong. Do your readers have any advice?

Yours sincerely, Harriet

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