Dear Minxie,
I have a “friend” who tends to visit for long stretches at a time whilst never letting me know how long she is staying. Also, she dislikes most of the food I provide, but still eats us out of house and home. Please help. Lost for Words

Dear LFW,
No matter how boring this is going to be, you are going to have to research what your malingering/gobble-guts guest really hates. This, unfortunately, might mean following her on Facebook. It’s the best place to stalk people. Or you could ask her friends, but I doubt she has any apart from you. For example, you might find Ms Malingerer loves Michael Buble, but has a deep, abiding hate of Barbra Streisand’s vocal stylings and “that weird rap music”. Make sure your sound system is wired to reach EVERY nook and cranny of your house, garden and pool (underwater speakers). Then program your iPod to shuffle between all songs on the Yentl soundtrack, Barbra Does Broadway (all 200 versions) and the complete libraries of Lil Wayne and Fifty Cent. If she asks you to turn it off, say you lost the remote control. Since she is good on the tooth, it would be handy if you could find out what seasoning your mate really can’t stomach (nothing that she is allergic to, as you don’t want lawyers or A Current Affair on your doorstep). There’s got to be SOMETHING that pulls up this gobble-guts mid chew. This will be your power punch. If she’s seriously affronted by, for example, anchovies and aniseed, make sure that little nipper and pungent spice is an ingredient in everything in your fridge and pantry, including desserts. To ensure she’s out the door before she even thinks about asking for pancakes and maple syrup (infused with liquorice-fish ... te-he-he), slip a few pieces of the offensive foodstuffs in her pillowcase. You might have to burn the linen, mattress and carpet in that room to get rid of the smell, but think of all the money you’ll save on food and therapy.MJx


Dear Minxie, 
The German exchange student and I were watching The Simpsons and I suggested she repeat all the lines in German, as I wanted to hear what it sounded like. It was hilarious until Grandpa Simpson mentioned ‘The War’ and there was a mini silence. Awkward. How should I make this up to her and, also, what other shows shall I ask her to interpret? Fran

Dear Fran,
Awkward silences are nothing to be embarrassed about, even if you (or Grandpa Simpson in this case) have accidentally just delivered the verbal equivalent of a kick in the crotch. Creating a diversion is one of the best devices in my etiquette toolbox. If you ever find yourself in an awkward social holding pattern again, suddenly feign a bad turn by clutching your stomach and fainting dramatically (like you have tropical malaise maybe? It’s totally believable in this weather). The situation will turn instantly from weird to blind panic. Now, the only way to make up for this cultural faux pas is to allow Miss Germany to deeply insult your country - just the once, mind you - and you’ll have to take it on the chin. For an Australian, this kick in the guts might come in the form of a question as to who now owns Vegemite; a query about the nationality of our official head of state (ouch!) or a recap of our choice of prime ministers (ie beer-drinking record-holder; crazy pants man and poor swimmer; tracksuit-wearing cricket tragic and, our current offering, a second-rate swimsuit model and Prince Philip’s only fan). As an Aussie, it hurts just writing this, so that should make Miss Germany feel better. As to other TV shows to interpret, maybe stick to the Keno numbers on the screen at the pub, or anything by David Attenborough (just animals eating other animals and in-depth descriptions of the randy life of assorted critters and shrubbery). Maybe you could get her to translate I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! or Keeping Up With The Kardashians, as it may shed light on what the hell is actually going on in both these shows. God knows no-one in the English-speaking world has any idea. MJx


Dear Minxie,
I’m struggling to come to terms with my new boyfriend earning less than me. Should I really be paying on dates? Is it too much to ask for chivalry in the early stages of a relationship? Ruth

Dear Ruth,
Chivalry comes in many forms, and your bloke doesn’t need a bulging wallet to show his skill in this key arena. If he’s worth putting on lippy for, he’ll know how to impress you - with or without money. If he doesn’t, then you’d profit more from ditching this dullard. Consider Hollywood germ-freak Howard Hughes. He may have been a gazillionaire, but Howie wouldn’t leave the house - or touch his special lady friends for that matter – without a hospital mask, rubber gloves and a fistful of sanitary wipes. Imagine dinner with this rich funster. Sure, you’d get truffles, but they’d arrive in a vacuum-sealed bag certified by the Health Department. You need to assess whether your new boyfriend’s other qualities outweigh his meagre bank balance. For example, when he treats you to steak and chips at a hole-in-the-wall café, will he defend your honour when another patron throws peanut shells in the direction of your cleavage (instead of the floor) and then drunkenly invites you to join him in his bedsit for some special loving?  Will your new bloke hold your hair back when you are throwing up on the footpath after a romantic dinner of cheap wine and kebabs? If your answer is no, then you are dating a cheap, pathetic loser. If the answer is yes, then I reckon you have roped yourself a winner who has diamonds on the soles of his thongs. Happy conscious coupling.MJx


Dear Minxie, 
I am off to see Fifty Shades this week, but my workmates advise that I put a bag over my head so no one I know sees me there as the flick is, they say, a little risque. Please tell me what I should do - I only have a sports bag or my leather handbag.  Private Benjamin

Dear PB,
I have glanced at the book and, I must say, that a stampede of cute, shirtless cowboys with lassos couldn’t drag me to see the movie. I have no interest in seeing some office weirdo work his dubious mojo on a newbie. Any woman (especially a junior employee) who has had to work in a mixed office, would instantly identify this Grey rooster as a common garden variety Creepy Boss (but with a bit more cash, as Mr Grey, I believe, is an Entreprenurial Creep). No one wants to re-live the experience of Creepy Boss invading your personal space and dropping some lame innuendo while you are filing your work … or nails. It is unnecessary, vomit-inducing and a bit illegal. I wouldn’t worry about the film being too risqué, as I imagine the scenes in Fifty Shades would be on par with European breakfast television. But you might want to hide your identity all the same. So, I’d suggest buying a moustache and, just to be sure, a full Darth Vader helmet. You might look a bit kinky, but that means you will have the whole row of seats to yourself. If you choose to use Darth’s breathing apparatus, you’ll also clear two rows in front and behind you. You could take a lightsaber, but the usher might call the police.  Stay classy, and keep yourself nice.MJx


Dear Minxie,
I don’t like my teen son’s new girlfriend and they spend a lot of time giggling in his room while listening to music (all innocent I’m sure). How do I pour cold water on this relationship without looking like Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest? Maddie

Dear Maddie,
You have two things in your favour. First is that your son’s ‘dates’ are held in your house, the second is that he is a teenager, therefore incredibly easy to embarrass and paint as a total loser in the eyes of any potential vixen. Your plan to thwart young love will start a few hours before Miss Unsuitable's scheduled visit. When your son toddles off to pick up his girl on his pushbike, strategically place photos of your face peeking out behind his posters of death metal bands and skateboarders. If your likeness is placed properly, your creepy - but well-meaning - gaze will have a subversive effect on the mind of any young viewer (ie. Miss Unsuitable). It works like a spliced TV ad, but the impact will be way more disturbing considering you are messing with the teenage mind, which has a default setting permanently set one click away from “extreme embarrassment from which one will never recover”. After about an hour (tops) in Mummy Boy’s Secret Theatre, Missy will be politely excusing herself and slipping out the front door. If you have executed your plan properly, Miss Unsuitable will be running like a girl possessed by the time she reaches the letterbox. When your confused son tears off after her, you can swiftly destroy all evidence of your handiwork. When Loverboy Jnr returns, you can then look incredulous when he accuses you of any deeply inappropriate behaviour. A few weeks of teen fear and self-loathing may follow, but I'm sure it is nothing that can’t be soothed by a truck-load of junk food and a few computer games. Happy conscious uncoupling!



Dear Minxie,
My neighbours have gone loco and I am living a suburban nightmare. They have stopped talking to us and have de-friended us on Facebook. The silence is not unwelcome, however, I feel tension in our little alcove. I wonder if it is because I haven’t tended to my garden and kept the lawn trim? How do you deal with difficult people who choose to give you the cold shoulder instead of taking it like grown ups? Thanks in advance. Brown Lawn.

Dear Brown Lawn,
Darling, in short, you don’t take it. But you have to be smarter than them, which doesn’t seem to be much of a stretch. You’re digging that you don’t have to interact verbally with them, but do not enjoy that “atmosphere”. It’s like something has died under the house and you can’t get at it, and so the smell just festers. So, essentially, we are looking at altering the energy in your little alcove. Everyone needs to just peace out and get with the “all is beautiful” vibe. Three words: Extreme Feng Shui ™. Because your neighbours seem to be visually affronted by anything that appears in your yard, the solution will have to be discrete. I imagine you would have a massive fence between your properties. Perfect. Buy about 20 industrial size outdoor bug zappers (the ones packed with 40w blue tubes popular in fish and chip shops).  Attach them to your fence and let them rip. Go on a week’s holiday as you don’t want to be driven nuts by your evil genius. The devices will hum away nicely until a little critter hits one of them and bzzzts (technical term) every 10 seconds. It will quickly drive Mr and Mrs Boring bezerk, then into a rage, frustration and on to eventual acceptance. Ahhhhh, that’s right, acceptance. All is well. All is calm. All is bug-free. When you get home, the neighbours will be as peaceful as sloths smoking weed. Hell, they might also invite you over for mai-tais in their beige hot-tub. But maybe you shoudn't open that new can of worms? Peace and love to you.MJx



Dear Minxie,
What do you think will be the big trends in homewares in 2015? I’m hoping to redecorate my pad from top to bottom and want to look 'on trend'. Vic

Dear Vic,
So many trends, so little time … well just a year really ... to get it right. I’ll give you a home flair 2015 exclusive. The buzz theme is Arts and Crafts.  Remember the classic movement of the late 1800s that introduced the world to William Morris, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Pre-Raphaelites? Well it’s going to be just like that, but with synthetic wool, velvet accents, beads and a touch of wood grain. The explosion of decorative home arts for 2015 will include these essential pieces: macramé (wall hangings and indoor pot-plant holders. Think ferns, think philodendron, think mission brown); dramatic geometric string art (nothing makes coloured string pop like silver nails); wood grain credenzas (perfect to hold the flat-screen TV and radiogram); room dividers made from wood or glass beads threaded on steel wire; sunken loungerooms with scatter cushions and a central indoor fire/fondue/mulled wine pit; and velvet everywhere (ie seats, wallpaper, toilet seat covers, bed headboards). So there you have it. It might seem anti-green, but most of the materials and pieces can be ‘acquired’ from your nanna. If you aren’t on such terms with your senior relatives, skip down to the RSL and befriend some of the folk there and casually ask if they want to offload (or recycle) any of their choice pieces in exchange for a shandy. While you are in the club, check out the carpet (another style pointer). You heard it here first. Add flair ... if you dare.MJx


Dear Minxie,
My combined family includes seven dogs and a skittish aunty who is scared of them. We see this aunty only once a year (at Christmas lunch) and she insists the dogs be locked outside. Our pooch family are five little ones and two bigger ones. I am not locking them out this year as they are part of our family. How do I ease the distress of our relative? I give her the option each year of not coming, but she gallantly says she will try to tolerate them ... but she never does. What to do? Sam

Dear Sam,
Of course it is unfair to leave your pets out of Festivus. If Aunty Jitters is determined to battle on, then it is up to her to drink like a maniac until the dogs appear to be cute teddy bears or Ewoks. If she doesn't drink, you will have to create the illusion for her with the help of felt, a glue gun and a vivid imagination. Seven is a great number as you can trot the gang out as reindeers. Announce them as 'special guests all the way from the arctic tundra'. Imagine her delight when seven unfettered, antler-festooned beasts charge through the house looking for carrots and bits of lichen. If you want to do a full musical number, what about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? My choice, though, would be the von Trapp kiddies. You'll have to whip up some dresses and shorts from your flocked drapes, but it will be worth it. This will also give you the opportunity to play The Lonely Goatherd, Do Re Mi and So Long, Farewell on a loop and at full blast. Another option is a moveable nativity scene with assorted headdresses, robes, gifts and a mobile baby Jesus. There would have had to be a dog at the big birth, so that will save you a costume. If you feel up to it, a few scenes from Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure or Cujo might offer inspiration. So, with some beautifully timed costume changes, you could stage your own royal command performance - A Muttley Matinee. If  this doesn't ease her fear - or make her trip badly into Christmas Future, Past and Fully Present all at once - then next year she should really STAY HOME. She can join lunch via Skype. Woof woof.MJx