Dear Serena: Modern manners - Your cut out and keep guide to surviving the minefield

Dear Serena,

When, at a show or match or whatever, the person in front stands up in the middle of the action, should I ask him to sit down, thereby embarrassing my companion, or stand up myself and risk the person behind asking me to sit down, ditto, or do nothing and just not see what is going on?

Tom, Highgate

Mmm. Okay. You've got me there. Standing up and jiggling is, I think, part of what people pay for when they go to public spectacles, isn't it? In the early years of Thatcherism, theatre authorities went through a phase of trying to stop people from leaving their seats at gigs, and they practically destroyed live music as a result. I'd have thought this was largely irrelevant to sports matches, where the preponderance of giant plastic bananas will effectively block your view anyway, and the greater impediment to asking people to sit down is not the embarrassment of your companion but the fear of not being able to walk away afterwards. If people stand up in the theatre they're probably mad, and best left to the Nazis patrolling the perimeter.

Two options. One: join the old people in the circle and balcony. No one ever seems to stand up there, as they're too busy rustling chocolates, following the lyrics word for word on the album covers they've specially brought in plastic bags in their vast quantities of luggage, or waving plastic light-up flowers. These seats in theatres and stadia are usually cheaper anyway, so you can save up for chocolates/album covers/plastic flowers of your own.

Alternatively, accept your fate and get some exercise. It's terribly depressing for a musician to look up and see a sea of immobile bodies, and there's no point in going to a live match/gig and behaving as if you're on an aeroplane. You'll get much more of an endorphin rush if you leap up and jig about a bit. Before you know it, you'll be going to night- clubs, staying out all night, getting twinkles in your eyes at the sight of hotel bathrooms, and buying racier shirts. This will do wonders for your career and ultimately enhance world peace.

How do you tell a woman that you don't like something she's wearing without inadvertently starting off another round of the Cold War?

Mike, Bath

Tell her it's a bit ageing. You'll never see it again.

It's all very well advising young women not to take their husbands' names, but what about the children? What should they be called, and how do you explain the fact that they don't have the same name as Mummy and Daddy? This will be a terrible stigma for them to carry at school and will probably stunt them for life. And all because of some selfish notion about their mother retaining her identity.

Patty, Perth

Patty - have you seen the divorce statistics lately? Have you ever wondered what happens to all the offspring of single mothers who subsequently marry? Children these days are not the milksops the older generation convince themselves they ought to be, and a good half of their schoolmates, unless they are in a dedicated religious school, will probably have different names from their parents. And anyway, they have quite enough to worry about, what with global warming, the price of heroin and being mugged for their trainers, without lying awake at night fretting about whether they have inherited a patronym or not. Most of them don't know each other's surnames until they're seven or so, and certainly, if my own experience is anything to go by, don't give a damn about other people's parents' political shenanigans.

You advised me a few weeks ago, when I wrote with a simple enquiry about my girlfriend's eating habits, to get therapy. I thought at the time that you were being most unsympathetic, but reluctantly, having found no other solutions, signed up with a counsellor. I must say it's been marvellous. My problem now is this: do I admit to being in counselling? I often feel an overwhelming urge to tell people about what I've been talking about with my counsellor. Should I?

Geoffrey, Fulham

Good for you. But, though you should be completely honest about the fact that you are going through it/have gone through it (the more people who admit to it, the less of a taboo it will become), and should, of course, rely on your close friends to listen to you, I would advise against discussing the details of your therapy in public. Everyone who does any self-exploration goes through a phase of wanting to blurt out the secrets they've been hugging to themselves all these years, but it is only a phase. You will be glad, later on, that you didn't tell a group of strangers at a dinner party about the trauma of your first sexual encounters at boarding school.

Knotty problems with the world today? Write to The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, where you will be treated with the customary sympathy

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower