DEAR SERENA: YOUR CUT-OUT-AND-KEEP GUIDE TO PERFECT MODERN MANNERS

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The Independent Culture
Dear Serena,

As a student, I flirted with Conservatism. I wore suits, ties and brogues, and held forth at every available opportunity about monetarism, immigration, the dangers of the Union movement and the failing morals of the common man. Eighteen years on, I am on the brink of what might be a breakthrough in my career, and I am terrified the truth might come out. What should I do? Should I carry on in the hope that no one will "grass me up", or should I come out and admit my past to the world?

Mike, Westminster

Don't worry, Mike. The world has become a much more sophisticated place since your student days, and surprisingly large tracts of the population are surprisingly accepting of these alternative lifestyles. I should admit everything, if I were you: that way, you will not, at least, be accused of dishonesty. And you never know: it might even work in your favour.

Now that Michael Portillo has confessed to his gay past, I feel there is little point in carrying on being gay myself. I always thought that being gay meant that you exerted some civilising influence over the world about you, and now I know that it isn't true. Do you know of any good "inning" classes in my area?

Bob, Brighton

Take heart, Bob: the point about Portillo, as we all know now, is that he's not gay any more.

Throughout the Eighties and the current decade, I stayed in the closet, even entering into a high-profile marriage, because I thought it was the only way that I could maintain my career. Now, though, a close colleague has admitted all in the press, and to my astonishment, not only does it not seem to have done him any harm, but actually seems to be an advantage in the eyes of those who select us for promotion. I am devastated. All those years, wasted, and for nothing.

Anon, London SW1

Never mind, anon. You could always confess to those Benolyn-and-whisky nights in the Union bar, eh? That should stir it up.

Just why are people in this country so interested in other people being gay, anyway? I mean, what difference does it make which end of the ballroom they dance as long as they do their job properly?

Kenneth, Hampstead

Yes, but they it serves a very useful purpose, Kenneth. If they didn't have strangers in public life to gossip about, then they might have to talk about themselves, and that would never do.

On the subject of insomnia cures, I find this simple self-hypnosis technique extremely useful. Lie back, in the position you like to sleep in, in a warm, darkened room and close your eyes. Then imagine yourself in a room full of people droning on about how they're not gay, not that they personally feel that there's anything wrong with being gay, but as there seems to be so much interest in whether they're gay or not they feel that they ought to clarify the situation for the sake of their wife and children and also to avoid any embarrassment for their colleagues etc. After five minutes of this, I always find I've dropped off into a blissful sleep.

Roy, Upton-under-Lyme

Thank you. I tried this last night, and it worked a treat.

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

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