Modern Manners: Dear Serena

YOUR CUT-OUT-AND-KEEP GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE MINEFIELD

Dear Serena,

At 38, I accepted that the chances of my finding a reliable man to father a child while I was still fertile were slim. Dearly wanting a child and being in a position to have one without needing any financial help, I had a child by donor. Jack is now six, and a healthy, happy child in every way. The only problem is this: he is beginning to show interest in where he came from and, particularly since he started at a church school where most of his classmates are in standard nuclear families, in why he doesn't have a father. What do I tell him?

Emily, Huntingdon

Oh, blimey, Emily, you mean you've only just started thinking about this now? You've had seven-odd years to work out a story, and you expect me to come up with a solution just like that? Please remember in future that if a truth is unpalatable, it's best to get it out in the open as quickly as possible. Secrets imply shame. And shame implies that you've done something wrong. You must let him know about the facts of life in all their permutations as quickly as possible, before someone else does and makes the turkey-baster option seem freakish. Also: do consider moving him to a secular school. He'll find it easier to cope with his conceptual circumstances if he's not surrounded by little Christian children and their smugly natural parents.

My au pair has been helping herself from the drinks cabinet while we're out. The quantities aren't huge, and she's certainly not drunk in charge of the children, but it's still theft. In all other ways, she's ideal. How do we tackle this?

Jane, Newbury

Presumably your au pair is 18? Buy cheaper brands, and make a point of saying: "By the way, you must be desperate for a drink some evenings. If there's a bottle of wine open and you really want a glass, do just say." The poor child's meant to be living as part of the family, after all, and she will probably get the message if you look knowing enough when you say it.

My boyfriend and I have decided to move in together and see how it goes before we commit further. We don't want to buy together until we are sure we can cope with sharing the same space long-term. The thing is, we can't agree on who should move into whose flat. His flat is larger but mine is better furnished (although, of course, he doesn't agree with that). What should we do?

Donna, Birmingham

You have two choices. You could rent a whole new flat and pay for it by renting out both of yours. This might seem like a load of hassle, but couples often find that the political problems produced by one moving into what has so far been the other's space are insurmountable, and it might be better in the long run.

The other option is this: move your furniture into his flat and his into yours, then rent yours out. That way, you maintain some level of equal power over your mutual space and, hopefully, by the time you decide to pool your resources properly, his furnishings, which were probably bought, like most men's, in a single afternoon in Ikea, will have been irrevocably destroyed by the lodgers and you will never have to give house room to them again.

I was thinking of marrying a footballer, but I'm worried because of the high divorce rate in the business. Also, I'm unsure about the effect on my career. What do you think?

Kirstie, Liverpool

Go ahead. At the very least, you'll have lots of fun choosing marble dinner tables and leather settees. And if it ends in divorce, you are guaranteed your own cable television chat show.

I was feeling a bit run down recently, and a friend suggested I try a session of reiki healing. Having handed over pounds 35 to a woman in a tie-dyed viscose dress and Bo Derek plaits, I spent 45 minutes lying on my back with my eyes closed while she cupped her hands and held them over various points on my body. After half an hour, I got so bored I fell asleep, waking 15 minutes later to find my healer beaming at me and telling me how well I'd responded. I am still knackered, and pounds 35 poorer. Can I ask for my money back?

Shaunagh, Hampstead

I have consulted my pet guru, who closed his eyes, pinched his fingers together and, after some time, said: "My Daughter. Remember the words of the sages. Tired person easy mark to part with money." Be philosophical. Accept this experience as a lesson in being more judicious in your choice of adviser. Also: cut down on booze, eat your greens and try going to bed early for a few weeks. You will be amazed at the regenerative effect it has upon your chakras. And that will be pounds 20 plus VAT, please.

Knotty problems with the world today? Write to The

Independent, 18th Floor, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, where they will be treated with the customary sympathy

News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate