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

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine