Modern manners: Your cut out and keep guidde to surviving the field

Dear Serena,

A colleague recently went on a three-week holiday. When she came back, she looked completely different - as though the wind had changed while she was hearing some juicy gossip - and has remained that way. She claimed that the holiday was spent at a spa, but we are all convinced that she has had plastic surgery. Does it fall within the code of good manners to ask someone if they've had a face job, or do we have to keep quiet?

Jonathan, Brixton

People who spend money on plastic surgery are convinced that no one can tell they've had it done, much as toupee-wearers believe that no one can tell. It is, therefore, very spiteful to shatter their illusions. Unless you really dislike your colleague, it's kinder to keep quiet. If, however, you only dislike her a bit, you can have some fun by expressing concern for her well-being at regular intervals. "You're looking terribly tired. Are you all right?" is a classic phrase guaranteed to raise a laugh.

I have been found guilty of white-collar fraud and expect to be sent away for roughly three months when I go for my sentencing hearing at the beginning of March. My problem is that I've not been able to bring myself to tell my ageing parents. How can I keep the news from them while I serve my sentence?

Charlie, Northants

Look, Charlie: at some point you are going to have to face up to the reality of your situation. If you pretend that your crime and its uncovering have never existed and that you are merely on a sabbatical in inferior accommodation, the likelihood is that you will fail to extract any lessons from the situation and will think that you can get away with further infractions of the law. Which, as you are obviously not a very competent criminal, will likely result in further jail sentences of greater severity. And then what will your elderly parents think? Instead of spending the time trying to work out how not to get caught for a crime you've already been caught for, you should perhaps spend it trying to work out a means of breaking the news to your parents with as little hysteria as possible. Remember: a life lived in fantasy is a life unlived.

I am getting married soon, and am worried that there is some obligation to have a stag night as part of the celebrations. I really don't want one, but feel under some pressure from my acquaintances to agree to having one. Do I have to?

Bob, Catterick

No. If they step the pressure up too hard, agree to have one on condition that your fiancee and all wives and girlfriends are included in the party. They will stop pestering you immediately.

My stepsister is an awkward cuss, and can usually be found standing on the sidelines making sarcastic remarks. At our parents' wedding, for instance, when I tried to break the ice in the registry office by kissing the members of my new family, she reacted by starting backwards and saying "Ooh, very sophisticated" in a tone that implied that I was being pretentious. I have reached my wits' end with her, having my invitations and attempts to be nice to her constantly snubbed - but we are linked now, whether we like it or not. How should I behave towards her in future?

Lorna, Newbury

Stepchildren often make the mistake of thinking that they should have relationships with the parents' spouses' offspring. This is not the case. Just because one of your parents married one of theirs doesn't mean that you have to give the silly bitch the time of day if she insists on making things unpleasant, though you should try to keep your feelings to yourself around the parents in question. Presumably, as you are adults, you don't have to see her more than once or twice a year at most. From now on, kiss anyone who is nice to you and shake your stepsister loosely by the hand while standing as close to arm's length as you can get. Rude people should be made allowances for when it's obviously a one-off occurrence; if it's habitual, they should be ignored until they can grow up and be civilised.

I've been publicising my pop career with liberal press releases about my drink and drugs hell over the last few years, but it's getting to be a bit of a strain to keep up. How do I alter my image so I can live a cleaner, more professional life?

R., Notting Hill

If you want to live cleanly, retire. Otherwise, you're going to have to jolly well accept the demands as well as the perks of the rock'n'roll lifestyle. Nobody wants a pop star who tells anecdotes about their health and fitness regime. If you have doubts about this, just keep a picture of Cliff Richard pasted up by your bathroom mirror as a horrible example of what can happen to an entertainer who goes to the bad.

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
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home