MODERN MANNERS: YOUR CUT-OUT-AND-KEEP GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE MINEFIELD

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Dear Serena,

My oldest friend is still my best friend, and I feel very blessed in that. The problem is this: when we were little, we promised that we would be each other's bridesmaids. Twenty-five years on, I will be marrying my fiance in October. My friend, Liz, has grown up, meanwhile, to be an extremely butch type of lesbian, favouring plaid lumberjack shirts, work trousers and boots as apparel, and having built up a prodigious set of muscles through her involvement in women's rugby. This is fine by me, and I'm happy for her that she is happy with her life. I would dearly love to honour the promise we made all those years ago. How do I go about dressing her?

Katie, Glastonbury

Can I just remind you how much the average bridesmaid's heart sinks at the thought of being photographed in the sort of wambly, puff-sleeved lilac monstrosities that the bride, suffering from the widely unacknowledged illness of pre-wedding psychosis, sees fit to force them into for the day? Make it a general rule not to force anyone over the age of nine to dress up like a child's doll. Go for co-ordinated rather than matching bridesmaids. Pick a colour or two (avoid yellow and turquoise at all costs) and a cloth, and commission everyone taking part to get their own outfits made up in the style of their choice by a dressmaker/tailor of their choice (within reason, as you are footing the bill, of course). Liz probably knows better than anyone what suits her, and deserves to be given her dignity. Remember: a wedding is an expression of the people who make up the relationship. If you are sufficiently devoid of prejudice that you have a healthy mixture of friends, then the people taking part should reflect that. Don't ruin your day for the sake of getting a set of photos that will look exactly like everyone else's.

When do you think I should start queuing for the new Star Wars movie?

Bill, Notts

About three months after it opens? That way, you won't have to queue at all, and will avoid looking like a prat.

My son has recently graduated as an entomologist. How do I go about getting a biological species named after him, which I'm sure would help him in his career?

Rupert, New York

Actually, it wouldn't. My entomology contacts tell me that there is an unwritten rule among their number that no one names species after themselves, so any young buck who popped up asking for a job and mentioned that he had a species all of his own would be regarded as a bit of a cad. However, if you would still like your family to humbly accept the honour of a species name, your best bet is to become an old-fashioned patron. Scientists are as pragmatic as artists on the patronage front when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, and there can only be so many species called Thessalonomax World Health Organisationii. Your best chance for success is to track down someone investigating something really obscure that no one else is interested in and throw money at them. You might end up with a family indelibly associated with a type of gall-wasp, but at least you'll go down in history.

What's the difference between a shitsu and a shiatsu?

Geri, London

You need a trowel to clear up after a shitsu. And a shiatsu takes longer, unless you're a man, in which case you'll need a copy of The Sun to take in with you.

I thought I might supplement my income by putting myself in to compete on a few game shows. How do I maximise my chances of being accepted?

Doreen, Somerset

Try belonging very obviously to some sort of minority. If you can't manage this on the race tip, try being under 18, over 70, under five feet tall or over six feet five, or having an incomprehensible (as in not London) accent. Game show production companies, though, are not keen on wheelchairs because they are depressing and difficult to fit under podia. Get or invent a really unusual, unpopular or disgusting job: sewage disposal, chicken sexing or being a traffic warden almost automatically guarantee acceptance. Failing everything else, enter couple shows with a partner who is obviously mis-matched. Particularly successful are couples where she is at least four inches taller than him, there is a 40-year age difference, one partner weighs over 18 stone or the female has enormous breasts. Hilarity is your key to riches.

My pop career has been flagging, and I'm desperate to get some attention.

Gary, Cheshire

Don't, whatever you do, confess to the tabloids that you once took cocaine a number of years ago; people will think you're desperate. Whoops, too late.

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

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