I have just turned 40 and my eldest daughter is expecting her first baby in the new year. The thing is, I don't know what I would like my grandchild to call me. I can't stand the thought of being called granny, which makes me think of a little old greyhaired woman in a rocking chair, or even nan or nana. I am a very youngish 40-year-old and would welcome any suggestions you could offer.
Carolyn, via e-mail
It is all very well not wanting to be called granny, but perhaps your little grandchild might want to call you that! If he or she has lots of little friends with nanas or grannies or whatever, he or she may find it hard to relate to you if you insist on some kind of other nomenclature. I detect that you are in denial about your forthcoming grandmotherly status; I suggest that you work on your own attitude. Embrace your new status, to the extent that those around you will start to associate being a grandma not with grey hair, arthritis and knitting, but with vibrancy, youth and water-skiing (or any other suitably athletic hobby).
I wonder if you might get on with the French equivalent for granny, which is "mamie", pronounced "mamee". It is a lovely, friendly-sounding word, easy for kids to get their tongue round, but doesn't have any elderly connotations. Another little boy I know, who was never encouraged to call his grandmother granny or nana, came up with his own name, "mumum". If you simply avoid ever using the terms you don't like, your grandchild may well similarly find his own name for you, and a completely original name just between the two of you would be lovely.
SENSITIVE NEW DAD
I am a new-ish dad and have really taken to parenting. I subscribe to all the magazines and make sure that I am up to date on all the latest research and theories. Earlier this week, one of my colleagues was having trouble with getting his own little son (bless!) off to sleep at night, so I shared that very effective technique of not actually picking up the crying baby (you reassure the baby verbally every five minutes, but don't pick them up, and they gradually realise they haven't been abandoned but they do have to go to sleep. It worked brilliantly in only three nights). Anyway, I couldn't help noticing several female colleagues were listening in and afterwards they started teasing me about being a "new man". I don't understand this sardonic reaction: surely this is the kind of thing that women want?
What women are supposed to want and what they actually do want are two completely different things. However much lip service the ladies may pay to strict equality on all fronts, I'm afraid that men who are puericulture freaks make them go "Yuck". It is fine to be into all that as long as you don't go over the top; maintain just enough bewilderment when faced with the zinc-and-castor-oil cream to make your partner feel that you are "normal". Similarly, it is fine to do a 50 per cent share of the housework, just as long as you have to be cajoled or nagged into it.
Aren't you being rather hypersensitive? A little gentle teasing about being a new man is surely not such a hard thing to put up with. If it really bothers you that you are compromising your masculinity and looking all weedy and wussy, make sure that for every conversation you have about nappies you have one about rugby and beer; this way your macho reputation will remain uncompromised.
Last week I had a terrible and, I must admit, very drunken row with my boyfriend. This is bad enough in itself, but even worse, he has been sulking profoundly ever since and I simply have no recollection of which exact insult/revelation etc caused him to feel so insulted because I don't remember anything of what I said. I hesitate to bring up any of the things I suspect it might be, in case I guess wrong and simply add even more fuel to the situation. What can I do?
Tabitha, via e-mail
I would suspect that if your partner hasn't attempted to use specific examples from your tirade as fodder for an argument then there is nothing specific that you came out with that he didn't already know. But no wonder he's sulking. There are few sights more unedifying than a drunken woman, and to find that his girlfriend can metamorphose into a newt-pissed shrieking harridan would be enough to upset anyone. Ugh. Quite apart from it being a most unattractive habit, drinking to the point where you can't remember things is not at all good for you, and I wonder if you should extend the olive branch to your boyfriend by offering to consider professional help.
The occasional crashingly awful experience with drink doesn't mean you have to rush off to a shrink. If he hasn't left you and doesn't look as though he's going to, then whatever-it-was can't have been that bad. So leave him to gradually de-sulk and should he ever bring up The Drunken Conversation, deny everything on the grounds of inebriation. "What do you mean, I said I'd slept with your best friend? God, the things I come up with when I'm drunk! Tchah!" (Do not, however, subsequently get squiffy again and decide in your cups to inform him that everything you said was in fact the honest truth, because then nothing will save you.)