The week began relatively riotously. The fiancé and I take it in turns to plan and execute a monthly date for the other and for October I decided to take him to a burlesque evening at The Everyman in Cheltenham. It was as much an opportunity for him to see me in something other than plaster dust as it was about an entertainment I thought he’d enjoy.

It was good fun. It got a touch cruise ship at times but overall the mix of comedy, music, magic and girls taking their clothes off was well balanced and enjoyable. And of course you can’t beat seeing a nipple tassel being swung in the flesh; it is a quite remarkable talent.

As we drove home I reflected contentedly on my life. Slap up meals and nights out at the theatre before being chauffeured by a man I find as attractive as the day we met to a home that will soon look spectacular and play host to our wedding makes for a pretty happy Kathryn. It was easy to forget that this Sunday I am attending an event I can barely fathom.

I’m a pretty hard-line atheist as I’m sure you’re aware. I don’t believe one ought to respect faith; I see faith as a form of weakness, an inability to take responsibility for the fact that your life is largely your own to determine. I passionately support the right for people to hold religious faith and don’t believe they should be persecuted for it but I refuse to see them as having something that is somehow more special than my wonder and love for the amazing universe as science explains it.

Nevertheless there is one hugely important area of my life where I fight my impulses and keep my lips sealed. I am a stepmother and it is not my place to put my views upon my stepsons. I would say it’s probably not ones place to put your views on your biological children and to let them find their own way but I’m sure I’ll fail at that. Anyway, things are straightforward most of the time. The fiancé is as much an atheist as I am (though far less militant) and the kids are still young.

The six year old asks the occasional question of me (always when his father isn’t around to pass him off onto). The most recent was the musing “I don’t think God will make any more floods. What do you think?” Living in Gloucestershire as we do, flooding is almost certain to feature in our future so a simple no was out of the question. Equally, while not wanting to deny the existence of “God” I wasn’t about to deny facts about the world. I explained that there would almost certainly be more floods but that there probably wouldn’t be any floods caused by God. This was apparently acceptable and we returned to our more standard line of conversation, something unintelligible (to me) about battle drones.

As you’ve probably guessed, the boys do have a religious influence. Their mother takes them to what is thankfully a Christianity-lite church. Chauvinism and fantasy seem relatively in check and from what I’ve gathered their experience there is largely one of a high quality playgroup. Not that it’s any of my business and not really much of the fiancé’s.

Except that that is where we are heading on Sunday.

My younger stepson will be having surgery in the near future. We’re assured it’s as close to no-risk as you can get but obviously we are all worried. I can therefore understand their mother’s relatively sudden desire to have them both christened. The hardest thing about this waiting is the sheer inability to be able to do anything. If I could bake a thousand cookies for a fundraiser for the hospital to buy better... anything, I would. That there is nothing I can do is horrible. I can completely see how a christening is something.

The fiancé’s ex wife is lovely (whenever I dip my does into the shark-infested pool that is mumsnet I’m reminded of the general nastiness of ex-wives and their fairly uniform hatred of us new partners) and not only asked the fiancé’s consent but invited us both to not only the service but to the do afterwards. Is there a proper name for the after bit? Weddings have receptions, funerals have wakes, surely there’s a name.

So I’m dressing up but not by my usual standards so a modest heel and a dress that shows no cleavage and comes below the knee (in case you’re wondering how I came to own such an item, the skirt can be hitched up to be really rather short). I can do that and I can smile through the service and be polite and all that.

But you’re meant to take presents to christenings aren’t you? The fiancé knew immediately what he wanted the boys to have. We’ve been discussing introducing pocket money so there will be a nice money box each which will live at our house. Most christening gifts are kind of for the mother though aren’t they? And the ex-wife will be the hostess of the event.

I’ve settled on a poem about sticky fingers, framed alongside pictures of the boys with sticky fingers (icecream) and some hand and fingerprints they did this evening with us. The frame is fairly neutral and contemporary and they’re really nice pictures of the boys. Is that appropriate?

Seriously, how to you figure out what to give the mother of your stepsons on the day of their christening? At least this is of and by them and if she likes it enough to put it somewhere it has nothing of the fiancé or me about it really. How do I not be totally nosy about the fiancé’s former marital home? I’m curious as hell. How do I look polite but not overly interested?

I’ve no idea. I truly never saw this etiquette dilemma coming!





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