auntie ag & uncle ony

After years of behaving well, working very hard and being hyper-organised, my life is suddenly spiralling out of control. There is a huge pile of red bills, parking fines, final demands from bailiffs, and items of black lace underwear all over the floor. I am also sleeping with two people, one of whom I definitely ought not to be. Today, for the first time ever, I called in sick and lay in the park reading and eating chocolates. Help.

Rachel, Nottingham

Uncle Ony: The essential question, Rachel, is why? Why are you "manifesting" chaos if not because of your sense of chaos within? You must stop the external manifestation so that you can address what is really going on. Take formal time off work. Call a halt with the lovers. Clear and pay off your in-tray. Then with the help of counselling take a long hard look at what is left and begin the painstaking task of analysis and reconstruction.

Auntie Ag: Oh for God's sake, Ony. The whole point of spiralling into chaos is that it should be complete bloody chaos. Life is chaotic. And there comes a point for all of us when we are bloody well sick to death of pretending it isn't. It is very healthy to fling oneself into freefall and explore. The only essential is to keep a weather eye on the main course. Don't, for example, get the sack, HIV or arrested. Just as a splinter under the skin will work itself out, so will this. Go with it. You may find your life is on the brink - like a sort of larva about to burst into a butterfly. (Ony, do you know, I think I'm going to resign and become a poet.)

When you have slept with someone, should the man always ring the woman first?

Louise, Berkhampstead.

Uncle Ony: I cannot bear this sort of attitude. Women today really want it every which way: emancipation, equal pay, and then for the doors to be opened for them and men to do all the running. Dating today is just as traumatic, worrying and exposing for men as it is for women. Why should he be the one who has to put himself on the line all the time? Get on that phone.

Auntie Ag: (Ony, shut up, you fraudulent lazy old fool. You know perfectly well you only ever want the ones you can't have.) Yes, darling, it's an absolute rule. Never pursue a man, it will only make you unhappy. Nothing goes to their head more and makes them behave like beasts of the field. If he doesn't ring, he isn't a man, he's a fieldmouse and thank God you found out so quickly.

My boyfriend wants me to go camping in France for our summer holiday. I really love him but I'll look a complete fright, be horribly uncomfortable and there won't be anything nice or glamorous at all. I mean, what's the bloody point?

Muffy, Chelsea

Uncle Ony: The point is, Muffy, that every relationship, sooner or later, must be stripped bare of distraction, decoration, insulation to its foundations to ensure that they are solid. If your boyfriend ceases to love you when you are looking at your most natural, if you cease to enjoy being with him when all there is to enjoy is him, then there is little point in continuing.

Auntie Ag: (Oh don't be silly Ony. What's the point of working hard all year then giving yourselves such a frightful holiday you split up with each other?) Don't panic, darling. The thing to do is simply out-Girl Guide him. Embrace the camping plan with huge enthusiasm and suggest you go next weekend to practise. The night before, give him the most glamorous seeing to of his life, looking at your most gorgeous with exotic underwear, fine wine and delicious coffee in the morning. Then set off looking hearty in a cagoul. When you get in the tent (in unsightly pyjamas and possibly plaits) talk enthusiastically about trig points then sigh "must be fresh for the morning" turn over, go straight to sleep, and in the morning serve him cold tea on soggy corn flakes while bellowing "isn't this great?" and "where are we going hiking?" I'm sure you'll end up holidaying in a nice hotel where they serve champagne.

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