auntie ag

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Killing me softly

The chap in the next office to me has an incredibly resonant voice and talks on the telephone all day so that it is impossible to concentrate on anything I'm doing. It seems unreasonable to ask him not to make the phone calls as they're obviously vital to his job (believe me, if anyone knows what goes on in those phone calls, it's me). I can't move offices, because they're all full. Is it wrong to kill or gag colleagues?

Sarah, Wolverhampton

Auntie Ag: Far better to put some soothing music on, just loud enough to muffle what he's saying so that you can concentrate. If he complains, it gives you the perfect cue to explain that you had to do it to drown out his resonant phone calls. If he doesn't then you're laughing - unless you start getting stick from the person on the other side. Certainly don't kill him, darling. It would be wrong.

entirely unsuitable

Do girls have a right to "ringfence" outfits? My friend bought a suit from Whistles. I desperately wanted to get one the same and thought I'd better ask her if she minded first so I did, and promised not to wear it when she did. At this she got all offended and said she did mind. Silly bloody bitch. What shall I do?

Sofia, Battersea

Auntie Ag: Technically, one doesn't have a right to outfit-ringfence, but it's exactly the same degree of bad form as it is to outfit-copy. The etiquette is: either you acknowledge you're doing a minor piece of bad form and copy sneakily, never wearing the copied outfit when they copyee might be present or you don't ask. But now you've asked, and she's said no, I'm afraid that you're doomed. You'll just have to go to Joseph and see if you can find yourself a nicer one.

grapes of wrath

I'm about to have my second baby. When I was in hospital after my first one it was a complete nightmare. I felt trapped at the mercy of all the people I'd been trying to avoid for years turning up with minuscule bunches of grapes, and installing themselves for hours as an excuse to meet people, guzzling all my chocolates and boring on and on when I was completely exhausted. Whereas my real friends only stayed for short bursts because they're considerate. I'd ask my boyfriend to help but he's even worse than me at asserting himself with bossy and determined people. How can I avoid feeling as though I'm trapped in a ghastly drinks party this time round?

Lydia, Hampstead

Auntie Ag: Honestly, some people have no tact. One simply doesn't want people one slightly knows staying for an entire afternoon when one's looking like a water buffalo without a proper hairdo and feels as if one's just passed a grapefruit. The nurses will save you, angel, if you're very nice to them. Buy them lots of chocolates and flowers, explain your predicament, and ask them if they wouldn't mind doing a chuck out every 20 minutes or so (unless you give them a wink when it's a real friend). Tell your visitors you're practically dead with jaundice (invest in a yellowy blusher) and you're under strict instructions not to over-excite yourself. That should see off the silly bloody bores.

bumpy, not smooth

I am repulsed by my boyfriend's hairy back. Do you think it would be all right to ask him to shave it?

Alison, Isle of Wight

Auntie Ag: Good God no. It would have the same effect as him asking you if you could get rid of the cellulite from your bottom: fury, devastation and the wreck of your sex life. Besides if he shaves it it might grow back even stronger and he'll have huge giant beard spurting from his back and then how will you like it? We're supposed to love people for their imperfections. Are you sure it's the hairy back that's the problem and not the boyfriend?

that's the ticket

The other day my nanny was off sick, there was a meeting I had to go to, and I asked my friend if she would babysit for an hour. She left, then came back five minutes later, furious because she'd got a pounds 60 parking ticket. She obviously thought I ought to pay it for her. But I've babysat for her lots of times and it was her own fault for parking on a yellow line. I didn't offer, but now she's being all sniffy with me. What should I have done?

Virginia, Stoke Newington

Auntie Ag: Tricky. In theory we're all responsible for finding our own parking spaces but she was doing you a favour at short notice and maybe she was in too much of a hurry to get one. In hindsight, I'd have said all that to her and offered to pay half but now the huff is initiated I would bite the bullet, send her a note saying you were so flapped you weren't thinking straight, enclose a cheque for the whole amount and put the matter completely to bed. The sort of friend who'll bail you out in a crisis is worth a lot more than 60 quid.

more fish in the sea

My new girlfriend is very undemonstrative with me in private, but whenever my friends are around she makes a hugely overstated fuss of me: staring at me as if it's the first time she's ever seen me and when we meet gliding towards me without taking her eyes off me then taking my face in her hands and kissing me passionately, sometimes with tongues. The worse of it is, in private she won't give me blow jobs.

Ian, Sheffield

Auntie Ag: Ugh. What a two-faced fraud. Chuck her, darling.