auntie ag and uncle ony

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TRYING TIMES

We're finding it impossible to support our friend's new-found fitness regime. Love him as we do, we know he's a lanky, 6ft weakling and rugby is just not his sport. The continual harping on about hamstring injuries, being sat on by the "lads" and the communal baths are testing our patience. How can we retrieve the port-drinking, groovy, dancing babe that we know and love?

Helen and Jane, Ipswich

UNCLE ONY: Fitness is very important and you are doing your friend a grave disservice by discouraging him. However, it does sound as though rugby may not be his ideal game. Why not suggest a gentler version of physical culture - something like tai chi or yoga - and go along to classes with him? Extend and cement your relationship by tackling your couch-potato tendencies as a group!

AUNTY AG: I do agree that, while playing rugby certainly produces some pleasing physical specimens, the tedious machismo that goes with it is a dreadful bore. It certainly doesn't sound like the ideal milieu for a groovy, port-drinking babe, angels, and I wouldn't be surprised if he were secretly looking for an excuse to avoid all those ghastly baths and so on. All you have to do is provide that excuse, and here it is: dancing is an excellent form of exercise, so he can let himself be lured back to the dancefloor with a clear conscience (though, go easy on the port, darlings).

PILLOW TALK

I need nine or 10 hours of sleep a night to function, but I have a demanding job, where I work long hours, plus a busy social life, so I find it almost impossible to get enough. Most people seem to manage on six or seven. Am I abnormal?

Jenny, London EC1

UNCLE ONY: I suspect that your problem is not, in fact, sleep deficiency. It is, rather, a subconscious reaction to the demands of the day. Deep inside you resent the pressures put on you by work and friends and want to escape to a non-demanding, non-threatening, non-judgmental environment - bed. Rather than sleeping your life away, I would edit it. Cut, cut, cut and be ruthless! Ditch those acquaintances you no longer really like and refuse extra hours at work. Think of time as you think of money and only "spend" it to worthwhile ends.

AUNTY AG: There's nothing wrong with plenty of beauty sleep, angel. But if you want to cut down, you must make bed less alluring. Find a partner you secretly dislike and move in with him. Waking up in the morning to find him on the pillow beside you will catapult you straight out into the world with no problems at all.

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE

I have a new boyfriend who is very nice indeed. So nice, in fact, that I am rather suspicious. He phones when he says he will and never gets ratty. It has got to the stage where I am constantly watching him out of the corner of my eye, wondering what he is hiding.

Jemima, Pulborough

UNCLE ONY: Dear me, Jemima, this is one of the most acute cases of low self-esteem I have come across in a long while. You value yourself so little that you expect men to behave badly towards you. Accept his good- nature and rejoice in it. Acting as though you suspect him of hiding his faults will simply encourage him to develop some.

AUNTY AG: Oh, angel, the key word in your letter is "new". New relationships always start well, with each party on their best behaviour, bringing tea in bed and pretending they never go to the loo. Let's face it, if people didn't behave well to start, things would never get off the ground. The facade will eventually crack and he will start picking his nose/being rude to your mother and generally acting like a normal human male. In the meanwhile, enjoy it while it lasts, darling.

THE MONEY GIT

I am a struggling glass-blower who makes lovely things but is perennially short of money. My boyfriend is a hugely successful stockbroker, and, of course, he earns pots more than me. When we go out together, he almost always ends up paying, which is bad enough, but worse than that is the fact that my birthday was two weeks ago. He has promised to buy me a winter coat, which will make all the difference between having a coat or not, but he seems to have forgotten about it and I am deeply embarrassed about reminding him.

Gwyneth, Cardiff

UNCLE ONY: Couples contribute many different things to a relationship, from understanding, calm, and friendship to tidying up and cooking. All of these can be at least as important as financial input and you should not imagine that not having money somehow negates your other roles. His withholding of the promised garment, whether consciously or subconsciously done, is, in fact, a rather nasty power ploy designed to reinforce this very feeling. Act as though the coat is a foregone conclusion. Locate the one you want, tell him that after a prolonged search, carried out since your birthday, you've finally managed to find the coat you'd like, and let him take it from there.

AUNTIE AG: For once I agree with Ony that "forgetting" is not very likely in this situation, and that being made to ask for one's promised coat is unfortunate at the least, unkind at the worst. I would shiver pathetically on all occasions and refuse to go out on the grounds that it's too cold; if it is a genuine oversight he will be filled with remorse and probably buy you something lovely in mink (fake of course, darling). If he fails to pick up on these signals he is either being deliberately mean or is very dim; both warning signals, angel.

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