Last week, one of my friends told me I looked really fat and awful in my favourite summer dress. She said she was sure I'd rather know this, but I've been wearing the wretched dress a couple of times a week all season and feel totally crushed.
Uncle Ony: Dear me, Chloe. You should rejoice in the fact that your friend has finally plucked up courage to tell you that your frock is not becoming. (I understand that many ladies neglect to check their back views in the mirror before they go out: could this be you? Or could you be in denial about a weight problem?) This kind of thing is far more difficult for the teller than the tellee and many of us would be glad to have such a true (and truthful!) friend. Why don't you show your gratitude by making a point of taking her along on future shopping trips?
Auntie Ag: I would take this rudeness with a big pinch of salt, angel. If the dress is so ghastly, why has she waited till now, when the shops are all full of winter coats, to tell you? This is not being a friend, it's being a bitch-queen from hell. Don't let her make you feel crushed; the main point about a dress is how it makes you feel, and if you've been wearing it confidently all summer, you can be sure you looked lovely in it.
I met this boy last week, got drunk and shagged him. He seemed keen and said "call me". I did, 48 hours later, and he hasn't called back. This isn't the first time this has happened to me, and I know this isn't the most original problem in the world. But why did he tell me to call him if he wasn't interested?
Uncle Ony: A "drunken shag" is hardly the basis for a lasting relationship, Fiona. You and this man have nothing in common apart from a fleeting sexual encounter. Do you wonder that he is not interested in finding out more about you? It's like asking someone to go back to their bread and butter when they have already had their iced fairy-cake. In future, on a first encounter, I would prescribe several hours of in-depth conversation followed by a chaste goodnight kiss. Retain your air of mystery and you will get on a lot better, I guarantee.
Auntie Ag: Ony, you are such a sanctimonious old humbug. After several hours of your in-depth conversation, you'd be lucky to get as far as mouth- to-mouth, let alone anything else. Oh, darling, this is one of the great mysteries of civilisation - akin to Stonehenge and the temple rituals of the Inca. At least if they said, "Thank you for the use of your body and now I never want to see you again", we'd all know where we stood and wouldn't have to go through the humiliating ritual of actually taking this kind of thing seriously. I am afraid that some men are like that; they are nasty pieces of work and not worth more than 10p of your phone bill, so don't call him again.
no space like home
My parents recently announced their retirement plans to me and my sister - we both live in north London. They are planning to move from their home in a small town in Leicestershire to a flat conveniently situated between the two of us. The thought fills me with panic - I cannot bear the idea of them "dropping in" unannounced every other day. Although they know nobody down here, they say that they are self-sufficient and can busy themselves with the many cultural opportunities - theatre, art galleries and so on. How do I break it to them subtly that as much as I enjoy their company, having them on my doorstep is much too close for comfort?
Uncle Ony: After years of nurturing you and your sister, your parents are turning to the pair of you in their twilight years and you are slamming the door in their faces. One of the most regrettable aspects of 20th-century living is the breakdown of extended family networks; your parents are trying to re-establish that traditional closeness. You should embrace this opportunity to build a mature adult-to-adult relationship with the senior members of your family unit.
Auntie Ag: Oh, for heaven's sake, Ony, the definition of a mature, adult- to-adult relationship with one's parents is that they get on with their lives, and you get on with yours, with occasional visits that you all enjoy because they are not too frequent. Angel, the thing that people don't realise about London is that nobody who lives there actually goes to the theatre, art galleries, etc - they are all full of visiting coach parties from, say, Leicestershire. Genuine Londoners are all far too busy wrestling with the Northern line and trying to keep their mortgages under control. I would suggest that you go away for a month or so - even longer if at all possible - and get your parents to come and live in your flat while you're away as a "trial run". A month's cultural experience of London will probably make them realise that, wonderful as the National Gallery is, there is a limit to the number of times that one wishes to slog into Trafalgar Square to visit it. And the rocketing property market is on your side. The fact that a one-bedroom shed in Raynes Park is selling for about pounds 100,000 should put them off - once they realise that they are contemplating swapping their nice house in the country for a shoe box in a flight path/next to a main thoroughfare/above a chip shop, it should put them off definitively.