auntie ag & uncle ony

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My boyfriend didn't send me a Valentine. When I mentioned how hurt I felt, he told me not to be so stupid and that Valentine's Day is a cynical marketing exercise. But I can't help minding. I think he's unromantic and mean.

Deidre, Winchester

Uncle Ony: Does it not occur to you, Deidre, that your boyfriend might be right? Is conforming to the manipulations of greetings card manufacturers more important to you than respecting the deeply held principles of the man in your life? Is it really your boyfriend who is being "unromantic and mean" or are you projecting a few home truths about yourself?

Auntie Ag: Darling, how on earth are we supposed to cope with the damage commercialism and advertising has wreaked on our fragile egos if we don't get at least a modest assortment of cards, trinkets and floral tributes on Valentine's Day? Why not suggest he takes you to Tiffany's to make amends? If he refuses: Well! Can your precious self-esteem really cope with such a stingy bore? Perhaps better to visit Tiffany's alone, looking utterly divine, and see what turns up.

My husband and I are both in our early forties. Lately he has started pointing to my face, saying: "Are these laughter lines or old ladies' lines?"; quipping: "We won't need a water heater soon, when Martha starts with her hot flushes"; and referring to any woman the same age as me as "getting on a bit, now". He is always joking about fancying younger women and saying he wants to go to strip shows. It makes me feel horrible. I don't go on at him for losing his hair.

Marilyn, Macclesfield

Uncle Ony: How do you think it feels for a man - who, by his very nature, draws self-esteem from being with a young, attractive mate (in whom to plant his seed) - to find himself with an older woman losing her attractiveness? (The problem of an ageing mate is less for women, since feminine sourcing in the mating process is essentially economic.) As I am constantly stressing to my wife, marriages would be healthier if women understood a man's need to socialise with and admire younger women - perhaps through live "strip" shows or "peepholes". After all, we only have one life. You might do well to think a little more about your husband and a little less about yourself.

Auntie Ag: I wouldn't worry, darling. Men are inclined to crumble at the slightest challenge to their mindless arrogance. Simply meet every soi-disant amusing quip with an infinitely more amusing one about hair loss, falling sperm counts, prostate trouble and the charms of the priapic young whipper-snapper. If the problem persists, find a young nephew, cousin or son of a good friend to turn up regularly in a big car and take you out to dinner.

What is the secret of getting girls to like you? I'm 15 and not particularly tall or good looking, but have the feeling there's more to it than that. Kirk, London

Uncle Ony: Relationships between the sexes are intensely complex. I suggest you concentrate on your studies and leave such matters until you are older and better able to deal with them.

Auntie Ag: Darling, you are so wise to ask this important question now. What girls like is self-confidence, humour, intelligence and a large bank balance. Some additional points: 1) Remember that pretty much all girls are deeply insecure about, well, pretty much everything; 2) Always hold back. Give the sense that you adore them, but have so many demands on your affection you are having to weigh them up seriously against heavy competition; 3) Never discuss them childishly with your friends; 4) Since 15-year-old girls are routinely dismissive of 15-year-old boys, look to the older woman for companionship, someone who will value your youthful eagerness and teach you all manner of useful things.

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