WOMEN AND MEN
Can you clear up a point of cafe society etiquette? This morning I was quietly reading the paper at a small table in my local cafe when a woman said: "Mind if we join you?" then plonked herself down with four boisterous friends who spread out a map of Australia and all started to shriek and titter so that I was squeezed into a corner with my cappuccino on my knee and my newspaper practically balanced on my face. I behaved as sulkily as I could and flounced off as soon as another table came free: at which point I heard one of them say: "Rude cow!" Who was being rude: me or them? And what should I have done?

Deborah, Maida Vale.

Uncle Ony: It is not rudeness which is at issue here, Deborah, but your ability to "choose to be happy" with your environment. Why were you not able to choose that "goal" and take an interest in your new friends and their map of Australia? Clearly something deeper than an interest in your newspaper was "blocking" this choice. Might I suggest that an early rejection, possibly a feeling that one parent has "chosen" the other in preference to you, has left you with a deep insecurity about your acceptability to others? Next time, why not buy your new neighbours a coffee and take an interest in their map-reading?

Auntie Ag: For once, darling, I agree with Ony. Next time this happens you must take an enormous and excitable interest in their map-reading, tossing sheets of your newspaper all over their heads, brushing them away from their map, yelling: "I'll tell you where you should go!" and talking over them. When the waitress comes for their order, loudly insist that they don't want Cappuccinos but blackcurrant teas, being sure to knock at least one of the magenta beverages on to your new friends' knees with your elbow. Make sure you leave before they do and tell the waitress to put your order on their bill. I don't think you'll find the the rude, selfish, ill-mannered witches will bother you again.

Although my mum is 60 she is incredibly slim and glamorous, and much more attractive, clever and successful than me. The other day I was petrified about something I had to do at work and thought I'd try ringing her up for moral support like my friends do with their mums. She said: "I don't quite see what the problem is. Surely one just puts on one's Balenciaga and goes for it?" She makes me feel so inadequate. Why can't I have a nice, round grey-haired mum, who says things like: "There, there. You can't do better than your best"; "It's not what you look like that matters, it's who you are"; and, "I'll still love you, whatever you do"?

Caroline, Pimlico.

Uncle Ony: What we have here is a textbook case of "Ageing-Queen-vs-Snow VVhite syndrome" with an ageing woman coercing a younger ( in this instance you, Caroline) into acting out "Ugly Duckling" role play, in order to satisfy her inner deluded-fantasy life. Your mother's inability to deal with the passage of time is subtly inhibiting your own development and growth. The only viable solution is a course of joint counselling. I think you will both find the sessions invaluable.

Auntie Ag: Frankly, darling, at this stage of the proceedings I don't think you have a hope in hell of transforming the Balenciaga-clad diva into Betty Crockett. You'd be better off making the most of her entertainment value and getting moral support from your chums. Remember the grass is always greener and the down side of a spherical-pie-baker mum can be spot checks on your kitchen bin for whisky bottles, roaches and fag ends, and constant nagging to wear a vest, breed and eat spring greens. For God's sake don't let her make you feel insecure, though, darling. Next time she tries it on, simply simper: "Mummy, have you ever considered a face- lift?"

My husband is a staunch Tory supporter and very traditional. This weekend I was taking his suit to the dry cleaners and found credit card slips for a posh hotel in the Cotswolds, restaurants and flowers over four days when he had told me he was on business in Aberdeen. When I challenged him, all he did was parrot the phrases "I did not intend to mislead," and "I did not consider what I told you to be misleading." When I accused him of having a romantic mini-break with another woman he became angry, saying he did not agree with my view and demanding that I apologise.

Gwen, Tunbridge VVells.

Uncle Ony: Yes. I am not surprised that your accusatory approach has been met with a "blocking" response. For the male psyche, the feeling that he has hurt, or let you down is extremely painful and he will not be able to understand why you are attacking him now, instead of comforting him. What you are actually doing, at present, is punishing your husband for problems actually buried within yourself. It is only through trust that you can "heal" yourself and go forward. And "trust" means acceptance that he, as he says, did not intend to mislead.

Auntie Ag: Darling! Tell him he's absolutely right and you've realised the only honourable course is thus for you to resign. You will no longer, therefore, be taking anything to the dry-cleaners, cooking, shopping ( apart from clothes and trinkets for yourself, of course) organising, washing or ironing in order to spend more time with your beautician. That should teach him, angel.

I'm 39 and have been married since I was 24. I keep having this recurring fantasy where I go into the pub for a few pints, and start buying pints for these three really sexy birds and chatting them up. After a while they go outside to this dormobile they've got parked there, so I put my pint down and follow them into the van and have sex with them. Then I go back, have another pint, and go home to my wife and kids for my supper. I feel guilty. It keeps putting me off my work and I keep thinking my wife might be able to tell what's going through my head. But I can't stop imagining it.

Barry, Mansfield.

Uncle Ony: Of course you can't, Barry, and nor should you. Men were never, psychologically or physiologically, intended to be faithful to one partner for their entire lives but to spread their seed as widely as possible in order to ensure their progeny. Your fantasies are the natural outlet for practical instincts thwarted by your situation - to fornicate with a wide number of young and fertile women till a ripe old age. You have nothing to blame yourself for, but rather should be proud of your self- sacrificing behaviour in fantasising rather than acting on your instinctive needs.

Auntie Ag: Sorry, Barry, I'm a little unclear. Was it the girls you felt guilty about fantasising about, or the pints?

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