auntie ag & uncle ony

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What is the etiquette for meeting people you know when stark naked? Lots of women from work, mainly my superiors who are a bit older than I am, go to the same health club as me and I am always bumping into them in the shower, steam bath or changing rooms. They often look annoyed if I say hello, but you can't ignore your boss if they're under the shower next to you, can you? Or can you?

Loretta, Basingstoke

Uncle Ony: What you are dealing with here, Loretta, is a classic "Paradigm Shift" as first described by Thomas Kuhn in his seminal work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. When you and your colleagues meet naked, you are required to forget all your established preconceptions and look at each other as sexual rather than professional beings. It is important when you meet in the showers that you communicate with your colleagues about the shift, explaining that hitherto your perceptions of each other have been partial, and that these "Aha!" experiences should be celebrated as opportunities to release new energy into the working environment. (I would, incidentally be most interested to discuss this scenario with you and your colleagues if you would care to contact me.)

Auntie Ag: Darling, as time advances, no woman wants to be caught without her lip-gloss and underwiring, especially by a subordinate on whom the forces of gravity have had less time to play. I would propose a simple rule of naked encounter etiquette - the older and saggier one decides whether to coo "Oh Hi Loretta!" or pretend the whole thing never happened. The younger and bouncier one must make no sign of recognition until the moment of greeting, then feign huge surprise, while studiously maintaining eye-contact.

I live alone, and a single man has moved into the flat above. Although the floors are thick, I cannot help but hear the noises he makes during the night. I am sure they are just involuntary sleeping noises but they sound like gasps and grunts of pleasure and I find it disturbing and often repulsive. What can I do?

Camilla

Uncle Ony: Hmm. The fact that you choose to use the words "disturbing" and "repulsive" suggests to me that your problem is not one of noise from a neighbour but a deep sexual dysfunction within yourself. You are disturbed, you say, by the proximity of a man, by the audible reminders of his sexuality. I suspect what is really at work here is "arousal" followed by self denial. I suggest you contact a reliable Freudian as a matter of urgency.

Auntie Ag: Ugh, how disgusting. Try not to think about what's going on and simply get yourself the following: 1) A nice man to sleep with to drown out the creepy racket with noises of your own; 2) Earplugs; 3) A claxon or squeaky toy to be pressed loudly near the floor whenever he emits anything sounding remotely disgusting upstairs.

My girlfriend has a fantastic curvaceous body but a complete hang-up about it. She is so convinced that she ought to be like Kate Moss that she won't allow me to look at her without her clothes on. If I try to tell her how much pleasure I get from looking at her she thinks I'm just trying to make her feel better.

Kurt, Balham

Uncle Ony: I really need to know more about the relationship between your girlfriend's self-image and the reality in order to help you. Does she, for example have full breasts and hips, but a tiny waist and flat stomach? Or is she actually generally rounded in the Pre-Raphaelite sense? - in which case she may well be a little overweight. A photograph would clarify the matter. (In the meantime I would urge you to consider your feelings about your own body, and whether you are praising in order to compensate or control.)

Auntie Ag: Darling - this whole business is so tragic. It is hard for men to believe the extent to which women have been conditioned to genuinely loathe their own bodies. Since so much of this is based on media imagery it might help to supply her with some erotic pictures of voluptuous women to broaden her horizons. Other than that, just keep on heaping her with rapturous adoration and I'm sure in time she will come to believe you, and your patience will be rewarded with brightly-lit nightly stripteases (lucky her, you delicious, supportive little thing).

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