auntie ag & uncle ony

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I have a terrible crush on a man at work. I had a conversation with him (ages ago, and on a work-related matter) which was excruciating as I was red and incoherent. Every time I have seen him subsequently I always appear purple or surly and unfriendly. If my friends feel like this about someone, they share a flat in Muswell Hill with them, not walk into walls. I think the damage has already been done with this lovely, lovely man but I am anxious not to react in the same way if I ever meet someone again I feel this way about. Would a therapist be able to help? Sarah, Clapham

Uncle Ony: You are suffering from a disease process or destructive compulsion, sometimes known as Loving Too Much, which operates on a similar model to other addictions such as alcohol or drug- related problems. The root lies in low or absent self-esteem, and the solution in the quest for your own spirituality, which will replace your need to, in effect, worship and abase yourself before the man at work. Seeking therapy is an excellent way to start. Your GP should point you in the right direction.

Aunty Ag: Darling, don't worry, we've all been through crush-hell, including, I must tell you, Dr Luuuurve himself, Uncle Ony, who suffered from the Disease Process or Destructive Compulsion of Loving a 26-year-old work experience girl with huge tits and a PhD Too Much all over the office last summer. It was hilarious. He once crashed the entire computer network by sitting down on his keyboard and plunging a paperknife through the mainframe cable just because she came within six feet of him and asked if anyone had an A to Z. Forget therapy. If treated with humour and kindness most crushes will go away of their own accord. Don't worry about missing the love of your life through a future crush either. They are a hopelessly unreliable way of leading you to a suitable partner since they have little to do with the love-object itself, but are triggered by weird kinks and needs in one's own psyche. They will blind you to hideous flaws and, as you've discovered, turn you into an undateable, unco-ordinated mad person. The best thing to do is laugh at yourself, and make the most of the heady excitement while it lasts. When the right person comes along to share a flat in Muswell Hill with you'll be too busy painting walls to walk into them.

About six weeks ago my friend Anne ran out of cash when we were shopping and I loaned her pounds 30. I saw her a couple of times afterwards and she didn't mention it again so the next time, I said "Oh God, I forgot, you owe me pounds 30." She just said, "Oh yes, I must remember to give you a cheque." I've seen her three times since then, but she hasn't. Betty, Bournemouth

Uncle Ony: Money, in any relationship, is always a symbol of something deeper and more important. The situation you describe strikes me as a classic power struggle. Your girlfriend feels you have not been meeting her needs. You, on the other hand, are unable to give. Diffuse the struggle. Try saying, "Anne, I've been thinking, I'd like you to keep the pounds 30 I lent you as a mark of my affection." Don't think win-loose, think win- win.

Aunty Ag: ... think don't loose 30 quid, more like. The trouble with mean friends is they get away with it by making you feel mean for objecting. Don't have it. Next time you go shopping with Anne, take neither cash, nor card. Select an item or range of necessities totalling pounds 32. Wait till the assistant has wrapped them and cashed up and say, "Lawks a Mercy! I've forgotten my wallet. I'll tell you what, darling, you pay for these and that will cover that pounds 30 you owe me." If she mentions the extra pounds 2 tell her it's loan interest.

Last night I was staying at my boyfriend's house. I was tired, went to bed before he did, and found a matt gold Dinny Hall earring which didn't belong to me in the bed. I didn't say anything at the time, but I've kept the earring. I'm so hurt and distraught and can't do anything except cry.

Harriet, Edinburgh

Uncle Ony: The important question here is why did you not confront your boyfriend with the earring when you found it? Why, instead, did you keep it with you, symbolically holding on to your pain? Why are you choosing pain, instead of any number of sensible explanations. Perhaps he has a cleaning lady who could have dropped the earring while making the bed. Perhaps he has loaned his room to a sister, or even a married couple. It is important that you hand the earring and, symbolically, your pain, back to him, and ask him for an explanation. You'll probably find it's all a lot of fuss about nothing.

Aunty Ag: Oh for God's sake, Ony. Cleaning ladies do not, as a general rule of thumb, do their cleaning in Dinny Hall earrings, and if he's had a married couple in the bed why hasn't he washed the sheets? First of all, angel, stop crying, do yourself up and pop out to a bar for a nice glass of champagne. When you've recovered your composure, and reminded yourself how completely fabulous you are compared to the entire male race, look at your watch and give yourself half an hour to decide whether this particular specimen, in the light of what you now know, is worth hanging on to. If the answer is no, order another champagne to celebrate the fact that it didn't take you six more months to realise. If the answer is yes, even allowing for the fact that he's a cheating schmuck who can't even be bothered to hide the evidence, have another drink and think harder. If you're still convinced then plan your strategy. Avoid all shouty, weepy, victimesque behaviour. Next time, make sure he stays at your house, and dot the sheets liberally with an assortment of borrowed cuff-links, Tag Heuer watches, platinum credit cards and Aston Martin keyrings. If he has the nerve to complain, flounce next door, fix yourself a drink and decide whether you still think he's worth hanging on to. If the answer's yes,come back, brandish-ing the earring. Tell the cheating worm, while smiling seductively, you'd rather formed the impression that infidelity was the deal now and you're going to be pretty busy the next couple of weeks. That should keep him on his toes, darling. If it doesn't, dump the sneaky toad.

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