Aunty Ag Uncle Ony

If you're stuck on a thorny problem, Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony can help. This week, health regimes that ruin relationships and a reluctant birthday girl...

About five months ago, my friend Charles gave up smoking, after years of trying. His lover, Cherisse, also stopped. They both went on a diet and joined a fitness club, cut down their drinking, went to bed early and avoided caffeine. After a few weeks, they both changed from pallid, coughing slobs to relatively trim and healthy-looking people. Two of their friends, Jane and Graham, were so impressed with their friends' new look that they fell in love with them and, by Christmas, Jane was having a torrid affair with Charles, and Graham with Cherisse. Now, Charles and Cherisse have drifted apart. This troubles them deeply, for, when they were over-eating slugs, they loved each other to bits, but now they're fit, their love is on the rocks.

Mark, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: Is she really called Cherisse? With a name like that and a gorgeous new body, she could consider a career in naughty films. After all that work and effort, Charles and Cherisse certainly should not relapse into slugdom. Could it be that, when they were together, pretty much all they had in common was a mutual passion for fags, booze and chips? Perhaps, sad though it may seem, it's time for them to move on separately into the brave new world of guarana, Aqua Libra and salad.

Uncle Ony: What a sorry mess. I really cannot hold out much hope for the Charles/Jane and Graham/Cherisse liaisons. They are based on that most ephemeral of phenomena: physical lust. It is those who love us when we are fat, pallid slobs that really love us. Those who simply have a passing fancy for a pert bosom or muscled buttock are not the ones who stick by us. Charles and Cherisse have, unfortunately, been carried away by their new physiques into a sad moral abyss of fornication. I fear that now the trust between them has been destroyed, they will not get back together in a meaningful way. However, in case anyone might be tempted to use this tale as an excuse to lead a healthy life in order to gain a new relationship: giving up smoking and getting fit does not mean adultery is a foregone conclusion. Simply work on your moral fibre as well as your physical muscle!


I didn't get a single card on St Valentine's Day. I feel very sad and upset, and also unattractive.

Maureen, Dublin

Aunty Ag: Oh, darling, never mind. You do know that Valentine's cards are supposed to come from secretive admirers. Evidently your admirers (and I'm sure they are legion) are very secretive indeed - in fact, too furtive to send a card.

Uncle Ony: Valentine's Day is no more than a manufactured commercial opportunity, puffed up by the makers and purveyors of trashy cards and gifts to part the foolish from their cash. I didn't get a single card either - no, not one! But I feel proud, yes, proud that no one I know fell for this blatant and ugly example of consumer exploitation!


A friend of mine (female) has a birthday coming up. She never wants to be reminded of her birthdays as she is now well into her 30s and paranoid about ageing. On the other hand, she flies into a big sulk if one doesn't get her a nice gift. How can I get her a birthday present without reminding her of her birthday?

Robert, Strathclyde

Aunty Ag: Rather than turning her birthday into a big occasion, why not give her lots of charming little presents on unexpected and completely random dates throughout the year? Then you will be able to avoid the Evil Day itself without her feeling under-gifted and resentful.

Uncle Ony: Gently help your friend to change her perception of getting older: to see her middle-aged years as a time of ripening and maturing, not of wrinkling and fading. Carry out some positive reinforcement by providing some aspirational elderly role models. Point out the shining examples of Sharon Stone, Francesca Annis, Gloria Hunniford, all of whom grow more lusciously luminous with every passing year. Persuade your chum to keep in trim: recommend some appropriate diet and exercise plans (consult your local bookstore and buy her a few inspiring volumes on keeping one's figure under control). Encourage her to have a few judicious nips and tucks here and there: cosmetic surgeons can work wonders these days, especially if they can get started early enough. Thus empowered, she will welcome each birthday with joy, and you will be able to offer your gift to her without fear of reproach!

Send your problems to: What's Your Problem?, Real Life, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, or e-mail Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony regret that they are unable to enter into any personal correspondence.