AUNTY AG UNCLE ONY

Your best friend has metamorphosed into a housewife. Your ex-girlfriend keeps showing up at work functions. Your wife refuses to carry a suitcase. Never fear - Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony are here to help
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I am most distressed. My best friend has recently become involved with a new man and is behaving very strangely. She has turned from a wild, party-going madam into a housewife overnight. The two of them have taken to reading books aloud at night and she has begun co-ordinating her wardrobe with his unfortunate preference for tweed jackets and beige slacks. Worst of all she has started to bake fresh bread before she goes to work of a morning and last weekend she stayed in and made jam. She is 26 and turning into an alien. Please help.

Angela, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: I'm afraid you will have to bear with this alarming transformation, gruesome though it is. It's a particularly radical version of the old "I've-met-a-new-man-so-my-girlfriends-will-have-to-take-a-back-seat-for- a while" syndrome. I advise leaving her severely alone for several weeks to give her time to get heartily sick of baking and jam-making, then casually ring to suggest a night out in your favourite wine bar. I'd lay money that she'll be up for it in a big way.

Uncle Ony: This could indicate one of two things. The first is that, in meeting and forming a relationship with this man, your friend has discovered her true personality. And, frankly, I have to say that it sounds rather nicer than the one she has been deploying up to now! I'm afraid that the modern "wild, party-going madam" is really a very ugly modern stereotype. The second possibility is that your friend is so shallow and malleable that she is a "chameleon", who adapts her own traits to copy those of anyone close to her. Of course, most of us do this to a certain extent, but such a radical change would seem to indicate a fundamental lack of any genuine personality whatsoever. If she has found her true self, I'm afraid that you will either have to accept the new her or lose your friend. But if she simply changes to suit the company she's in, she will of course revert to being an aggravating hoyden when she is out with you.

I have an ex-girlfriend who works in the same industry as I do. We are both in the kind of job where we have to turn up to various social functions and my problem is that whatever I go to, she is always there! As well as turning up like a bad penny, she has taken to phoning me occasionally and I am starting to feel stalked and uncomfortable. I don't want to talk to her or see her. What can I do?

Charles, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: Obviously, this selfish cow should immediately give up her job, ditch her career, and move over to give you more elbow room! Perhaps she could even emigrate to somewhere safely out of the way, like Acapulco or Accrington, just so you can go out to your drinks parties without feeling insecure. Tsk!

Uncle Ony: Failed romances at work are always a tricky area. I wonder if this young lady is actually trying to establish a reasonably friendly working relationship with you, purely so you both can meet at functions without feeling uncomfortable? This strikes me as quite sensible; if you feel you can talk to each other without the risk of any sensitive issues blowing up, then you will be able to meet at business venues without feeling uncomfortable. Of course there's no need to be overly friendly and gushing, but if you do both work in the same circles and have to meet socially, there is nothing to be gained by snubbing her overtly.

Why is it that when we go on holiday I end up carrying two heavy cases, while my wife carries only a small handbag?

Marcus, Edinburgh

Aunty Ag: Men should make themselves useful whenever they can and carrying heavy cases is a prime example of a useful activity.

Uncle Ony: The probable answer is because you choose to let it be so. Although gender stereotyping may seem like an anachronism as we near the end of the millennium, many men would still rather put out their backs and strain their muscles hefting baggage rather than look as if they can't manage it. I'm sure if you give one of the cases to your wife she will not only be quite competent to handle it but she will also welcome your gesture in solidarity with female equality.

Send your problems to Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony at The Independent on Sunday, Canary Wharf, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL or agony@independent.co.uk

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