AUNTY AG UNCLE ONY

Scared that your boss will read your e-mails? Or that you're uglier in the flesh than in cyberspace? Never mind, Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony are up with all the new technology - they can help
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I saw a really scary TV programme last week about how bosses can keep track of your e-mails and check on what you've been writing. I'm really worried now because I send lots to friends, just catching up and making arrangements to meet. There's nothing really awful in there, just gossip, but I'd feel silly if anyone else were to read them. What do you advise?

Emma, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: Unless bosses are particularly mean and inhuman, the kinds of things they want to catch aren't you arranging to meet your friends at All Bar One. It's things like passing on Top Secret Confidential Business Information or setting up your own mail-order catalogue flogging the contents of the stationery cupboard. However, to deflect attention, I suggest that you head all your legitimate e-mails things like Top Secret Confidential Business Information etc. If anyone is monitoring you, they will spend all their time checking out these juicily-titled messages and (hopefully) ignore the others.

Uncle Ony: If you are sending these messages in your boss's time, using your boss's computer, then it seems to me that he is quite within his rights to feel that they are his property. What you are doing is stealing; perhaps not in the same way as if you put an office Biro in your bag, but stealing time - a kind of spiritual stealing if you will. So stop it, and you will have nothing to worry about.

I am a frequenter of a certain internet chat-room and I have fallen rather heavily for one of the people I have been talking to there. Now they have suggested that we meet in person. I am feeling a bit nervous, mainly because I have somewhat enhanced my own attributes and worry that they will be disappointed, because I'm not very groovy or feline. I do want to meet them, but how can I prepare them for the inevitable letdown?

Groovy Moon Cat, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: Haven't you noticed that everyone, but everyone, on the internet is a rippling-haired sex goddess or a rippling-muscled sex god? Enhancing one's attributes, as you sweetly put it, is pretty much obligatory. Don't worry, your chat chum will have been doing exactly the same thing, so don't be surprised if you feel pretty disillusioned yourself at their non-virtual manifestation. (Incidentally, Groovy Moon Cat, have you made quite sure that this person is the gender you are expecting? Probably worth checking out before you arrange any fleshly meetings.)

Uncle Ony: Looks are not everything. So perhaps you're a bit of a blob or a geek or a dweeb - be encouraged! It is your personality this person is interested in, not your physique! And if you're not very attractive, perhaps that's just as well.

Well, Ag, really. This is for you to read while Ony is out adjusting things. What happened to the Mitfordesque Ag that we knew and loved? Did Ony beat you around the head until you promised to be more serious, darling? Do you think you could put something in Ony's tea, and let us just have you? He sounds terribly Victorian-dad-like, not to say downright grumpy. If I want to be lectured, I can find half a dozen lunatics in the high street.

John, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: Ooh, a fan letter! Or a fan letter of sorts, at any rate. I'm not sure that Mitfordesque is quite such a compliment - I hope you're not thinking of one of the assorted fascistettes of that ilk. But what has poor Ony done to upset you? He may be a bit of a hardliner himself, but underneath he's an old softy, kind to children and animals (as long as they aren't too noisy).

Uncle Ony: Victorian-dad-like? Grumpy? I am quite speechless. My raison d'etre has always been the gentlest of encouragement and support for all our readers, mixed in with a generous helping of as much of the very newest therapeutic thinking that I can muster. Any fool can see this is high quality advice, so, John, personal attacks of this kind make me feel that perhaps you are jealous of my professional status - and that there is some inadequacy deep within yourself that I could help you with. I'm sure that whatever is really troubling you, it isn't my column. Don't be afraid to delve into your psyche and find out what the real problem is - then send it in. Perhaps I can help!

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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