AUNTY AG UNCLE ONY COLUMN

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Your girlfriend's a horse - should you marry her? And what if your boss keeps scaring you by shouting? Never fear - Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony have all the answers

I am a firm believer in Chinese astrology. My reason for writing is that my girlfriend is a horse and I am a rat. I want to ask her to marry me but I am afraid that under Chinese astrology such a marriage cannot succeed - horse and rat are the worst combination for relationships. What do you suggest? Could such a relationship work?

Ben, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: Could such a relationship work, you ask. Well, it seems to me that if you want to marry this girl it probably is working perfectly well. What more proof do you want?

Uncle Ony: Every human being is a completely individual bundle of genes and personality. To believe blindly that the stars have some influence on this miracle of nature is the rankest superstition, a hangover from the dark ages. Your girlfriend is not a horse. You are not a rat. You are both unique people with the ability to make your own choices and the opportunity to forge a successful relationship if you wish to do so.

I have a new boss who has a reputation for bollocking people loudly, at great length, and in public, and I would like to prepare myself for the moment when he starts bollocking me. I hate this sort of thing and it frightens me - the last time I was shouted at I walked right out of the office and never went back, which somewhat damaged my career, so I'd like to find a way of dealing with it which does me less harm next time.

James, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: Ugh, what a bully. Remember first of all that your colleagues will be tacitly on your side in any shouty situation. No one enjoys seeing someone being bawled out (especially if it's likely to be their turn later) and people will be sympathetic; they will not be vicariously enjoying the spectacle. However you are feeling inside, keep calm. Don't be tempted to interrupt, shout back, walk out or cry. Let the storm pass over your head, and as it rages, pick out one point that you can answer rationally when the shouting stops, and do so. In other words, act as though you are having a sensible conversation, even if your boss is behaving appallingly. Stick to this and, I hope, once he realises he can't get a rise out of you or upset you he will calm down.

While keeping your dignity in the office, you may also wish to find some other outlet for your feelings. Let his car tyres down? Sabotage his computer? Kill his plants? I leave it up to you.

Uncle Ony: If your boss feels he has to assert himself in this way, underneath his blustering exterior is a deeply insecure and unhappy person. Let nature take its course: if he continues in this way he will alienate his entire staff, the whole office will become less efficient, and he will eventually lose his job.

How do you know when to wear summer clothes to work and when to wear winter ones? Since the weather started turning bad last week I have been in all of a muddle: if I don't wear tights I get goose-pimply and cold, but if I wore tights I'd feel all sweaty and over-dressed. Is there a rule for this sort of thing? Or handy tips?

Kate, London E14

Aunty Ag: Living in Britain as we do, the only way to be truly prepared is to carry at all times a sturdy grip containing the following: raincoat, sunglasses, chunky sweater, light cardigan, bikini, wide selection of hosiery and an umbrella. This is clearly impractical, though you can improvise part of the effect by keeping a pair of tights or two and a cardi in your desk at work. One tip, however, for when the weather definitely starts to change: there is always a definite autumnal tang from 15 August onwards. Sniff the air and you'll see what I mean. I was told this by a wise French woman and have looked out for the 15 August effect every year since; it is absolutely true.

Uncle Ony: I can't imagine what kind of office lets you come in so sloppily dressed! For work purposes you should never be bare-legged - it is most unprofessional. The weather is of no consequence. To meet colleagues and clients, the following are indispensible for a lady: tights, shoes of a non-open-toed variety, a skirt of a sensible length and a crisply ironed blouse. Short sleeves are permissible but armpits on brazen display are not!

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

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