Aunty Ag: She is just being an old lady. Just like teenagers, driving the family crazy is what old ladies do, and just like teenagers, the more you tell them not to do what it is that's annoying, the more they will do it. So you will just have to put up with it.
Uncle Ony: You should not mock the comforting rituals that bring meaning to this old lady's life. The elderly deserve respect in a bewildering world that often moves too fast for them. Be kind. Remember, you'll be old yourself one day.
I have drawn the short straw in my office and have been nominated to organise this year's party. I am dreading it: there are so many potential pitfalls, because, like most, our office has lots of different types of people with different age groups and backgrounds in it. I think I have already made one mistake - I asked my colleagues to suggest what they would like to do and the replies were so varied - from a dinner-dance to a day out at a theme park - that I can't see any way of keeping everyone happy. Short of resigning, is there any way I can make the wretched task more palatable?
Richard, via e-mail
Aunty Ag: Holding a referendum was not a mistake: bringing an element of democracy into the whole sorry business is an excellent idea. What you must now do is put all the suggestions into a hat and, in front of the whole office, get someone to draw one out at random. This way, whatever is picked will not be your direct responsibility, although you may have to make it happen. So when you have to drag them all off to their in- line skating or tea-dancing and someone complains, you can say "But this wasn't my idea! You chose it!" and that will be that.
Uncle Ony: Why not suggest to your colleagues that this year you forgo the traditional but unpleasant ritual of eating too much ill- prepared food, drinking too much cheap plonk and generally making fools of yourselves, and donate the money that would have been spent on the party to an appropriate charity (perhaps Oxfam or Alcoholics Anonymous or the Samaritans). This way you will all get a warm glow but will not be left missing the last train home and waking up with a hangover.
My best friend is a transvestite but his wife doesn't know. He likes to come out on the town with me, dressed as a woman, and he actually looks quite glamorous when he's got all his gear on. Of course there's never any naughty stuff between us, but we do have a laugh and a dance and a drink. I've been prepared to go along with this up to now, but recently someone saw us out together, got hold of the wrong end of the stick, and told my partner, who now thinks I'm having an affair. How can I save the situation without giving my mate away?
Aunty Ag: Even if you pluck up the courage to tell your partner, I wouldn't expect her to be too sympathetic. If you are cavorting around town with what looks like another woman, even if it is in fact your best chum in a frock, it still makes her look pretty foolish, no? I think the only way you can resolve things is for you and your best friend to take her into your confidence - and invite her along on your nights out.
Uncle Ony: A relationship based on lies is no relationship at all - and omitting to tell the truth about something like this is as bad as telling barefaced whoppers. You and your best friend might both like to take this on board. If you can't trust your respective partners with this issue, you may as well resign yourselves to the fact that it will drive you apart in the end. There is only one solution - tell the truth and shame the devil, as all our grandmas used to say.
Send your problems to Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony at the Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL or firstname.lastname@example.orgReuse content