AUNTY AG & UNCLE ONY COLUMN

Should one persist in writing poetry if no one appreciates it? Or continue dating a gorgeous girl who's as thick as a plank? Never fear - Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony have the answers
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I am a keen writer of poetry but people I know are very sniffy about my efforts. Friends say things like I should read the works of classical poets, though I think it is better to be original. Why are they so dismissive and what can I do about it?

Michael, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: I am afraid it is a sad fact that lots of people don't like poetry, or understand it (rather like opera, Noh dancing and other eclectic and elusive forms of art). It is another sad fact that lots of poetry isn't very good (I'm sure yours is wonderful, though you didn't attach a sample). Why not keep your efforts for yourself exclusively, if the cruel words of others hurt your feelings? If, on the other hand, you plan to attempt to get into print, you could try smoothing the path of your slim volume of verse by knocking out a few best-selling novels first of all; this will make your publisher more amenable.

Uncle Ony: It makes me angry that these days the first reaction of people who hear about others' creative efforts is to sneer rather than encourage! We all need an outlet for our deeper feelings and this is often horribly lacking in the hectic round of modern life. Your so-called friends are emotionally constipated and you should ignore their foolish remarks.

There is this really gorgeous girl at work who I've had my eye on for ages. I finally plucked up the courage to ask her out for a date and we went for a drink. I was proud to be seen out with her as she is so pretty and quite a bit younger than me, but though she is nice, the trouble is that she doesn't seem to be very bright or cultured. She chattered on all evening about trivialities: clothes, work gossip and the like, so conversation wasn't a problem, but when I asked her what her favourite book was she said "Take A Break magazine" and when I suggested we went somewhere to eat we ended up in Burger King. Apart from this everything went swimmingly, to the extent that we are seeing each other again (we are going to the cinema to see some film about a spy who shagged someone). Do you think this gap between us will lead to long-term problems if the relationship progresses?

CS, Durham

Aunty Ag: There is something rather pot-and-kettle about you calling this young woman "trivial" when you are so obsessed yourself with looks and youth, neither of which are exactly the profoundest basis on which to found a relationship. And many might argue that virtues like kindness and patience are more important than a view on the relative merits of (say) Proust and Zola. You're lucky that she even arranged a second date; I suspect that she will be the one to break things off. She is probably even now telling her friends that you are nice but snobby, wondering if this will lead to "long-term problems", and deciding that, on balance, she can't be bothered.

Uncle Ony: If she is really young and pretty enough you can probably overlook the fact that she is thick as two short planks in the short term. But over time this may start to grate. Why not offer to make her out a reading list of the essential classics (I'd suggest not scaring her by recommending more than a dozen or so to start with) and take her out to the theatre once a week to a play of your choice? If this goes down well then she is probably not a hopeless case.

What is the correct thing to do if someone who works with you wears consistently horrible clothes? There is this woman in our office who has dreadful legs but insists on wearing very short miniskirts. We are wondering if we should say anything, because she really does look a fright.

Mary, Sarah and Susan, London

Aunty Ag: Say nothing. If she has not noticed by now that she has terrible legs, the shock of the news could be very upsetting for her. And she won't thank you for letting her know: no one likes the bringers of bad tidings.

Uncle Ony: This kind of subject is hard to broach with tact. Next time she wears trousers, pay her lots of compliments on how good they look and hope she is encouraged to wear them more often. At least with autumn coming in she is likely to go into black opaque tights, which improve most women's legs immeasurably.

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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