counselling

THE SPOILS OF WAR

I have a couple of friends who are very fond of "paintballing", during which large guns are used by pretend soldiers to shoot pellets of paint at other combatants. Anyway, quite some time ago, one of the friends came first in a shoot-out, defeating the other in a close-fought competition; for this, he was awarded a "Top Gun" trophy. However, during an evening out recently, I learned that the "victor" had in fact cheated, and the title of Top Gun should have gone to his friend. My dilemma is, should I reveal to my friend that he was the rightful victor, or should I avoid re-opening this old wound?

Olivia, Fulham

UNCLE ONY: I find this whole ethos of transforming violence into sport quite distasteful, particularly for young ladies. Warfare is a dreadful, throroughly nasty business and reducing it to a game deadens our responses to guns and shooting, which should be one of horror. Perhaps not being "Top Gun" will have put your friend off this horrid pastime; in which case, not winning will have been a thoroughly good thing for him.

AUNTIE AG: You will open up a terrific can of worms angel if you start trying to rake all this up again now, so I'd keep quiet. Also it strikes me that the cheating friend actually deserves his victory; you don't win at warfare by scrupulous sportsmanship, darling, remember, all's fair in love and war.

ON THE COUCH

I have been seeing my shrink twice a week for five years now. In the past, she has often been just brilliant - she has helped save my life and changed it 100 per cent for the better. But now I am just bored and annoyed by her "interpretations", and dying to get out. Every time I suggest I leave, though, she says she doesn't think I'm ready; I start to worry that she's in love with me or something, or with the easy money she gets from me every week. Should I trust her for old times' sake? Or should I show my independence and just leave?

Richard, Berwick-on-Tweed

UNCLE ONY: My dear sir, you do not just "leave" a psychiatrist. ("Shrink" indeed!) This lady is a trained professional who will be making a careful observation of your behaviour; if she says you are not ready to toss aside the support she has been offering you then, believe me, you are not! As for thinking she may be in love with you: it is the patient who falls for the psychiatrist, not the other way around. Are you sure you're not in love with her?

AUNTIE AG: I'd give it a go, darling. Strike out! After all, a few years ago your mum probably didn't want you to leave home without your vest on. And surely you can always go back if you find you miss her? To the shrink, I mean, angel, not your mum.

BROTHERLY LOVE

Appreciation - how do I show it? My younger brother has been a pillar not of salt but of strength recently. He is in his late twenties; how does an older brother show his regard for everything he has done?

Jonathan, Isle of Wight

UNCLE ONY: How wonderful that you are prepared to reveal and share your feelings in this way! So many men, particularly in this country (though of course you are more southern than most!) are far too shy of showing their emotions and I'm sure your brother will be touched and delighted. Why not capitalise on your mood of the moment and book two places on a mens' workshop, where you can work on your emotional lives together?

AUNTIE AG: I'm sure he already knows just how you feel, darling. After all, you are brothers, and there must be a certain mutual affection if he is prepared to help you out so selflessly. Look out for a chance to reciprocate, sweetheart, that is the best way of all to show appreciation.

HIP AND TRENDY

I have recently turned 35, and my problem is that I don't know what sort of clothes I should be wearing. I like trendy clothes, and think I can probably get away with them - I'm small and slim. But I also think it inappropriate for a woman of my age to be trendy. And I don't think "getting away with it" is how I want to be feeling about the clothes I wear. So what should I be doing? I don't want to start wearing dull, shapeless M&S type clothes - but I don't want to be mutton dressed as lamb either. And I don't have the money to "invest" in a Prada suit.

Lucille, London SW19

UNCLE ONY: I don't see why a woman of your age shouldn't be trendy; or fairly trendy at any rate. After all you still have five years to go before the doldrums of your forties and if I were you I'd make the most of them. Clutch as hard as you can at the last vestiges of youth, because, believe me, they are fleeting. Go go out and buy some of those cut-off trouser things that everyone seems to be wearing.

AUNTIE AG: The best tip I know, angel, involves detective work. For the next few weeks, make a special point of observing women of about your age and build, and whenever you see one who looks either as you would like to look or completely disastrous, make a careful mental note of what she's wearing. This way you will get a pretty detailed idea of what looks good and what looks awful and when you finally hit the shops you will be able to do it with some confidence. And don't be too sniffy about M&S, darling, their collection this season is generally admitted to be quite a triumph.

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