Counselling: Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony

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A TANGLED WEB

Two years ago I met my soulmate on the Internet and we've been e-mailing each other constantly ever since, having the best girlie chats. She lives in Rockford, Illinois, but we've got so much in common and I have told her my most intimate secrets. Now she's confessed that she's a he and says s/he's in love with me. I feel such a fool.

Martha, Birmingham

UNCLE ONY: Do you not feel the least thrill at having captivated someone else through the sheer attraction of your mind and personality, rather than any crude sexual lures? This is the kind of opportunity that many women would be overjoyed to explore. Why not continue your e-mail correspondence, though on a rather different level perhaps, and see what develops?

AUNTIE AG: Ony, this person (and I use the term loosely) is nothing more or less than a confidence-trickster snake-in-the-grass. Angel, don't feel a fool. One of the greatest pitfalls of the Internet is that it's very hard to detect a deceiver, and this certainly isn't your fault. E-mail him back, darling, saying that you also fibbed about your gender, for the fun of it, and that you are in fact a six-foot-two weightlifter called Warren. Then pull the plug on him.

BASIC INSTINCTS

I've met the love of my life. We've only been together for a month, but we both agree that nothing's ever been so right. What I want to know is, when are we supposed to pooh? We spend almost all the time together and I just don't feel ready to expose him to any bodily unpleasantness. He must be feeling the same, because I haven't detected so much as a whiff. I use loos in public places whenever I can, but it's not always convenient.

Desperate, Acton

UNCLE ONY: You say "nothing's ever been so right", when you can barely even acknowledge each other as human beings, as living, breathing, eating, "poohing" mammals? Michelle Pfeiffer poohs, George Clooney poohs, even the Queen poohs (sometimes. Or so we assume). I'm afraid that until you can accept each other as functioning humans, this relationship will go nowhere. What will you do if you ever go on holiday together and have an en-suite room where the facilities are virtually right there in the bedroom with you? Also you might both catch something dreadful from contaminated public convenience seats.

AUNTIE AG: One reads the most frightful stories of couples that will do absolutely anything in front of each other, darling, and I do think you're quite right retaining a bit of feminine mystique over this particular issue. But it doesn't mean you can't go at all. Assuming the bathroom has a lock on, discreetly vanish inside for a while - no need for a big song and dance, just slip off (you can always open the window after for a few moments). If you are really shy and need an excuse, plead contact lenses requiring urgent attention, or say you're going to floss your teeth: teeth-flossing is such an alarming spectacle that, however assiduous your amour is, he will not wish to witness it.

NOT SINGING BUT SHOUTING

I am having a birthday party later this month and am in two minds about hiring a karaoke machine. Would it be great fun or would it be terribly naff?

Alison, London SW17

UNCLE ONY: Anything that breaks the ice and helps all of your chums to mix and mingle will help to make your party go with a swing, so hire away without any qualms.

AUNTIE AG: Karaoke machines are fun for the person who's doing the singing, but less so for the majority who are doing the listening. Why waste money you could spend on champagne, darling?

FEED THE AGED

My grandparents are coming to stay later this month and, while I am very fond of them, they are the kind of people who consider buying ready-made meals to be a sin on a par with murder. I think it may be something to do with their ages and having experienced rationing in the war etc. "pounds 1.99 for a little thing like that, just potatoes and cheese! That's nearly 40 shillings in old money! And you could make it yourself for pennies!" are some of their tried and tested lines. They are staying for a whole week and I really can't face hauling them round the local beauty spots during the day and retiring to the kitchen to chop onions every evening. But they have made me feel it's somehow uncaring to buy stuff in and that home-cooked is far superior. Do you think it's acceptable to cater the whole week from Marks & Spencer?

Lorraine, Penzance

UNCLE ONY: When guests come to stay, their wishes and desires are paramount, a principle that holds true in nearly every civilisation. You really have an obligation to make their sojourn as pleasant as possible, so I'm afraid that a bit of vegetable-chopping is indeed in order. Why not get them to lend you a hand, and make the preparation of the meal as much of a shared ceremony as eating it?

AUNTIE AG: Good heavens, darling, it's an act of rare heroism to have granny and grandpa for a whole week, let alone peeling a bushel of potatoes on top of all that. Don't be dictated to: as you whack the foil containers into the oven, smile sweetly and say you would rather spend time with them than in the kitchen, a line that never fails.

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