Counselling: Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony

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SAY CHEESE DARLING, PLEASE

I have recently married a wonderful woman and I do everything in my power to keep her happy. Although she reassures me that she is perfectly content with our life together, she never ever seems to smile. She habitually looks so glum that other people have started to comment on it. I am starting to get quite paranoid and imagining that other people will think she has a miserable life.

Anonymous

UNCLE ONY: There is no art to find the mind's construction in the face, as a famous poet once observed. So your wife isn't a giggle a minute. If you and she know she is a happy bunny at heart, what does popular opinion matter?

AUNTIE AG: Tell everyone she's had her face injected with paralysing botulin to prevent wrinkles, darling, and it has been rather over-super- effective.

A CREEP IN MY SANDWICHES

There is this slightly loopy chap at work who comes round selling sandwiches and he is always cracking unfunny and totally inappropriate jokes (they are not terribly smutty or anything, just silly). Everyone else coldly ignores him but I made the mistake of talking to him once, just to be polite, and now he makes a beeline for me every day and starts off on what is practically a stand-up routine by my desk ("Har har, got a great one for you today, Lorraine, as the bishop said to the actress!" and so on). It is driving me mad, and everyone else round me, and I know they are blaming me for "encouraging" him, but I was only trying to be kind and now I dread his daily visits.

Lorraine, London SW10

UNCLE ONY: It sounds to me as though this poor man is suffering from a dysfunctional social sense. After all, if one is a sandwich seller one comes round, sells sandwiches and shuts up, unless one's banter is of an exceptional quality and evidently welcome. It also sounds as though he would be an unwilling candidate for therapy (alas, so often the case with those most in need!). I would buy him a small handbook on etiquette and manners, and mark those passages that relate to the workplace with a highlighter pen; a subtle but unmistakable hint that his behaviour is unacceptable.

AUNTIE AG: How galling, angel, to be stuck in this position just because you tried to be polite. The minute he comes into view, snatch up the phone and dial the speaking clock, then engage it in animated conversation. Do not make eye contact or acknowledge his presence. Remain on the phone as long as is necessary.

SHORN AND SUICIDAL

I have just come out of the hairdressers, where I had my hair cut short and I hate it. Help me. I am suicidal. The worst thing is that I smiled, thanked the hairdresser approvingly and left a huge tip.

Suzanne, Cambridge

UNCLE ONY: I don't see why you are suicidal. It will grow back. Just give it time and try to calm down.

AUNTIE AG: Oh, darling, don't despair. Everyone hates their new haircut when they first have it done, it's part of the human condition. Wait until you've washed it and fiddled with it a couple of times and it will all seem much less strange and scary. As for the smiling/ tipping: no-one ever creates a scene in their hairdressers because, quite sensibly angel, no-one wants to mess with scissor-wielding maniacs.

NOT DRINKING ON THE JOB

I recently gave up quite a heavy drinking habit. At work we'd always be at the wine bar in the evenings, chatting and having fun, but I realised I was coming in four days out of five with a hangover and my consumption of Resolve was reaching record levels. So I just stopped. But the problem is that this has completely altered my personality. From being all busy and efficient and driven, I have become all placid and laid-back and don't- care. My colleagues have started to notice the difference (also I miss the after-hours gossip and chat) and while being alcohol-free is actually quite pleasant in many ways I can't help feeling that in the long term my career may suffer and also that I have become a boring old cow.

Jan, Pontypridd

UNCLE ONY: Your career may suffer but think of the great advantages to your health! Wine is a good servant but a bad master. You have knocked wine down to being your slave, so don't go back to your old bad habits. By all means socialise with your workmates but sip a glass or two of fizzy water instead of an alcoholic beverage.

AUNTIE AG: Oh, darling, on the wagon is a dreadfully dull place to be. Just hop off again and you'll feel much more like yourself. This little break will probably mean you want less when you go back to it: moderation in all things, angel, and remember, a few glasses of wine of an evening make the world go round.

THE PRICE OF A BIG DIAMOND

My long-term boyfriend has just presented me with a massive diamond ring and asked me to marry him but I'm not sure that I want to.

Angela, Crewe

UNCLE ONY: It is time for a frank discussion between the two of you about exactly what you want out of your relationship and where you see yourselves in 10 years' time, whether you wish to start a family and if so, whether you want to do it with each other. No relationship that is not based on honesty can last.

AUNTIE AG: Massive diamonds don't rain out of the trees. At least if you're thinking about it seriously you get to hang on to the ring, angel.

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