Counselling: Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony

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Indy Lifestyle Online
curse of the mummy

I have a seven-month-old baby and I adore motherhood. The problem is my husband. He is a so-called New Man and, in fact, quite a well-known commentator on men's rights. But he works terribly long hours, so guess who gets landed with the endless chores while he pontificates to all and sundry about shared parenting etc etc. Our friends think he's a bloody saint and tell me how lucky I am, but frankly I'd rather have a beer-swilling nappy-phobic - at least I'd know where I stood.

Karen, Islington

Uncle Ony: I can only think that you have never endured life with what you picturesquely call a beer-swilling nappy-phobic. Even if your husband can't always share the parenting experience because he is out slaving away to keep you in Pampers, at least he understands what you're going through and is with you in spirit.

Auntie Ag: Oh, darling, take to your bed with a nasty case of flu or a bad back or something. Or better still, if you are the kind of person who won't be able to resist investigating the screams and crashes that will surely filter up from downstairs, stay with a sympathetic friend for a week. It sounds like nothing would do your smug husband more bloody good than to be left holding the baby.

making a meal of it

I had a rather unfortunate experience the other weekend while taking my wife out for supper. We went into a restaurant we hadn't tried before and I was shocked and horrified when our waiter turned out to be someone who works part-time in my office. He explained he had two part-time jobs on the go - one at the desk opposite me and the other in this eaterie. My evening was ruined. First, I felt we had to drink an unnaturally sensible amount rather than going for the second bottle of wine, and that every time he came near we had to be sitting up straight holding an intelligent conversation about single mothers or the politics of Algeria, rather than rambling on companionably as normal. And the tip: what a nightmare! Should I have left an extraordinarily large one, to show solidarity, or none at all, so as not to be patronising? What is the correct etiquette for such a situation?

Mark, Leicester

Uncle Ony: Why so shocked and horrified? There is no shame in earning an honest penny waiting on tables. I think that you were thrown by the sudden overturning of the equal/equal dynamic into a server/served relationship. But there is nothing demeaning about any job as long as it is voluntary and paid. Is your behaviour normally so shameful that you feel you must modify it in front of a colleague? As for the tip, 15 per cent is customary, I believe.

Auntie Ag: This doesn't happen often, angel, so there is no specific etiquette involved. Never mind the minutiae of tips and so on: if you didn't enjoy the evening don't go back. But I'm sure you'd already worked that out for yourself.

TOUCH TOO MUCH

The male colleague with whom I share an office is extremely tactile; he greets me in the morning with a bear-hug and thinks nothing of throwing an arm around my shoulders. The other evening after going out for a drink, he even kissed me on the cheek while saying goodnight. I don't have the slightest fear of any sexual overtones, but I still find it a bit much. How can I get him to tone it down a bit, without being rude or crude? He is part-French and I think this may be the reason he behaves the way he does.

Martin, Edinburgh

Uncle Ony: If only all British men behaved like your colleague, Martin, the country would probably be a happier place. On the continent, men think nothing of greeting each other with hugs and kisses. It is only in the colder northern countries that valuing one's man-to-man friendships and being in touch with one's feelings is seen as "cissy". Non-sexual displays of affection are something we could all work much harder at, and you could take a few tips from him, rather than seeking to stamp on his natural joie de vivre.

Auntie Ag: He does sound rather sweet, angel, but I can understand that you wouldn't want to share an office with someone who constantly acts like an American politician on the campaign trail, all touchy-feely. What you need to follow is a time-honoured technique familiar to women everywhere: always try to keep a piece of furniture between you and him. You won't completely avoid his Gallic exuberance, but a well-placed desk or chair or even large plant will cut it down to manageable levels.

IRRITATING SPICE

My children, aged eight and 11, are besotted with the Spice Girls. At home, I am bombarded with them; music, posters, merchandise, drinks, crisps and sweets. (A huge proportion of our money seems, in fact, to be flowing straight into their pockets.) Plus, I cannot cross the street without encountering them in some form or other. Have I missed something? Why is everyone so keen on these five perfectly ordinary young women?

Margaret, Birmingham

Uncle Ony: The delightful freshness of the Spice Girls has struck a chord in everyone who is young at heart - including myself. Their youthful gaiety is particularly appealing; who can resist their delightful yet naive bounciness? Plus, apparently a couple of them can sing quite reasonably well.

Auntie Ag: Oh, rubbish, Ony, any bounciness of theirs that you appreciate is more physical than spiritual. And they are about as naive as Peter Mandelson. Margaret, angel, it is what is known as a cynical marketing ploy. Why so many people have fallen for it, I have no idea.

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