I am, though I say it myself, an extremely successful businesswoman, and at work I am a very competent person who is easily able to make decisions. Recently, however, I have found that, outside the office, I am unable to make my mind up to save my life. Things came to a head last Thursday. At work, I had decided to sell off our entire European sales operation, just like that. But then I went to buy a new duvet cover after work and found myself in a pathetic state of terminal dither, unable to decide between two contrasting designs. What is wrong with me? Am I going mad?
Joanne, London N1
Uncle Ony: The stresses of your job are causing you to "switch off" your decision-making abilities outside the office. You are subconsciously refusing to make your own decisions because you have a deep-seated need for someone else to take over, to relieve the pressure. Are you by any chance single? Acquiring an assertive partner would solve the problem instantly.
Auntie Ag: Oh, darling, of course you're not going mad. It's simply that, like many people, you underestimate what bloody hard work shopping can be. Buy both duvet covers, angel. The golden rule is, if a shopping dither seems to be running on too long, buy the lot.
Get the massage
My husband has started doing shiatsu, which he says makes him feel incredibly relaxed and sensual. But the other day I met his shiatsu teacher and noticed she is very attractive. He always returns from seeing her with a spring in his step and a grin like the Cheshire cat. Just how good is shiatsu meant to make you feel? And do most people do it three times a week?
Renate, London N5
Uncle Ony: Jealousy and suspicion, Renate, are two very destructive and negative emotions. Allowing them to fester will make you very miserable. I have no idea how good shiatsu makes you feel or how many sessions are reasonable per week. Why don't you sign up for lessons and find out for yourself?
Auntie Ag: For once, darling, Ony is on the right track. But don't sign up with the Sensuality Queen, instead dig out a gorgeous, lithe, young male instructor, then you'll be grinning like the Cheshire cat as well.
I just can't say no and it's making my life a misery. When I was the new girl in our office, I was naturally given all the most tedious, boring jobs, such as photocopying, typing, faxing. But I'm not the new girl any more, yet I'm still treated like the general dogsbody. To top it all, I went to the hairdresser's last week for a trim but was persuaded to have my hair all cut short. I really hate it - it makes me look like a boy. I'm too miserable to see my boyfriend or go out. I'm a Capricorn. Is this why I just can't say no? Please help me.
Natalie, London WC1
Uncle Ony: You urgently need a course of assertiveness training. This will enable you to firmly but non-aggressively stand up for yourself. You should also consult a therapist, who will enable you to get in touch with your inner rage. It's obvious that this situation is affecting your mood, and rather than converting your feelings into misery, you need to ferment them into a healthy state of anger (particularly when it comes to the hairdresser, who, at the very least, owes you a free session).
Auntie Ag: There is not the slightest point in getting angry with one's hairdresser, Ony, his power is too great. To deal with the hair debacle first, Natalie, I think this is quite separate to your general inability to say no, because it happens to everyone, darling. Every so often hairdressers go slightly bonkers and insist on trying to cut off everyone's hair. A lot of otherwise perfectly normal and assertive people say yes and regret it. It will grow again and be quite presentable by Christmas, angel, so don't worry. As for work, saying "no" is a very over-rated way of getting out of things one shouldn't or doesn't want to do. The people who constantly bark "No!" are generally the ones who are most disliked. It is quite possible to refuse a task without making an issue of it, however. Make sure you are always busy with tasks you enjoy and that are appropriate to your non-new-girl status. Then, when someone asks you to photocopy the chairman's Christmas speech 18,000 times, you can smile regretfully and say something along the lines of, "I'm afraid that I'm spending the rest of the week selecting all the photographs to illustrate the annual report." If you are feeling particularly brave, you could add "Angela [or whatever the name is of the current new girl] might be able to manage it..."
Luck don't live here anymore
A close friend of mine has just suffered a string of bad luck. The clutch went on her car, her cat somehow covered itself in engine oil and entered her shared house through the catflap, ruining the carpets, her horse went lame and finally one of her 12 sheep died. I am concerned for her, should she seek help?
Uncle Ony: There is no such thing as "bad luck", it is simply a manifestation of foolish superstition. All these incidents are quite isolated and unconnected and any attempt to seek "help" for bad luck is a return to dark ages witchdoctoring.
Auntie Ag: Yes, she should most certainly seek help, darling. I would recommend a mechanic, a steam-cleaning company and a vet.Reuse content