counselling: auntie ag and uncle ony

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Need somebody to love

I don't seem to be attractive to women. Things begin promisingly - I can develop friendships easily enough, I am kind and trustworthy - but at the merest hint of intimacy they disappear (apparently in a state of shock). Admittedly I have, in the past, been described by little old ladies as a "nice young man". Can this be my problem? Would I be more sexy if I bought myself a nice big car or if I spent a few years in prison?

Paul, Dorset

Uncle Ony: Much of attraction is based on confidence, Paul, and I'm afraid it is obvious from your letter that you are sadly lacking in it. Learning to love yourself is the greatest gift of all, as Miss Whitney Houston so rightly puts it. A course of therapy designed to bolster self- esteem is your best long-term solution, but in the meantime I suggest you embark immediately on some positive affirmations. Every morning, look deep into your own eyes in the mirror and repeat aloud: "I am an irresistible sex magnet and women can't help falling at my feet." It worked on Mrs Ony.

Auntie ag: Oh, darling, women do like "nice young men". In fact, they usually marry them. I would begin by taking a long, hard look at yourself. Do you smell? Are you still wearing flares? Do you still live with your parents? Such little details can often go un-noticed in the hurly-burly of everyday life, particularly among men without a civilising feminine influence in their lives. Then, forget about the whole thing. If you go out hunting, women feel like prey. If you just relax, they will come up and eat from your hand. (Though, actually, angel, a nice big car never goes amiss, since you mention it.)

going straight

After several tormenting years thinking I was gay, I get to university ready to "come out" and what happens? I feel as straight as a broomstick. I'm 21 and got off with a bloke for the first time recently. It was boring and turned me right off. I like the idea of being gay very much and feel betrayed by my own body. Should I just accept that I'm heterosexual?

James, Hampshire

Uncle Ony: You need accept neither that you are heterosexual or homosexual. There are plenty of points in between. What you should concentrate on is finding a partner that you care about, rather than racking up sexual experiences just for the sake of it.

auntie ag: Well, angel, some people just aren't very keen on sex at all, and perhaps you're one of them. I'm sure you will find lots of other lovely hobbies you can try instead to fill in time.

man with the child in his eyes

I celebrated my birthday recently and my dad gave me a dress. Both he and my mum think that it is absolutely the best thing I have, but it looks terrible! It is a very unflattering style, cut on the knee, and is a couple of sizes too large, so it just goes straight down. I am quite slight, so I look like an eight-year-old in a party frock (I'm 15). I would do anything not to hurt my dad's feelings, but I simply can't bring myself to wear it.

Anonymous

Uncle Ony: This is not about the frock, but about a far more fundamental issue: that of growing up. While your father would like to keep you at eight years old, you cannot wait to be an adult. Why rush away from your childhood? Enjoy being young and carefree while you can. Most of us would love the chance to be back in your shoes.

auntie ag: Oh, rubbish, Ony, there is nothing carefree about being shoved into a ghastly sack of a dress, and most people don't have the slightest desire to be 15 again. What you must do, angel, is express great enthusiasm for The Dress. And I'm afraid you'll have to wear it a couple of times - maybe round the house, or to some occasion where you'll only meet the family. On its final outing, The Dress must meet with a fatal accident. A spilled bottle of ink, a ghastly rip - and you must burst into tears. There might be a few cross words about clumsiness, but that's better than hurting your dad's feelings. Just hope he doesn't try to replace it for Christmas, angel. You'd better make sure that everyone knows exactly what you like before then. Or maybe you could take him shopping and choose something lovely together?

quick on the jaw

I read the other day that one should chew every mouthful of food 20 times to aid digestion, but when I try, it kind of disintegrates and disappears around chew 15. Is there something wrong with me?

Rita, London W11

Uncle Ony: It's excellent that you are taking such an interest in food and nutrition, and the well-being of your digestive system. Well done, Rita! Taking care of one's self is an important step towards a healthy feeling of self-esteem. If you are already chewing food to the point of disintegration, it can hardly be even more chewed. It is as chewed as it can be! And that's absolutely fine!

auntie ag: Don't panic, angel, evidently some foods just stand up better to chewing than others - steak, for example, versus, say, mushrooms. If you are really concerned about the number of chews per mouthful, perhaps when you have steak you could give it an extra few chews to make up for the times when you have mushrooms. (Ony, I've said it before, can't we weed out the loonies before they get onto the page?)

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