PRINCIPLES DON'T HELP

I'm PA to a senior executive. Among other things, I do a few personal errands for him. I don't resent this, I accept it as part of my job. But my boss, who I've worked for for two years, is stretching things a bit. As well as organising his wife's birthday and anniversary, I've been doing the same for his mistress. Now I feel dreadful about it. Recently I finally met his wife at a company function. She's a sweetheart. I can barely live with myself; I can't go on betraying her. I don't want to leave a job that otherwise I love, but is it too late to put my foot down?

Wilhelmina, via e-mail

He says:

The loyalty of one's staff should be unquestioning: it's part of the job. You have a contract with your employer. Suppose the next "super nice" person you meet at a party happens to be the MD of a rival company? You've been doing this for two years and swallowed the affront to your principles without choking; it's a bit late to suddenly head for the moral high ground.

She says:

Putting a face to a name must have been quite a shock. Quite possibly, of course, the mistress is equally delightful. However, do not make any attempt to influence your boss to regulate his private life; there's too much you don't know about the situation. Don't make an ultimatum. You don't have to buy gifts for this woman if it makes you feel uncomfortable; politely and firmly plead pressure of other duties - he'll soon get the message. But the situation will continue to exist whether or not you send the odd bouquet of flowers, so I would see if you feel calmer in a few days.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

My son Crispian is four years old, and we make great efforts to bring him up to eat healthily. When we have his friends round for tea, it isn't a problem because what we eat is not only organic, it's delicious. The problems come when he goes to someone else's house, particularly if it's a birthday party. Poor little Crispian comes home all over-excited and hyped-up from sugar and chemicals, runs round the house, and is then violently sick. I don't want to forbid him to eat what his friends eat, or make myself out to be moralistic and smug by mentioning it to the other mothers, but I dread it when he goes to other kids' houses.

Coral, via e-mail

He says:

It is perfectly normal for kids to scurry in circles and throw up after a party. This is what kids do (and, indeed, many adults). But assuming it is because of his diet, don't you think it is cruel of you to sensitise your son to so many of the foods that he will come across at other people's homes. He isn't going to have much success as an overnight guest or on school trips if crisps make him puke. By all means stick to your healthy diet, but do allow occasional deviations. Quite apart from the social implications, if you stick too firmly to a restricted diet you are asking for an almighty rebellion at some stage. By the time Crispian is a student he will be living on a diet that consists solely of doner kebabs.

She says:

This is a good opportunity to reinforce Crispian's dedication to healthy eating and introduce him to the concept of cause and effect. The next time he throws up, tell him that it's because of the crisps, cake and so on. If the poor little mite starts associating sugar with heaving his guts up, he will avoid them like the plague, for the rest of his life.

NOT WHAT THEY THINK

Recently I went to a party where I couldn't drink anything alcoholic because I was taking antibiotics for an ear infection. The problem is that normally I enjoy a few glasses of wine, and everyone has jumped to the wrong conclusion and assumed that I must be pregnant. Two friends who weren't at the party have since called to congratulate me and I feel embarrassed.

Marcia, via e-mail

He says:

How encouraging to see so many of our readers taking advantage of our new e-mail address (which you will find below). You must move in very hard-drinking circles if the only possible excuse that anyone can conceive of (ho ho) for not drinking is pregnancy. I would suggest that you look hard at the amount of alcohol you are getting through in a week and consider cutting down.

She says:

You can hardly phone everyone who was at this gathering, and disabuse them individually, so I would do nothing, just maintain a sphinx-like calm. After all, in a few months it will become quite obvious that you are not with child. No need for embarrassment: personally, I would rather have people assuming that I was pregnant than that I had some nasty infection.

GREEN EYED MONSTER

I hate to admit it, but I have a completely absorbing and irrational jealousy of my best friend. We've known each other ever since we were little and we went through some less than friendly patches through our teenage years. Recently we've been seeing

an awful lot of each other and every time she meets my friends, they end up going on for hours about how beautiful/ witty/kind etc she is. In a way I'm proud of her, but I'm sick of hearing about her all the time. To top it off, my new boyfriend has started singing her praises. What shall I do?

Yasmin, via email

He says:

It's such a shame that

modern young women such as yourself can't shake a little old fashioned jealousy. Your friend, I dare say, is absolutely lovely and has no idea what effect she is having on you and your friends. Perhaps you should take a close look at your own

insecurities. Are you worried that your boyfriend has a roving eye? Do you worry that your friends do not value you? There are plenty of self-help manuals at all major book shops. I suggest you go and peruse.

She says:

You poor lamb! You should be applauded for recognising the green eyed monster in yourself before everything gets terribly out of hand. You're suffering the pleasure/ pain principle, dear. On one hand, you love your pretty, kind friend. On the other hand, you'd like nothing more than for her to make a whopping great fool of herself. Why not make an huge fuss of her? That way, not only will she think you're wonderful, but everyone else will see how delectable you truly are.

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