Real People: What's your problem?

Margaret Cook doling out sympathy in glossy mags? EMMA COOK imagines who might be next in the agony business




I'm a 45-year-old schoolteacher. Last year my husband Donald, a successful businessman, left me for a younger woman. He has always been very ambitious, putting his career before our family. I was willing to forgive that, but running off is the last straw. Yet I'm too ashamed to tell anybody, because in a way I feel it's my fault. What should I do?

Audrey Bryant, Tunbridge Wells

Dear Audrey,

Carrying the burden of your husband's deceit alone can be absolutely devastating, I know. So why on earth are you continuing to suffer in isolation? You know he was an utter bastard so why not let the rest of the whole world in on it? Take it from me, confiding in, well, half the nation, can really lighten the emotional load. Was Donald obsessive, arrogant, corruptible and vain? Woman's Journal would be really interested to hear from you - what about, say pounds 2,000, for a 1,000-word confessional? He was probably rubbish in bed - I'm sure our readers would love to hear about that. I really do recommend getting that dirty washing out in the open. And remember, a broken heart doesn't last forever, and certainly not as long as a pounds 175,000 advance from your publisher.

Anyway, it's not as if Donald's - or Robin's for that matter - relationship will last. Only the other day I confided discreetly to one newspaper that Gaynor isn't looking happy and is probably having trouble with her new role. Still, I'm over it now. Honestly, it really doesn't bother me at all. I'm having wonderful sex ten times a day with my new lover, and I only really think about Robin about, ooh, once every five minutes. Why, I can even look at my garden gnomes now without bursting into tears.

Yours, Margaret





I'm 14 and have fallen for a boy in my class, but he won't pay me any attention. I've tried it all - high heels, blonde streak and, during last week's chemistry class, I even wore a red Wonderbra in case he peeked when I leant over my Bunsen burner. My friends are sick of me moaning and have told me to "Get a life". Please help!

Tracey Halpin, Bournemouth

Dear Tracey,

Not getting enough attention can be a real bummer. Only last week I had to sack my manager for just that reason so I know what you're going through.

I think it's time you considered a makeover. The big bra, heels and highlights will just bring you misery. Even if he did notice you, he wouldn't see the real Tracey, would he? No, he'd just see a superficial attention-seeking bimbo with no real talent save a big gob and an eye for PR. God, it makes me so mad how people can stereotype a girl.

But you can fight it. Lie low for a few weeks to make him curious. It's essential you're taken seriously, Tracey, just like I am. Try to get interested in a worthy cause, like umm, campaigning for the UN. I know, it's not as interesting as a Miss Selfridge make-up counter but think of your image, Tracey. You'll look selfless, caring and if you drop in words like humongotarian, oops, I mean humanitarian disaster, you'll look brainy too. So ditch the make-up, tie your hair back, save your pocket money for a bit of Prada and wait demurely. If he asks you for a date, tell him your busy Saturday night counselling Kosovan refugees.

Oh, and ditch the friends. They sound like jealous old tarts to me. Don't worry they'll be pregnant soon and then you'll get all the attention - just like moi.

Love, kisses and Girl Power! Geri!





A friend of mine has just given me a Canon digital camera for my birthday. I'd love to start shooting stuff right away but I'm really worried about over-exposure - I've never been very good at judging light. Also I never know what makes for really good subject matter. What would you advise?

Barry King, Staines

Dear Barry,

One is constantly terrified of over-exposure, especially when one is about to marry. As for subject matter, don't get me started. How dare one's friend betray one so viciously. I mean, she should have sold the pic that managed to get both of them in.

No wonder one was so upset.

Regards, Sophie





I am a 26-year-old nurse and my husband is unemployed. We're planning to marry next summer but as you can imagine our budget is fairly limited. I know your wedding list was at Marks & Spencer so you're not that classy, yet you still looked like a stunning fairy-tale bride. How did you manage to make your wedding look so glamorous?

Tanya Woolf, Bromley

Dear Tanya,

I need to go back a few years to answer your question. The truth is that if a girl really wants a fairy-tale wedding, she has to work for it. For me no sacrifice was too great to secure a Lacroix dress, loving groom and doting in-laws. My first step was to leave Kent, have a boob job, dye my hair blonde and work with Bruce Forsyth on The Price Is Right. Mixing in such glitzy showbiz circles, it was only a matter of time before I met my darling James.

It was love at first sight, and it upsets me when I hear critics saying our relationship was a career move on my part. There were plenty of other things that would have made me famous - my stage debut in Ben Elton's Popcorn and, um, well, appearing on the National Lottery in, um, a skimpy dress. OK, OK, the name helps but that doesn't mean we're not in love. Our wedding cemented our true feelings for one another... (Please refer to Hello! for full transcript and meringue shots).

So, Tanya, true love is the key to looking glam on your wedding day - the pounds 400,000 that Hello! stumped up had nothing at all to do with my perma- smile.

PS M&S may not be classy but, like my in-laws, they're reliable, suburban and everybody's heard of them, and that's all that matters to me.

Kissy, kissy, Emma





When my girlfriend Polly told me she was pregnant I was so excited. Six months later she's put on two stone and I'm getting cold feet. Will I be attracted to Polly again? Will fatherhood be boring? It's not exactly rock 'n' roll is it, mate? Please reassure me. Sean O'Grady, Manchester

Dear Sean,

When Patsy told me I'd got her up the duff I was fookin' mad for it, do ya know worr I mean? I'm a fookin' new man, me. I'm fookin' mad for NCT classes at Primrose Hill. Fookin' breathin' exercises are top. Fatherhood is rock 'n' roll, take it from me. I'm so up for it, I've even written a song about our kid for the next album. It goes,

"When our kid's born he'll find a new wayeeeayeeeayy/around the world he find a happier dayeeeayyyeeayyy/the sun will sheyeeeeeaaaayne/an' we're all be feyeeeeaaaayne/

I know it's hard to fancy a fat chick, but it'll fall off after the birth. Well, I told Patsy it fookin' better. Anyway, I'll be at the birth and you should be too. You've got to keep an eye on her. You can't trust any of those doctors - if any of them are Man Utd supporters I'll fookin' twat 'em one.

Cheers, Liam