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INDISPENSABLE ADVICE FROM REAL LIFE'S AGONY AUNT AND UNCLE
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OUR FINEST HOUR

I've started to get inordinately worried about next year's New Year's Eve. My husband wants us to go out partying to see in the new millennium, but what with all these rumours of millennium bug global collapse I can't help thinking that we should fill the cellar with bottled water and baked beans, buy a few buckets and a Primus stove, stock up with torches and candles, and settle in armed with baseball bats and the Le Creuset frying pan (an excellent weapon I have always thought) to repel looters and put out fires. What do you think?

Susan, Battersea

He says: Worrying about things you can't control is often a displacement activity. Is there some real issue in your life that you should be trying to resolve, rather than wasting time on fruitless fretting? You could try some calming yoga, or practise deep breathing exercises to help you keep things in perspective.

She says: Nobody in the whole world knows what will happen when all the counters crawl back to zero. The whole lot of them are guessing. What makes you think we might have some extra inside knowledge? We have no idea. Look on it as an adventure, possibly a completely horrible one. If you do decide to barricade yourself at home, don't forget to fill the bath to the brim with water and have a battery-powered radio handy (ask your grandma for Blitz tips if she's still around). Though of course all the baked beans and Le Creuset in the world won't save you if the gas main in your street goes up.

WHINGE, WHINGE

One of my New Year's resolutions for this year was to become a vegetarian and thus far it's going really well and I'm hardly missing eating meat at all. But there is one thing which is making me feel really disillusioned before I've hardly got going. The problem is one of my friends who is a committed animal rights campaigner and says it's pointless giving up meat if I still drink milk, wear leather and wool, eat honey, etc. This makes me feel I might as well eat steaks and sausages. Please help strengthen my wavering resolve and make me feel my efforts are worthwhile.

Rhiannon, Kidderminster

He says: Your friend is extremely misguided to batter at the roots of your fledgling convictions in this way. He (or she) is seeking to underline his (or her) superior will power and principles, and is probably masking some kind of inferiority complex and a lack of self-esteem. Of course your efforts are worthwhile: all efforts are. As that song goes, an inch is better than a mile in the right direction! Take no notice of your acid- tongued chum: just remember every little helps and your efforts are aiding fluffy chickens and baby pigs, even if you are saving fewer of them than your friend.

She says: Probably the best thing you can do for the sake of the world in general is to build a little mud hut and stay in it for the rest of your life, existing only on grass and rainwater. And get your smug friend to do the same.

GET METAPHYSICAL

What is the point?

Mick, St Albans

He says: This is one of the great fundamental problems that has troubled humanity since we first shambled down out of the trees. It is a rather large subject to tackle in this format but I am happy to give you a few thoughts on the question (perhaps I should say pointers!!). The most important thing is to give your life meaning by helping others; empathising with them, feeling their pain, wanting to help - in short, being unselfish. To introduce meaning into one's life one must be able to step away from one's own self-centred concerns and see things from others' points of view. In a nutshell, then, the point is to think of others before yourself and do a good turn every day: imagine you are a Brownie/Guide/Scout and you won't go far wrong!

She says: The point is the sharp bit on the end of a pencil.

PLAY THE GAME

I loathe and detest board games, a complete and pointless waste of time if ever there was one. The other night we went to a friend's house for dinner and after we'd finished our host brought out a whole selection of the wretched things, which were greeted with cries of joy by everyone else round the table. I begged to be excused and said I'd be more than happy to just sit quietly reading a book while they played, but I was led to understand in no uncertain terms that this would not be acceptable. I then had to endure hours of Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit and Rummikub. (The last is not so bad because it's simply gin rummy in a ridiculously souped-up and no doubt very expensive new form.) How can I avoid this kind of situation in future?

Charles, Exeter

He says: I'm afraid that when you are one of a group you really do have to accept gracefully the group consensus on what to do. Sitting on your own with a book underlines your disdain for the chosen pursuit of the moment and makes you look supercilious and unfriendly. So don't be an old curmudgeon, get into the spirit of things and have fun!

She says: Fail to understand the rules, keep getting the whole point of the game wrong, lose absurdly, and it's quite certain that, faced with a choice between the possibility of having you on their team or letting you read a book, your friends will let you sit out. Or offer an alternative: if you like card games like gin rummy suggest playing cards instead; you might well find that other guests share your preference and are quite glad not to have to draw an axolotl or name the highest mountain in Finland.

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