What's your problem?
INDISPENSABLE ADVICE FROM REAL LIFE'S AGONY AUNT AND UNCLE
Sunday 23 August 1998
We recently got back from a three week break in Greece, having hired a big villa with my husband's two brothers and their families, and including four adolescents ranging from ages 11 to 17. The weather was perfect, the island was idyllic and the villa was delightful, but the holiday was a nightmare, mainly due to these horrid children who bickered/snarled/ fought/sulked/drank too much/ didn't want to go out at all/only wanted to go clubbing. My husband's older brother, who organised this year's trip, is already making keen noises about next year, but frankly I have barely recovered from this year's jaunt and would rather not go away at all than go through it all again.
He says: The storms of adolescence should be looked on by adults with sympathy, not disapproval. After all, presumably you were young once yourself. And surely, with six adults on the scene, you could have found some kind of half-way congenial ways of occupying the time? While you deserve to enjoy your holiday as much as the next person, I'm afraid I can't help feeling it is rather spoilt to sniff at three weeks in the sun in this way; similarly, the opportunity to forge stronger family links is not one to be lightly passed over.
She says: What a frightful waste of time and money, angel. And there are few prospects more fearsome than being coralled for three whole weeks in a confined space with four sulky little beasts. If anyone deserves sympathy, it's you. Start laying the foundations for your excuse now, darling. Whenever you speak to any of your relatives, feign a slight but persistent deafness. Then, when the brochures are brought out by your eager brother-in-law, sadly explain that your doctor has diagnosed a mild but chronic ear infection, and has forbidden you to fly for the foreseeable future. Of course this means you won't be able to go anywhere by plane when you and your husband go off on holiday together, but I'm sure that having to take a cruise instead will be a penalty worth paying. Bon voyage, darling.
What is the etiquette about taking one's children along to lunch parties given by the childless? Is it okay or will I find myself ostracised?
Leonora, London SW1
He says: On this question I am with our European cousins: children should be included in social gatherings whenever and wherever possible. It helps to socialise them and teach them how to behave, and at the same time it encourages adults to acknowledge them and their individual wee personalities. Our society is not particularly friendly or patient towards children who, after all, are the little vessels of our future, and any moves towards changing this should be embraced with open arms.
She says: A lot depends on the child in question, angel. A small, immobile baby can be lugged around pretty much anywhere: the worst they can do is scream, in which case they can be taken outside. But an inquisitive, attention-seeking toddler is quite another matter and it is rather unfair to unleash one on the unsuspecting hostess. Quite apart from anything else, the house will not be safely child-proofed, which could have dreadful consequences - for your own social standing at best and for your sproglet remaining personally intact at worst. Imagine how you'd feel if, while you were daintily nibbling your caesar salad and sipping a buttery chardonnay, he or she was jamming biscuits into the video/scalping the cat/investigating the contents of the knife drawer/tottering towards the garden pond. Trust me, darling, it's simply not worth the bother.
One of my girlfriends has just slept with my best male friend. Although there has never been anything romantic between us, for some reason I feel invaded and upset, as though she is somehow moving into my territory. Am I being unreasonable or do I have a right to feel annoyed?
He says: I suspect that what you are suffering from is simple jealousy. I am sceptical about strictly platonic male/female friendships. Could it be that in your heart of hearts you would like to look upon this man as more than a friend, even if you are in deep denial about this? Acknowledge any such feelings, work through them, and let them go. He might surprise you by feeling the same.
She says: Do you remember the episode in Friends, ages ago now, where Monica went shopping with Ross's new girlfriend and Rachel was furiously upset and hurt because she and Monica always went shopping together? Well, darling, this is exactly the same thing, except that it's not quite a question of a quick trip to Bloomingdales. We can be just as possessive of our friends as we are of our lovers; you'd probably feel fed up if your two best girlfriends got together and started going out without you (even if they weren't sleeping together). It's not so much that you feel invaded, angel, as diminished; these two don't need you as a catalyst any more. Try not to feel hurt, and even if you do, don't show it. Believe me, they are both still your friend too.
I have just been diagnosed with short sight and will have to wear glasses or contact lenses from now on. I hate glasses, but I'm very squeamish about anything to do with my eyes. What can I do?
He says: My dear Maria, there's nothing wrong with glasses! I like to think my own lend me a certain gravitas and a more than passing resemblance to Michael Caine. Lots of attractive women wear glasses. And Scary Spice does, too. Do bear in mind that vanity is a very unpleasant vice; there is, paradoxically, nothing less attractive than a woman who is obsessed with her appearance. Just swallow your pride, take a deep breath and get used to seeing the world through four eyes instead of two.
She says: Well, angel, you have a stark choice ahead of you: either wearing milk bottles lenses over your eyes, or being a brave little soldier and getting to grips with those slippery bits of plastic. The only alternative is bumping into things a lot and getting the wrong bus on a regular basis. If I were you, I'd start thinking in terms of getting intimate with your corneas, darling.
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