Agony Uncle (4)

December 21, 2010

To give me some time to write all the half-formed blog posts in my “drafts” section, I’m going to upload this final Agony Uncle article. You can date the article very easily, because joking about Gordon Brown’s smile was still considered cutting political satire. I also compare long-distance relationships to bowling the perfect leg-break. Enjoy!

‘I just started dating this guy a few weeks ago. We are both final years and will be moving away from Birmingham after the end of exams. I want to know whether we will still continue our relationship after we finish university but don’t know how to breach the subject. What should I do?’

Well, congratulations on starting a relationship so soon before your finals. You obviously have the unfortunate timing of a Gordon Brown smile.

It’s a blessing in a way – it’s nice to have a sympathetic ear during exams. Everyone who does their finals has a breakdown of some sort, whether it’s just pre-exam jitters or a full-blown stressathon when your brain turns into mushy peas. My then-girlfriend was a rock during my finals, and that is something I will be forever grateful for.

There are a couple of months before you leave Birmingham to develop the relationship and see where you should take it. Do not mention the subject before exams – both of you will have enough on your minds without worrying about things like that.

If your boyfriend does not want a long-distance relationship, for whatever reason, that suggests he has some sort of commitment problem, and this would only manifest itself in other ways outside the distance problem. Yes, long-distance is hard. But there are lots of difficult but important, worthy activities. Revision. Bowling the perfect leg-break. Finding a cure for swine flu. And so on. Stick with it – it may only be for a short while.

Long-distance relationships don’t break down because of the distance, but because of other underlying problems. If your personalities clash and it turns out that you are unsuitable to be together in a relationship, the long-distance may exacerbate these problems, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there in the first place.

So put the subject forward at a later stage in your relationship when both of you will have a better idea of whether you want to continue with it. Long-distance can be crap, but can work. I know of more successes than failures amongst friends in this department. So I wish you the very best of luck!


Agony Uncle (3)

December 19, 2010

The latest release from my archives. It’s short but sweet. Enjoy!

A friend of mine from home is in first year at another university and is having trouble settling in. I am in the middle of deadline period, but I feel I should do something to help. Should I intervene, and if so, what should I say?

Well, kudos for wanting to go and also for being a good friend. This period is a stressful time generally. Not as bad as exams, when you hear people in the library saying, “I don’t understand; I’ve taken four Pro-Plus and I’m still tired”. But it’s stressful nonetheless. You should see your friend, mainly because it may get them in the habit of socialising and interacting with people again. Once you’ve done that, you can talk to your friend about their problem.

What’s the trouble settling in? It surely cannot be pressure of work. I like to think of myself as a good student, but really, first year is not the time to stress out on work. Leave the working until it actually counts for your degree mark.

Alternatively, are they being shunned by housemates and coursemates? With problematic housemates, as with any problem, there should not be any issues that a nice cup of tea and packet of digestives couldn’t fix. If the problem is more serious than this then there are avenues of complaint that you can turn to. If one of your friend’s housemates has anger management issues, university authorities should be notified.

Anyone I know at university who had problems making friends (I don’t know many; but by definition you don’t know many reclusive loners) just did not socialise enough. That doesn’t mean going to Broad Street, drinking your body weight in WKD and then sleeping with a stranger. It just means going to societies that might interest you, or talking to the person you end up sitting next to in lectures; little things like that. There will be people at your friend’s university who will make great friends for them. It’s just a case of finding them.


Agony Uncle (2)

December 13, 2010

The second of my Agony Uncle columns what I wrote for Redbrick Lifestyle in my mis-spent youth:

I made out with someone at a nightclub when I was drunk. Now she keeps texting me and pestering me. I don’t want anything serious, but I also don’t want to hurt their feelings. What should I do?

So, some guilt-free snogging turned out to be not-so guilt free. I have limited sympathy for you, I’m afraid. About the same level of sympathy I have for Conservative Party candidates who lose an election. I can try and be empathetic, but I did not really approve of their cause in the first place.

Still, we have all done things when drunk and then regretted it. Once, for instance, I got a little tipsy and joined the Labour Party. Now I have let my membership lapse, for a few reasons. I won’t bore you with the details, because this column is meant to be about your emotional problems not my political ones. Still, it’s the same sort of issue – you are getting texts from a lady you once snogged, I am getting letters asking me to renew my Labour party membership. It is a similar conundrum.

For my part, I keep my relationship with Labour on good terms, as a critical but loyal friend. The question is, what terms do you want to be on with this woman. I’m guessing from your query that a relationship is out of the question. Do you actually want to be friends with her at all?

Hardly likely, because you know nothing about her apart from the fact that she kisses strangers when drunk. If you genuinely don’t want to see her again, you could just wait for the texting to stop.

And if it doesn’t, you could always change your phone number.

Though that seems a little drastic, and not quite the gentle put down I’m sure you’d like to give her, because you are a friendly person, after all.

Just text her back, saying you don’t want a relationship and you’re sorry if she got the wrong idea. If you want to be really nice, you could ask her for a drink as friends just to clear the air. Just don’t get drunk and snog her then, or we’ll have a rather vicious circle.


Agony Uncle (1)

December 1, 2010

Apologies for the lack of blogs. I’ve spent the past week finishing off the latest draft at my thesis, which has now been e-mailed to my supervisor. I therefore have a few days to write all the half-posts I’ve been forming in my head and in my notebook, and hopefully they shall appear soon. Before that, though, something else from the archives:

Last year I wrote some Agony Uncle columns for Redbrick’s Lifestyle section. I enjoyed writing them at the time, because they were far different from any other writing I’d done up til then. I’m fairly proud of them too, in an odd way, because they were a mixture of political satire, cricket and life advice. I never uploaded them to The Golden Strawberry, so thought I’d post them here for the sake of completeness. There’s four in all, and here’s the first one. Enjoy!

‘Two of my best friends, who have been dating, have recently split up, and I’m stuck in the middle. I don’t want to take sides, but they are both asking me for advice and information on the other person. Should I try to juggle them both, or bow out all together?’

First of all, you shouldn’t try and take sides. I speak as someone who instinctively tries to place himself in the (relatively) sane, wet middle ground between two equally insane extremes. You have no obligation to “side” with one party or another. Relationships break up. England lose cricket matches. These things happen. As long as one side hasn’t behaved like a complete twonk, you can keep a friendship with both and should not be forced into disowning either party by the other.

If they are trying to use you to lever information on the other person, to find out if they are seeing someone new, for instance, then use one simple rule: If it’s on Facebook, you can talk about it.

Strange though it seems, Facebook is now the public domain, and while everyone has a right to a private life, if it’s on Facebook it’s public knowledge. So if X’s relationship status changes, by all means tell Y if Y asks. Otherwise keep schtum, because X doesn’t want people to know.

Similarly, if X has a catastrophic Facebook status along the lines of, “X is sick of men and is never ever ever ever going to talk to one again because they’re all BASTARDS” then it’s fair to say that you can divulge that information.

Otherwise there is no reason you should give out information that you have received confidentially, and your friends should be ashamed for trying to illicit this sort of information from you.

If you are asked for advice or support from your friends then you should give some as required. Don’t “bow out” as that could mean you desert your friend when they need you most. But don’t stick your nose in where it’s not wanted. Juggle, and eventually everything will blow over and the world will be right again.


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