I am an agony columnist working on a well-known daily paper. I try to deal with people’s problems as they arise, but of course we agony aunts have our own problems too. You may have read that Anne Landers in the USA has recently confessed to recycling old problem letters she got in the 1969s, as indeed has her sister who writes the Dear Abby column, even though they get over 100 new ones a day. Well, perhaps the strain of having a famous sister is too much for both of them. What I want to know is, where can agony aunts turn to when they are in agony?
Aunty Miles writes: I am starting a new column today, simply to answer queries like yours from problem-solvers who until now have had nowhere to turn to for help with their own problems. I think that solves your problem.
Dear Aunty Miles,
I write a column under the rubric of ”Ask Deirdre” for a big local daily, and I get many woman-to-woman letters every day pleading for advice. What is odd about this is that I am a man (my wife used to do the column till she had a nervous breakdown, though the editor thinks she is still doing it.) Nothing wrong with this, of course, except that recently I have taken to wearing make-up and putting on women’s dresses in secret, which I think is wonderful. I would tell the editor, except that I think I am falling in love with him.
Aunty Miles writes: First of all, may I say how nice it is to see the word “rubric” back in circulation? Secondly, I don’t think there is anything wrong here that can’t be cured by a good man-to-man talk with the editor or, if things have gone very far, a good woman-to-man talk. If he is a kind, supportive, caring editor he will understand your problems and welcome your new role in life. If, on the other hand, he is like the kind of editor we get in Fleet Street, then you will have a whole set of new problems, in which case write to me again.
By the way, did you see the Peruvian frocks featured in The Times recently? I find them absolutely divine for slopping around the office in.
Dear Aunty Miles,
The editor of the paper I write an agony column for has recently been coming to me with his problems – mid-life crisis, stale marriage, all that sort of thing. Now, to make matters worse, he has fallen in love with me and wants to take me away for a romantic weekend. I am at my wit’s end over what to do, and feel like giving up my job, which isn’t all that well paid anyway. What should I do?
Aunty Miles writes: Ask for a huge rise immediately.
Dear Aunty Miles
There is so much misery contained in the letters I get from readers and so little chance of my being able to help them that I go through long periods of intense depression at the wretchedness of the human condition. What on earth can I do?
Aunty Miles writes: Stop being an agony columnist and take up philosophy or something. Is a policeman surprised by human fallibility? Do Doctors long for healthy people to come bounding into their surgery? Personally, I derive great satisfaction from hearing about the problems of agony aunts. Your particular letter cheered me up no end. I, at least am obviously suited to the job.
Dear Aunty Miles,
We agony aunts are often accused of making up the letters we supply the answers to. What is your answer to this?
Aunty Miles writes: I am glad I asked me this question. All these inquiries are perfectly genuine; I merely typed them out again for the sake of convenience.
(If you are an agony aunt with personal problems, send them in complete confidence to Aunty Miles, who will publish them in full in this space.)
The Times May 13th 1982