Archive for the ‘extracurricular questions’ Category

Reunite for Bowie?

January 27, 2016

Here’s a melancholy tale from an anonymous man:

There’s no fool like an old fool. And this old fool woke up the other day with the memory of a Bowie song in his head. He woke up next to his wife of almost 30 years, but the song was ‘My Death’ from the sound track of the Ziggy Startdust film.

Many years ago, I fell in love with a French girl, several years my junior. I was 21, she was still at school. We met on a Greek island, dancing to ‘Let’s Dance’ at a beach-side nightclub. To cut a long romantic story short, we had a short but terribly intense relationship, which involved me visiting her in Paris and she coming over to London. She was a Bowie nut and I translated some lyrics for her. Notably ‘My Death’. She also insisted I translate a line from ‘Fame’ that she’d been having trouble with: “Bully for you, chilly for me”.

She was my first real love, and I hers.

Anyway, she was too young to commit and I respected that. We drifted apart and a year or so later I met the future wife. Another year or so later and we had a kid on the way. It was then that my mademoiselle wrote to me at my parents’ address. She said that she was more grown up now and she was ready to be with me forever.

I wrote back – the hardest letter ever: ‘Thanks, but sorry, no thanks.’

Roll on 15 more years or so and with the internet comes one huge worm-can-opener. I found my long lost love and we exchanged a few emails, swapped news. She’d never got married or settled down; I had.

And now, with Bowie’s death, this memory was stirred up. I emailed her again, just to say ‘Hi, I’m thinking of you, hope you’re ok.’

She told me she was very upset and that she’s coming to the UK to pay homage in Brixton, Bowie’s birthplace. She asked if we could meet up for a coffee.

So, answer me this: should I meet her for a coffee?

Readers, go to the comments to advise anonymous man! Should he go for the coffee and risk restoking the flames with the one who got away; or stay home, stay true to his marriage, and stay wondering what would have been?

Quite possibly what would have been is that he’d go for the coffee and find that the woman is now more than 30 years older than the version of her preserved in his imagination, and he doesn’t actually have the hots for her in the present (and/or she for him).

But, let’s not kid ourselves: by now he probably has already been for the coffee. “Coffee.”


tower of romance

December 10, 2015


When romance and real life collide, problems happen, such as this one befalling Dave:

I recently became single after being with my ex for a bit over 3 years and I decided to try out some dating websites.

I was chatting for a few days with a girl and felt like it was going well, so I asked if she’d be prepared to meet up. And she was! So, we arranged to meet at Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth in about a week and a half. We didn’t actually set a time and she didn’t give me her number, but she said she was looking forward to it.

Then today (a couple of days later) I’ve seen that she has deleted her profile on the site where I met her so I have no way of getting in touch.

I guess I can do nothing and should just forget about it, but it occurred to me that if this was a film or a music video I’d go to Spinnaker Tower anyway and just wait there all day in case she does show up. Answer me this, do people actually do that in real life and should I?

Readers, sprint to the comments and weigh in: to live like a romcom, or to accept one has been ghosted?


the maternal bed

November 10, 2015



George in Brixton writes:

My aunt and uncle tried for years to have a baby, using all sorts of expensive treatment. When facing defeat, and after my uncle bought an Alfa Romeo as an ersatz object of affection, my aunt became pregnant. During the pregnancy the doctors discovered my aunt had a tumour which was preventing their earlier attempts at pregnancy. They removed the tumour, the baby was born, everyone was doubly ecstatic.

But now, 13 years later and probably because of the troubled pregnancy, my aunt is completely attached to her son. He literally hasn’t had a day away from her his entire life and they still sleep in the same bed together. My mum is very concerned about this but has no idea how to broach the subject. When they stay at mum’s house for Christmas she makes up the spare bed for their son and gives his parents her bed – in an attempt to make a point – but the dad just takes the spare bed and my cousin and aunt sleep in mum’s bed together.

This isn’t normal, is it? His voice has broken and I can’t help thinking about how I was when I was 13 – riddled with hormones and unpredictable boners. Surely he will suffer from arrested development?

Anyway answer me this: how on earth do you say to someone “Stop sleeping with your son”? Even drawing attention to it is incredibly awkward. How would you guys handle this?

These two thoughts are vying for supremecy in my brain:
1. “I’m not a parent, so I’m somewhat reluctant to weigh in on other people’s family situations – what do I know? And who decides what is ‘normal’ anyway?”
2. “I’m an extremely judgemental person! This is – this is – this is…problematic.”

So, readers, I delegate to you the task of going to the comments and dropping some advice.

And I’ll just throw in this secondary question: the aunt and uncle’s relationship still seems to be going. Is this good or bad?


fancy dress: the annual shit parade

October 28, 2015

These are probably going to be too small, TBH.


This time every year, we get questions about costumes. My preferred Halloween costume is ‘staying home’, but if you’re into this stuff, please do leap into the comments to advise these questioneers. We open with B in Seattle:

I work in a small office with six other people. Not by choice, I’ve apparently taken on the role of Human Resources (in addition to several other titles). I have zero HR experience. One of my colleagues has come to office in the past dressed as Aunt Jemima for Halloween. The problem is, she is white and completed the ensemble with black face. (more…)

Tinder help

October 13, 2015
Woman receiving roses online

Woman receiving roses online


Having been in the same relationships since the heyday of dial-up, none of us is qualified to answer the following questions; so if you’re a seasoned internet dater, we’d be very grateful to you if you’d shimmy over to the comments to advise the following questioneers.

Liam, 27, from London writes:

I’ve recently jumped back into the dating pool after having been in a relationship for the past 8 years, and like many people of my age group I’ve been using online dating to help me meet new people. Yesterday a girl that I’ve gone out with a few times (and gotten to know in the biblical sense) posted a picture on Facebook with one of her friends who I recognised as someone that only a day earlier I had matched with on Tinder.

So answer me this: What is the etiquette here? Should I tell the girl I’ve been seeing that her friend and I have both looked at pictures of each other and said “Yes I would?” Should I block the friend on Tinder in case things with this girl go well and hope that she doesn’t recognise me should we ever meet? Or should I gamble on the higher likelihood of them not making the connection together and just do nothing at all?

This doesn’t seem particularly controversial – or are we showing our Tinder innocence?

Daniel in West Sussex also requires your assistance:

Over the past few months after thinking about my current single status and lack of girls in my life I’ve reluctantly begun using the popular dating app Tinder.

Although I’ve made sure the pictures are the best they can be and had them approved by a friend and despite getting several matches over the past few months, I’ve not managed to have a two way conversation with any of them. I’ve tried saying the standard “Hi, how are you?” And even moved to the more imaginative, “Hi, great to meet you. How’s your day going?” I’ve had literally no response from any of these women. I think the trouble is I can’t really think of anything that I think might be appropriate to send that may get a response.

So answer me this: what could I say to someone on Tinder that might get a response and a conversation going? And is there anything I could possibly do to get more matches? Only had six in the past few months.

Go on. These people need you to be the Virgil guiding them through the nine circles of Tinder.


dog sitting

September 17, 2015


Anonymous Man is dogged by the following problem:

I recently offered to look after my aunt and uncle’s dog while they are away on holiday. I’m a student, and my timetable for that week is really quiet, so I thought I’d be nice and offer to do it.

I had assumed, although it wasn’t discussed, that they would give me some payment in return for me taking a week of my time to do this. It would cost them at least £150 to put him in kennels, but they would never do that as they would be worried he’d get upset in kennels. They earn a decent wage, could easily afford to pay me something, and without me doing this they wouldn’t be able to go on holiday.

It has however became apparent that they don’t intend on paying me for this. My gran spoke to them and asked if I was getting paid, to which the response was, “Oh no, he offered to do it, why would we give him anything?” She feels I should be getting paid, but that it would be rude for her to suggest they paid me something. I feel that although money wasn’t discussed up front, a week of my time is at least worth something, and I shouldn’t need to ask about it.

So answer me this: am I being unreasonable to expect that I should be at least getting something for my time, and is there any way in which I can tactfully ask for them to pay me? My dad would probably do it, but I don’t really want to put him in an awkward situation. Or am I just being greedy?

This is why you always negotiate the finances up front!

It’s too bad your gran didn’t push a little further, since she’d already made some inroads. See if she’ll act as your agent, in return for a cut of the resulting fee. Maybe she can play hardball and not only push up the money, but also persuade them to throw in some deluxe snacks.

But it is awkward to talk about money and even more awkward to have the awkward money conversation with family members, since any unresolved awkwardness now will return with interest at Christmas. Readers, what would you do? Advise Anonymous Man in the comments.


Angel Delight vs blancmange

August 19, 2015

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Here is a very important question from Katie:

I really like both blancmange and Angel Delight as puddings.

However my mother prefers blancmange and my father Angel Delight, so answer me this: which is the superior pudding?

Firstly: you are from a family of pudding retronauts.
Secondly: I discovered that blancmange used to be made with poultry or fish, which sounds even more disgusting than butterscotch-flavoured Angel Delight (which made me puke four times at my friend Olivia McLearon’s house in 1990).
Thirdly: this can only be settled democratically, so please VOTE:



August 6, 2015


Let there be light upon this question from Lizzie from London:

Regarding the glitter discussion in AMT319, Sarah from Chicago writes:

Helen compared it to a virus at one point, and in the theatre world (my profession) we have to deal with it a lot. So much that when you happen to find glitter all over everything, with no idea where it came from (costume, makeup, set, etc), it’s known as Glerpes. Glitter+herpes.

And now you know the name of the affliction your questioneer has.



Thanks Sarah.


out of the darkness into light

August 5, 2015



Let there be light upon this question from Lizzie from London:

I just got home and went into our bedroom to find my boyfriend sitting in the dark. I opened the blinds. He wasn’t sleeping, ill, watching a film or being Buffalo Bill (thankfully).

He claimed I was imposing my ideas on him. I said it was a universal truth that light is good in this world. We share the room and I was going to be in and out of it.

Help! (me win the argument)

Martin the Sound Man suggests that you illuminate the room for your own use, and make your boyfriend wear a blindfold. I suggest you VOTE:


boring job

August 5, 2015



Go to the comments because I really want to read your answers to this question from Johan:

I work at the Swedish equivalent to UK’s Royal Mail. As a terminal worker at one of the biggest post terminals in the country my job is really boring and sometimes stressful. I sort packages big and small and unload lorries filled to the brim with packages, but it is allowed to have headphones at work and your podcast keeps me from dying of boredom.

So answer me this: what is the most boring job you have had?

That is a GOOD question, Johan. Now, as a freelancer with a very messy career path, I’ve had a LOT of jobs – so many that I can only remember about 30% of them. Which is probably for the best.

I’ve had jobs that plunged me into greater despair and discomfort, but for pure brain-chewing boringness, I nominate the job I once had compiling the index for a book about the Queen’s stamp collection. It was not only dullllllllll, but fiendish – I had to make sure there were different entries for, say, King George V the person and King George V the stamp, subdivided by country…Oh god, sorry; merely typing that sentence reopened the vortex of tedium, and this time YOU’RE ALL COMING DOWN WITH ME.

UPDATE: a giant thread on this topic has erupted on our Facebook page.


double dads

August 5, 2015


John from Cambridge writes with a double dad dilemma:

My boyfriend and I are at the stage in our (same-sex) relationship where we can discuss adopting children to raise and provide a loving family for.

However, I find it hard in my own head to think of names that we can call ourselves to our children – using our first names seems both too relaxed and too formal at the same time, but the idea of having both of us called ‘Dad’ is a logistical nightmare when our kids want to get the attention of only one of us. Having one of us called ‘father’ and the other as ‘dad’ seems odd too.

So answer me this: what names can we call ourselves to our kids that allow us both to call ourselves ‘dad’ whilst differentiating ourselves from each other?

Readers, have you found a neat solution to this in your own lives? Summon up your helpfulness and go to the comments to assist John.

(A rather self-promotional aside: after the Allusionist episode containing people’s feelings about stepfamily terms, I did a Spoken AMA about it and there were a few interesting comment threads about the vocabulary for family members. Eg a numerical system; words that might be preferable to ‘step’; and, my favourite, someone’s uncle who has never called his wife by her name in THIRTY YEARS OF MARRIAGE.)


Mensa: secret joy, secret shame?

July 22, 2015


We’ve received the following email from A Dad:

My daughter’s school picked some of the students to sit the Mensa IQ test. The first we heard of this was when she received a letter saying she has a score of 159 and in the top 1% and she’s welcome to join. My daughter, who’s thirteen, is privately very pleased with herself but has no desire to tell anyone, likewise the wife and I have told no one apart from you right now in this email.

She enjoys school, is doing very well and has her path to university set in her sights and beyond. Now the three of us think it’s probably best to keep things low key and it’s just one tiny string to the bow, but answer me this: is there any time the Mensa bomb should be dropped eg gaining a place in 6th form or university? We suspect it could be a negative in the job market in future.

None of us have ever been Mensa members, so I defer to you readers:
i. When can you get the most mileage out of Mensa membership? I’m assuming when picking up people on Tinder.
ii. If you are a member, have you experienced negative side-effects? Eg the Sun describing you as a ‘boffin’ in an article about you?
iii. If you are an employer, would you think, “Ooh, a Mensa member? Top drawer!” or would you point and laugh at the boffin?