Monday 25 June 2012

Writing agony aunt columns by committee (Who's the goat of your life?)

Okay, so I write an agony aunt column for Natural Health magazine. Each month I’m given a dilemma and I have to come up with some sage words of wisdom for the unfortunate soul in distress. Don’t ask me how this came about as I too doubt my credentials for this role.
Anyhow. This month’s dilemma rolled in.

"Dear Jane. I have a really good relationship with a genuinely kind, nice man. I know I should count my blessings but I just can’t stop thinking about my ex – who is quite the opposite, wild and unpredictable. I can’t get him out of my head. What should I do?" 

Hmm.  So I asked Adrian.
‘She won’t ever be happy with him,’ he said firmly. ‘And, anyway, she wants to have her cake and eat it too.’
What a bizarre expression that is.  So I Googled it and discovered that pretty much every language going has some kind of variation on the theme of having it both ways.  And, weirdly, the vast majority involve either cakes or goats.  For instance, we have…

On the goat side…

Czech: Aby se vlk nažral a koza zůstala celá - The wolf is full and the goat stayed whole.
Serbian: Не можеш да имаш и јаре и паре - You can't have both goatling and money.
Bulgarian: И вълкът сит, и агнето цяло - Both the wolf is full, and the lamb (pseudo goat) is whole.
Polish: Wilk syty i owca cała - The wolf is full, and the lamb (goat) - whole.

And on the cake side…

Hebrew: אי אפשר לאכול את העוגה ולהשאיר אותה שלמה - you can't eat the cake and keep it whole.
Dutch: Jij wilt kiezen én delen - You want to both pick (a part first) and split (the cake)
Swiss: Du chasch nit dr Füfer und s Weggli ha - you can't have the five cent coin and a Swiss bread roll.

In Persian the phrase apparently goes ‘To have donkey and God as well’ but let’s not go there, huh?

Anyhow…I posted this on Facebook and a lively debate arose around goats and cakes.  And then I thought, hey…let’s see whether my friends can shed some light on this poor woman’s problem.  So I asked.  And they replied.  Like this…

Tommy:  First, do no harm.  (I can't get the Withnail quote out of my head... "We mean no harm")

Marek: Second, keep doing them both.  (Men, huh?)

Susie: I would first ask her what about excites her? What traits did she find attractive? Did he break it off or did she? Is there unfinished business? I also don't think someone should have to count their blessings to stay in a relationship. Either she's happy there or not.  (Oooh, sensible).

Me: Okay, keep talking. I'll put the kettle on.  I need 500 words.

Susie: Okay... Is it a good relationship in her mind or is it good because of what she thinks other peoples' opinions will be? How can she get her new guy to exhibit some of the traits of her ex that she likes- like unpredictability?  Maybe she needs to start being unpredictable. (Which does not mean I am telling her to dump new guy and go back to ex) but rather experiment with new things that give her a thrill. (hmm)

Susie: And I am wondering whether the sex is good? Cause maybe that's the issue?  (Who knows?)

Marek: Jesus…

Trisha: I think she should organise to do something wild and unpredicable with her genuinely kind, nice man, why wait for someone else to be wild and unpredictable? (can you teach an old goat new tricks?)

Susie: Hmm…so you’re not liking my answers, Marek?

Marek: that was not a comment, Suzie, but a suggestion. :o)

Susie: lol

Sarah: What she really has here is two relationships which is actually rather greedy of her. She should stop wondering which one is right and start looking at her need to covet both. She wants her cake with jam on. And is behaving like a randy goat. :-)  (Ooh, you tell her, the randy goat!)

Susie: aaah

Theo: All very interesting and I can see where some of you more sensible, considerate people are coming from, but I'm really more interested where the goats fits into all this, should someone be thinking about calling the RSPCA?

Marek: The goats fit…The goat fits into the cake.

Me: She wants her cake with jam on? Missed that one earlier.  This is all great stuff, people, I’m gonna go down hard on this greedy goatish bitch.

Charlotte: Her preoccupation with her ex has nothing to do with his personality or the difference between him and her current boyfriend. He's still in her mind because for some reason or other, sub-conciously the former relationship is unfinished business. Perhaps he dumped her and never quite explained why. Perhaps she finished with him when she was in fact still in love with him. (That's the thingy with these darn dilemmas - you never know the full story).

Susie: I always wanted to have an agony aunt colum.  (At this rate, mine will be up for grabs)

Marek: The goat (we don't know her name) could leave boat... both cakes and travel offshore... And they wood... would sing: 'Pie, pie, Hollywood Hills...'

Charlotte: Me too, Susie! (Umm, split it between you?)

Anne: Bottom line is who will treat her the way she wants to be treated. At the end of the day, when she's settled down, which one is going to be there in the evening for her and the kids? You can be happy with excitement once in a while. You can't be happy without kindness and loyalty in your life. Excitement is good, Commitment is a whole lot better.  (yeah but...)

Charlotte:  But unless the ex is interested in taking her back, then it's rather a moot point, surely? Sounds like she's in a rebound relationship and still holds a torch for the ex.... Next!

Sarah (different one): I think she should take up baking, crack some eggs, cream some sugar, fling some self raising flour about and see if her new man does the wild and unpredictable act of licking the bowl. :-)  (okay, so that made me snort out loud)

Veronica: She's fucked, basically. It'll be about the sex. It always is. But the ex won't make her happy. She needs to go cold turkey and live without the danger. Sadly you can't turn kind, nice men into bad boys that make you scream - you can't 'plan' to be wild and unpredictable - but maybe she can learn to value security and comfort over the rollercoaster that is her ex. Kindness and loyalty, as Anne pointed out, are far more enduring and nourishing. Tough call, though. She needs to treat it like an addiction. One day at a time. And keep herself busy. And delete his number from her phone. And not drink too much.  (Now there speaks a sensible woman).

Philip: She should buy a goat and start baking her own bread. She will then be too busy to wonder what she should do. If that doesn't work, get another goat. (er, okay)

Marek: And milk it good. (right)

Philip: Forgot to ask, is she pregnant by the wild n crazy guy? If so, his job is done & Pappa Predictable's turn begins.  (Jesus)

Marek: But then the barking syndrome would apply.

Philip: Marek, do you mean somebody might ask, ‘Who let the dogs out?’

Marek: Sort of.

Philip:  Jane, I know you want a 500 word answer, but beyond buying a goat, or goats, there is not much you can tell the woman, especially if she is using birth control measures. Perhaps cold ocean bathing and buying an ereader might help. (Fifty Shades of Grey and a goat?)

Adele: This isn't about the ex. She's just bored in general. Tell her to get a life!  (Yessir!)

Ashen:  I'd go for goats. They're a wonderful addition to the here and now factor in your life. Which reminds me, I need to find the story I wrote about finding a goat - having come out of a similar situation.  (Which sounds like a story in itself) 

Marek: Everybody needs a goat in his life. What’s the goat of your life?  (Well, what is? :) 

So, there you have it.  Cakes, goats, dilemmas and agonising by committee on Facebook.  Now, over to you...what do YOU think the goat should do?  


Rachel Selby said...

If she's always comparing the nice guy with the ex, then the nice guy isn't right for her and she should end the relationship and look for somethone more suited to her. Not the ex because he's ex and also wasn't good for her. Or shut up and get on with making your own excitement with the nice guy.

Tee said...

I love cake.

And the woman needs to let go with love and understanding and confront why she is not with her ex. That said, the present guy probably deserves better than her.

Rob-bear said...

I saw the committee work on Facebook. But by time I got to it, the process was pretty much toast. I decided not to interject any "wisdom" I could utter.

Those responses really got my goat. I'll not be sheepish in saying that. Some really took the cake.

And I agree with Tyson.

Susie Newday said...

LOL-methinks that's the last time I offer advise on Facebook. MUwaahhh!

But I do miss you!

Family Affairs said...

It's all about sex.....and responsibility and growing older and not wanting to commit - she's obv not into her boyf that much if she's thinking about him...

Would love you to comment on my latest post about having it all - sort of links - how are you and I've DEFINITELY seen your blog racing up the Ebuzzing charts now so if you can't find it let me know. Lx

Ashen said...

Ursula Le Guin wrote a piece on the cake ... :) a friend shared it in comments to my blog-entry - here is everywhere - a while ago.

Anonymous said...

And what happened to the Swedish pie?

Euphoria said...

This was very entertaining. My day started of bad last night (it makes sense, really), and this made me smile.

I'm with Veronica on this one!

Exmoorjane said...

@Frankie - Yeah, dem bitchin' goats, huh?

@Rachel - She should, she should... probably.

@Tyson - Wise words...and I bet he does.

@Bear - Back in yer cave!

@Susie - ;) Me too, hon. Me too. A year ago exactly that I met you (in the, er, flesh). :)

@FA - Lemme go have a look. Me? Same old, just older. :) Ebuzzing? Never heard of it.

@Ashen - LOVE it. My thought processes nearly exactly (substituting other obsessions in lieu of beetles).

@Ething - Pie, pie...

@Euphoria - made me smile too. Veronica knows a thing or two...

Anonymous said...

Ething phone home...

marta said...

So, I just wandered over here in the way that one might wander through the Internet thicket, and lo! I stumble upon this conversation. Most entertaining.

janerowena said...

I fel so sorry for the nice guy. I think she still has oats to sow, and should finish with him as it looks as if she just isn't ready to settle down. She just wants to be able to pop him in a freezer and eat him later.

Ashen said...

Inspired, I now have the first part of my story 'Goats are Goats' on my blog :)