PILLOWTALK

The TV pre­sen­ter and co­me­dian ad­vises read­ers as Week­end’s agony aunt

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Wellbeing - Ruby Wax

Dear Ruby I was wid­owed six months ago, af­ter nurs­ing my beloved wife through a long and ter­ri­ble can­cer. Since then I have been way­laid at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity by a flotilla of wid­owed or di­vorced ladies who seem de­ter­mined to take me un­der their wing. Al­though 73, I am ap­par­ently that rare crea­ture: an el­i­gi­ble sin­gle man.

Food parcels, pots of mar­malade and home-made cakes are end­lessly left on my doorstep and when­ever I go into Wait­rose in New­bury I get am­bushed by bright-eyed wi­d­ows, de­ter­mined to help me choose the right melon or the best sausages.

I don’t wish to of­fend, but I would like to be left in peace by th­ese well-mean­ing but alarm­ing ladies. Any ad­vice?

JohnM,Berk­shire Dear John I don’t know why this be­hav­iour among the aroused wom­en­folk doesn’t flat­ter your ego. Take the pot roast and run. I as­sume your life isn’t en­dan­gered and they’re not hurtling them­selves against your wind­shield or jump­ing down your chim­ney, so how harm­ful could it be?

It seems straight­for­ward: if you want to be left alone while shop­ping for food, go to an­other su­per­mar­ket where your sin­gle­ness isn’t world­fa­mous. My ad­vice is to tell them you’re still in mourn­ing. I’m sure this will ap­peal to the sen­si­tiv­ity that must still lie some­where in th­ese sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian nymphos. Maybe you have a friend you can throw to them if they are so rav­en­ous.

I am sorry for your loss but some­day you will heal and th­ese women will pack a mighty so­lace. Dear Ruby Why aren’t my mother and fa­ther pre­pared to step in as child min­ders? My SKI (Spend­ing the Kids’ In­her­i­tance) par­ents con­stantly jet around the world on lux­ury hol­i­days, leav­ing me high and dry. I have three chil­dren un­der five and a per­ma­nently ex­hausted hus­band who spends half his life in air­port de­par­ture lounges, and I have no help what­so­ever apart from my 18-year old au pair from Riga. My Span­ish in-laws, on the other hand, are al­ways fall­ing over them­selves to help out, but they live in Menorca.

Many of my friends com­plain that their own fam­i­lies are un­sup­port­ive. Al­though, like most of my peers, we are mort­gaged to the hilt, I’m not talk­ing about money but a far more pre­cious com­mod­ity: time. Do we ex­pect too much of our par­ents, or is it quite rea­son­able to ask a bit more of them? Dear Sally This is a phe­nom­e­non I have no­ticed only since com­ing to Bri­tain. When I was grow­ing up in Amer­ica, it seemed that par­ents lived to plough ev­ery­thing they made into their chil­dren as if the kids’ suc­cess might com­pen­sate for the par­ents’ short­com­ings. Long be­fore tro­phy wives, we had tro­phy chil­dren. Proud par­ents would hold up pho­tos of buck­teethed lit­tle brats who had been given hon­orary de­grees in play-dough spit­ting or a medal for belch­ing.

This is the Amer­i­can way. Only we can make a Paris Hil­ton and be proud of the

Sally B, Hert­ford­shire fact. In other coun­tries, they would have flushed their spoilt brats away.

In my case, my par­ents bought me ev­ery­thing money could buy and then sucked away my san­ity for the price. They used to lov­ingly tell me: “We made you and we can break you just as eas­ily.” In ex­change for eight years’ worth of sum­mer camp, I let them play men­tal vol­ley­ball with my brain cells. It’s a mir­a­cle I can even go to the bath­room with­out their help th­ese days.

They used their money as black­mail, telling me that if I didn’t buck up they’d leave it all to the dog. (I al­ways chuck­led at that be­cause I knew at least I’d get more than the tur­tle.)

Let me tell you: for all their “help”, it wasn’t worth it. I would much rather not be such a chem­i­cal cock­tail. My hus­band, who has been in­de­pen­dent since he left the parental home, is a far health­ier sam­ple of the species than I will ever be. The con­clu­sion? This isn’t go­ing to make you happy, Sally. Your par­ents have done their job. What­ever they do for you now is a favour — they owe you noth­ing.

I know you don’t want money, just their time, but I think that once you reach the age of 18, your par­ents’ task is tech­ni­cally over. Per­haps they are a bit self­ish, but that’s their busi­ness. The fact that you have three kids un­der five, an au pair from Latvia and an over-worked, ex­hausted hus­band is your ter­rain, not theirs. But go ahead: it’s rea­son­able enough to ask them for help. Dear Ruby I feel I have to com­ment on your re­ply to Mr R Brown’s let­ter (Week­end, March 31).

Whether the di­vorce-case wo­man is a blood­sucker or the man is not en­tirely a per­fect hus­band, can it be jus­ti­fied that she gets the home and half of his wages af­ter six years of mar­riage and no chil­dren?

Why would a ca­reer wo­man with­out chil­dren want to take this route? Has she no pride or con­fi­dence in her abil­ity to fend for her­self? If he was a brute, she should sigh with re­lief, take what is eq­ui­table and restart her in­de­pen­dent life.

I was left with two stepchil­dren af­ter 16 years of mar­riage many years ago (I am now a pen­sioner). I am not look­ing for saint­hood — I ne­go­ti­ated what I thought was eq­ui­table but never sought to bank­rupt my ex. In ret­ro­spect, I be­lieve I was naive. But I would rather have it that way than live off a man I no longer have any re­spect for.

But then, I sup­pose I am just an old lady with old-fash­ioned views. Dear Veron­ica You are a very rare breed of hu­man. You have some­thing called in­tegrity, an al­most ex­tinct trait to­day. I agree with you that the de­cent thing to have done was for the wo­man with the job just to count her bless­ings and sup­port her­self.

Sadly, this is not the way this world turns. Many women I know are fu­elled by re­venge and, no mat­ter how much a wo­man makes, if she feels hard done by a man she will go for his wal­let, which is the clos­est route to his jugu­lar and within the law.

Walk­ing away from the scene of do­mes­tic hos­til­ity is like be­ing hit by a car and not ask­ing for rec­om­pense. For some rea­son, we con­nect pain re­duc­tion or lick­ing our wounds with an ex­change of cash. I know it’s ugly, but there it is. Some of us — even me — don’t mind tak­ing money from some­one we don’t like.

If the world were full of peo­ple like you, there would be no law suits. Imag­ine that. But you are clearly an A-list, hon­est and pure hu­man be­ing, so God bless you and the other three peo­ple in the world like you, wher­ever they are.

Veron­i­caC(noad­dress)

Send your prob­lems to ei­ther Ruby Wax or Gra­ham Nor­ton at gra­haman­druby@tele­graph.co.uk.

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