This week, the worst agony aunt in the world, Mai discusses a son-turned-squatter, the social life of family meals, an acronym escalation, and one very weighty issue.
I am 61 years old, recently retired, and living a slightly boring but comfortable life with my wife of 33 years. We have three children all in their mid-20s, two girls and a boy. My wife and I lived our younger days rather unconventionally in that we shared most household duties. I have always loved to cook, so the kitchen has been a shared space of many adventures, delights, and failures. All locked away in our memories, from the first five burnt cakes to the magnificent four-tiered wedding cake that I was able to graduate to, in time for my eldest daughter’s wedding. That’s when it started. The nonstop photography and publishing on social media, of what we cook and eat. Cooking and baking are personal for my wife and I, but a public display for our children. Why, just last week, we put together a big dinner for our children. My banana bread was, in my opinion, sub-par and my wife hated the way her roast pork looked. But the next day, there they were. Scores of pictures on Instagram, showing to the world the very average results of our toil. What is this new obsession with taking pictures of food? Is it no longer merely a gastronomical delight? Why does the world suddenly want to know what I put in my stomach, when it has left well enough alone for decades? To misuse William Shakespeare, this might be the excess of it, that surfeiting, the appetite will sicken and so die.
Joshua Jonathan Pais.
Dear Mr. Pais,
Your relationship with food reminds me of how I feel about my cat, Purrple Pandey. Ms. Pandey is now 12 years old and I have not brought her up to be familiar with photography, so she gets increasingly agitated around my children, who insist on posing with her for their Instagram accounts. Ms. Pandey dealt with it deftly with a swift swipe of her paw across one offspring’s face, ensuring that the message reached the other, but we humans are expected to continue to be civilised in the face of new horrors. It was William Wordsworth who wrote:
“The world is too much with us
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;-
Little we see in Nature that is ours.”
We must find it in our hearts to sympathise with a generation that grew up with mixers and dicers and juicers and toasters and ovens, so much so that they really don’t know the day-long delights of cooking. Your art has been cooking, their art is finding the perfect Instagram filter for your food. The world may be too much with us, but it appears to be just right for kids.
Dear Mai Madam,
When my son was 18 years old, he broached the subject of leaving the house and living on his own. Both my husband and I were not supportive, since he was not financially independent. We told him he can aim for staying alone at 21, where he will have a job to support himself. With great anger, he stayed back. In two months, my son will be 25 years old. He has become very comfortable with living with us. Mother cleaning and cooking, father paying for roof over his head. With his salary, he can comfortably live in a rented dwellings. Neither is he bringing it up, nor are we knowing how to broach besides dropping hints. Husband and I both feel he will learn responsibility with staying on his own. But how to broach, and what if he says he is happy here only? Please advice.
Dear Ms. Nayak,
I hear you. There is a solution. In two months, I recommend a grand 25th birthday celebration. With family and friends. And food and bright lights. And speeches on microphones with declarations of love, pride, and the public presentation of keys to a rented apartment. His gift? The down payment, made in advance. You can thank me later.
It is with great concern that I write to you. My wife is putting on weight regularly. She is now quite fat. Even after three children, she used to be slim. Now she doesn’t care. Any advice I can give her on weight loss?
Capt. RG Gonsales (retd.)
Dear Capt. RG Gonsales (retd.),
For concerns regarding physical attributes of other people, please send a photo of yourself. I would like to know what you look like. Too personal, right? Same goes for her. If your body has not gone through the trials of three childbirths, I highly doubt you and she have the same bodily concerns. As for size, the scariest kind of fat is being fat-headed, which I am sorry to say you are. Leave your wife alone. Eat a samosa. You’ll feel better.
Dear Ms. Mai,
I write to you about a delicate matter. My daughter regularly wears many clothes that has a very vulgar word written on it very big. It is the F**K work. I really feel very sick as I thought I had brought her up well and not to display such vulgarity. I have looked at her with utter shock sometimes, hoping she will understand. She is very casual and doesn’t even notice my glares. I have seen many youngsters wearing this and it appears to be a big brand. How is this legal and decent? Please help me.
Dear Mr. Singh,
Please look carefully at the order of letters next time this happens. French Connection United Kingdom is a very popular fashion brand. Its abbreviation is FCUK.